AN urgent plan is needed to tackle ‘back-to-school’ costs that are pushing a rising number of families across the North into debt,
a West Tyrone MLA has warned.
Daniel McCrossan, the SDLP’s education spokesperson, made the call after a new report published by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU)
revealed that more than one-third of parents had experienced money problems as a result of costs such as shoes, gym kits and school supplies.
The West Tyrone MLA said these statistics demonstrated the extent of the NI Executive’s failure to tackle the challenges facing local families.
He said, “I and the SDLP find it unacceptable that parents across Northern Ireland are forced to spend over £1,000 per child simply to ensure they
are properly equipped for going back to school.
These costs are particularly incredulous this year, when more families will be struggling financially due to Covid-19.
“Parents still have not been given clarity over the upcoming academic year arrangements and so can’t properly plan for their children’s return to school,
and the costs associated.”
Mr McCrossan said that, on school uniforms, the North offered just a grant of £35 for primary and £73.50 for secondary for children on free school meals,
compared to £100 in Scotland and new rules to reduce costs in England and Wales.
He warned there were also many parents just above the free school meals qualifying level who got very little support. The MLA said, “These absurd costs
for parents amount to a Back-to-School tax that hits families from working-class backgrounds hardest, worsening educational inequality.”
He added, “Families need urgent support with these costs and it is incumbent upon Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to produce a plan to tackle these,
and give families the support they need and deserve.”