SVP: Cork families struggling to meet back to school expenses

SVP: Cork families struggling to meet back to school expenses

St. Vincent de Paul's regional coordinator, Gerry Garvey said they have already received calls about school expenses and are expecting an "avalanche" of requests throughout the August period.

A NUMBER of Cork families are being forced to turn to charity after spending their children's back to school allowance to fund other crippling expenses during the pandemic.

St. Vincent de Paul's regional coordinator, Gerry Garvey said they have already received calls of this nature and are expecting an "avalanche" of requests throughout the August period.

He added that some marginalised families don't have enough money left over to pay for basic necessities resulting in them parting with their allowance early.

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA) helps parents meet the cost of uniforms and footwear and opens for applications in June. It is automatically paid to many families from early July.

Mr Garvey said they have families coming to them struggling to pay for everything from voluntary contributions for their child's school to uniforms and books. He explained that people living in the poverty trap are being forced to live day-to-day.

"Many people living on the margins might get this money in July," he said. 

Gerry Garvey, regional co-ordinator, St. Vincent de Paul. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Gerry Garvey, regional co-ordinator, St. Vincent de Paul. Picture: Denis Minihane.

"However, it will not necessarily be paid for what it was intended for, but rather whatever is needed that week. We are seeing a much stronger surge in demand than last year. We link in with schools very often because people are in serious financial trouble and explain that this is a genuine case. 

"Expenses like school voluntary contributions may just not be possible for some families. When we explain to the schools they are usually very understanding and are willing to waive part of the contribution."

He described how schools are being expected to pay for the government's shortfall.

"Voluntary contributions are not mandatory but they are required because the reality is that schools are underfunded by the state. If they were better funded they wouldn't have to be looking for these things which are really just basic requirements. 

"It's hard to imagine going into an office and being told you have to pay for the cost of printing paper but this really is no different. The next three to four weeks is going to be bedlam as there are so many people in with this difficult situation."

Mr Garvey said the pandemic has aggravated the situation significantly.

SCHOOL COSTS

"There are voluntary contributions, travel costs, uniforms and this is all on top of the Covid experience. It's going to be a long hard Winter but what many people don't realise is that this Winter starts in August. Some assume that the rush begins in October when the reality is it begins in August."

He is urging people to donate to the charity this month in particular as demand for the charity grows. People can do this by logging on to the organisation's website www.svp.ie.

Caitríona Twomey from Cork Penny Dinners is calling for donations of vouchers for stationery and other school items. Picture Dan Linehan
Caitríona Twomey from Cork Penny Dinners is calling for donations of vouchers for stationery and other school items. Picture Dan Linehan

Meanwhile, Caitríona Twomey from Cork Penny Dinners is calling for donations of vouchers for stationery and other school items to help families through this difficult time. The homelessness and poverty awareness advocate said she has also been dealing with calls from distressed parents.

"Parents don't like ringing up because they don't want their child to go through any embarrassment," she said. 

"They don't want them to have that worry too. The list is extensive and people are really struggling. Families were finding it difficult to cope before Covid and the pandemic has put people more on edge. Back to school costs are a huge strain on people and that increase is leaving people short of food for the table. Many are now coming to us to get food for their families just to be able to fill that gap."

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