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HANDS UP: Many parents say they are struggling to pay for back to school costs. Picture: Stock
HANDS UP: Many parents say they are struggling to pay for back to school costs. Picture: Stock
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Help with back to school expenses

SCHOOL is out — the sun has been shining for weeks and everyone is in a good mood and having a good time. It all sounds great doesn’t it? However, the shops are already promoting back to school wear, supplies and equipment, so you are being reminded that soon you will need to get your littlest one ready for their first day at school and/or your older children who will be returning to school. Can you feel the stress and strain already kicking in?

Don’t despair — Cork MABS are here to help you.

If you prepare now you can relax and enjoy the rest of the summer, spend time with your children and be ready with an easy mind and stress free when September comes around for the return to school.

In an ideal world MABS would advise parents to start planning in May to spread the cost of going back to school. However, it’s still early, you have loads of time and we can help to prevent that dreaded stress building up.

WHERE TO BEGIN?

The list of items needed for school can seem endless, and more than a little daunting. But don’t fret — rather than shoving it to the back of your mind and waiting for the final days of August to rush out and buy everything, it’s a good idea to start planning now while you have time to think clearly and the shops are promoting their special offers and discounts with some of the low cost supermarkets offering unbelievable value on generic school uniforms with some key items on offer for as little as €2 each.

Also some of the high street discount stores have great value on school stationary items, particularly when bulk buying. If money is tight and you cannot see a way in meeting those costs, there are a number of schemes which offer help towards the cost of going to school, as follows:

BACK TO SCHOOL

CLOTHING AND

FOOTWEAR ALLOWANCE

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance helps you to meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for children going to school. The Scheme runs each year from June 1 until September 30. You may qualify for the Allowance if you are:

Getting a social welfare payment (including the Family Income Supplement and Back to Work Family Dividend or a Health Service Executive payment.

Taking part in an approved employment scheme

Taking part in a recognised education or training course

Involved in an Area Partnership Scheme

Attending a FET (formally FAS), Failte Ireland or LES training scheme

To qualify for this allowance, your household income must be below a certain limit, depending on your family composition. In general, the rate of the allowance paid for each eligible child is as follows:

Aged 4-11 on or before September 30, is €125.

Aged 12-22 on or before September 30 and in second level education the rate is €250.

If your child is between the ages of 18-22, they must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2018.

If you qualified for the allowance last year and your children are within the age profile outlined above, it is likely that you will again this year, you will have received your payment during the week ending July 13.

You will need to apply to the Department if you did not receive a payment notification letter by the end of June 2018. First time applicants will also need to complete an application form.

HOW DO I APPLY?

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays BSCFA automatically to many customers.

Where to Apply: Application forms are available from your Intreo Centre, local social Welfare Branch Office, Citizens Information centre and online. An application form can also be requested by SMS (text message) by texting Form BTSCFA followed by your name and address to 51909 or by emailing the Department at [email protected]

Completed application forms with supporting documentation should be returned to:

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance Section Social Welfare Services Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, College Road, Sligo, F91 T384. Telephone (071) 919 3318 Locall: 1890 66 22 44.

HELPFUL TIPS IN PLANNING BACK TO SCHOOL COSTS

Step 1: Cut the Costs

The school uniform and book list will have been given out at the end of this school year.

Ask the Principal if the school offers the Book Rental Scheme or other supports available under the School Books Grant Scheme.

Check if the school runs a second-hand book and uniform sale.

Ask friends and family if they have any of the books on the list or be a trend setter and organise your own book and uniform exchange with friends and neighbours — you’ll never know unless you ask.

Ask your local book-shop if they offer Instalment/Easy Pay Plans and pay for the cost of books over the next couple of weeks.

Copybooks, pens and pencils can all be cheaper if bought in large quantities. Ask a friend or neighbour if they would be interested in splitting the costs with you if you buy a lot together — thereby making substantial savings for you all.

Re-use stationery items such as folders, files and pockets if they are in good order — no need to buy new.

Watch the shops for special promotions on uniforms. Most stores are offering amazing discounts in the lead in to the school year.

Shop around for generic uniform items like shirts, t-shirts, trousers and skirts in local chain stores — there are great offers out there – check them out.

Check with the Principal on other costs that come up over the year for things like art & craft, photocopying, school trips etc. and plan for them.

Remember the voluntary contribution is voluntary — speak with the Principal if you have any difficulty.

Step 2. Make out a Budget

List the costs using our budget guide available on our website: www.mabs.ie

Check if you qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

Subtract that amount from the total cost to find out the balance needed.

We have a handy guide of all items for your use — drop in to our office at 101 North Main Street, Cork or contact us at tel: 0761 07 2090 or email; [email protected] to get a copy.

Step 3. Planning to meet the

balance needed

Work out how many weeks are left until September and how much you will need to save each week to cover the cost

Ask yourself can you afford to cover the costs from your income or Child Benefit Payment? If not, look at your budget again and see if you can reduce the costs further.

If you have to borrow, think about whether you can afford the repayments, make sure to get the best rate (APR), Your local Credit Union will usually have the best lending rate. They are now also offering a new scheme known as the “Micro Credit Scheme also known as “It Makes Sense Loans” they are available to people getting a social welfare payment that may not be able to get credit from other sources so contact your local credit union to find out more.

We can help you with budgeting for the next school year and for family occasions such as communion and confirmation — contact us to speak to an advisor.

As well as helping you with money management, we also have additional services where we have dedicated advisors to help you with your mortgage problems, accompany you to the court hearing if your mortgage case is before the courts. MABS can get you a “Fresh Start” and be “debt free” from debt up to €35,000.

CONTACT MABS:

South Munster MABS Office is located at 101 North Main Street, Cork City. Advisors are available free of charge MonFri 9:00am-5:00pm Tel: 0761 07 2090 or email [email protected] See www.mabs.ie