The Health Service Executive may be potentially driving parents to moneylenders in order to pay for the high cost of education. Chronic delays in payment still continue under the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Scheme 2009.
Deputy Noel Coonan in a statement to Thurles.Info this morning stated:
“I know HSE staff, including Community Welfare Officers, are working as hard as they can to process applications under the scheme and are to be commended, but the simple fact is that thousands of people in the Mid-West are still waiting on their payments. The majority of students will return to school in the next two weeks and parents are understandably desperate to source money to pay for uniforms and footwear.
This scheme has been an ongoing source of concern for families throughout the Summer and continues to cause undue distress. If the HSE had provided extra staff earlier than August, then this crisis could have been diverted. Time and time again, this Government and those who support it, in North Tipperary, are failing the people of this constituency.
The rising pressure on parents are causing some to turn to illegal moneylenders for help. This is the worst case scenario and while the HSE is doing its best, it’s unacceptable that this situation should have arisen in the first place.
Barnardos recently stated that parents are struggling to meet the high costs of ‘free’ education with uniforms costing up to €140 for primary school children and nearly €400 for secondary pupils, not including footwear. The children’s organisation is correct in saying that children should be sheltered from the worst effects of the recession, not made to bear the brunt of it.
The Back to School scheme remains open until the end of September. Many people are still coming to my office on a daily basis looking for applications forms. I will continue making representations on behalf of constituents to ensure payment is issued as soon as possible.
This Government should be reducing barriers to education, but it’s proving even more difficult for parents to fully equip children for their return to school this year”, concluded Deputy Coonan.
It was revealed last week that the HSE will be adding five staff to deal with the vast number of applications that remain unprocessed.
There has been a 39% increase in the number of applications received across the Mid-West bringing the figure to 12,500. By last weekend, it was estimated that 4,000 payments would be made.