Wednesday, 6 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
147. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action he has taken to alleviate the high costs on families of back to school children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23318/04]
163. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will review the means test for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23321/04]
My Department assists families with the cost of children returning to school via the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme. The scheme provides assistance towards the cost of school clothing and footwear for children attending mainly primary or post-primary schools. In addition, the significant increases in child benefit payments in recent years also assist parents in meeting school costs at this time of year and indeed throughout the year.
A person may qualify for payment of a back to school clothing and footwear allowance if he/she is in receipt of a social welfare or health board payment, is participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education or training course and has household income at or below certain set levels.
Under the scheme an allowance of €80 is payable in respect of qualified children aged from two to 11 years and an allowance of €150 is payable in respect of qualified children aged from 12 to 22 years.
A couple with one child whose weekly income is at or below €348.10 may qualify for the allowance. A lone parent with one child could have income of up to €238.90 per week and qualify for a payment. For couples the income limit is increased by €19.30 for each additional child and for lone parents it is increased by €21.60 for each additional child.
Recipients of the allowance are now better able to meet the cost of school clothing and footwear than was the case in 1990 when the scheme was introduced. The value of the allowance in real terms has improved considerably since the inception of the scheme.
According to the consumer price index, the cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by 2.6% in the year to June 2004 even though the overall consumer price index rose by 2.3% during the same period. In the period from 1990 to 2004, the cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by
29.5%. In the same period, the payment rates for the scheme have increased by 195% in the case of children aged 12 years or more and by 152% in the case of those below 12 years.
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