Cate McCurry and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
The Government has announced that the back-to-school allowance is to increase by €100 per child, as part of a €67 million package announced to help with the cost-of-living crisis.
The announcement was made by Minister for Education Norma Foley, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath on Tuesday evening.
The means-tested back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance of €160 is currently available to children who are aged between 4-11 on September 30th.
Ms Humphreys said the increase would affect 120,000 families who receive the allowance.
Families are to receive the normal payment next week, with the additional €100 coming at the end of July or the start of August.
In addition, Ms Humphreys said the school meals programme will also be expanded to include an additional 60,000 children from 310 Deis schools.
Ms Foley also announced that school transport fees would be waived, calling it a "significant investment" affecting all 121,000 children who pay those fees.
She added that the package amounted to an additional €9 a week in families’ pockets over the year.
Mr McGrath told reporters that it was better to make an intervention now rather than waiting for the budget in late September, rejecting suggestions that it was a panicked measure from Government.
"We are in the early days of July, a lot of children have just finished primary school - booklists have been sent out to parents who have already started the process of trying to get uniforms together and they are facing real costs.
"If you take, for example, the hot meals programme being extended to all Deis schools, we want to give them adequate notice.
"And so I have agreed to bring forward this particular measure from the budget so schools can put the arrangements in place, that hot meals are going to be offered to an additional 60,000 children, which is a very significant and important intervention by Government."
Mr McGrath also called the €100 increase to the back-to-school allowance "substantial" and "warranted".
"These particular measures are time sensitive and I think that is what differentiates them from all the other measures that can wait until the budget."
It comes after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil earlier that a September budget containing cost of living measures would come too late for families preparing for back to school costs while already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
"Families preparing now to get children back to school in late August need help and assistance now," she said.
In response, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the three ministers had been working for the past two days on measures to help with back-to-school costs, acknowledging that the return to school and college is an expensive time for families.