SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has called on the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to produce a plan to tackle the ‘back to school’ costs that are pushing more and more families into debt.
The call came after it was revealed that over one third of parents had been pushed into debt as a result of costs such as shoes, gym kits and school supplies. The figures were revealed in a new report from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU).
Mr McGlone said, “The statistics revealed today demonstrate the extent of the Executive’s failure to tackle the challenges facing parents, many of whom are being pushed further and further into debt simply to fund basic costs associated with their children’s education.
“I find it unacceptable that parents across Northern Ireland are forced to spend over one thousand pounds per child simply to ensure they are properly equipped for going back to school. Many families will already 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.
“On school uniforms, NI offers 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.
“There are also many parents just above the Free School Meals qualifying level who get very little support.
“These unfair costs for parents amount to a Back-to-School Tax that hits families from working-class backgrounds hardest, worsening educational inequality.
“Families need urgent support with these costs, and the Education Minister must produce a plan to tackle these and give families the support they need and deserve.”
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