Clare Credit Unions are urging families struggling in the Clare region to come and talk to their local credit union.

Findings from the Irish League of Credit Unions annual School Costs survey have been released, tracking the costs and impacts of children returning to school.

With 72 per cent of parents saying that covering the costs of back to school is a financial burden, and parents spending €1,152 per primary school child and €1,288 per secondary school child, the summer months can be an extremely challenging time of year.

Clare Credit Union are aware that covering the costs of back to school can be a big struggle for parents. Clare Credit Union want to reassure parents that the Credit Union is here, for anyone who needs help, be it with budgeting for the back-to-school spend or taking out a loan to help cover the costs. Your local credit union understands that these costs can be financial burden, particularly at a time when other costs of living are so high.

The 2023 survey shows that parents continue to feel a considerable financial burden educating their children. While there has been a slight reduction in the amount being spent per child on back-to-school costs compared to 2022, general cost of living increases are impacting on households. So while the reduction in back-to-school costs are welcome, it is partly due to parents cutting back on extra-curricular activities and we still have parents getting into debt to cover back-to-school costs.

David Malone, CEO of the Irish League of Credit Unions said: “The average level of debt is €306 with 17% of parents having debts of over €500. We are also seeing the same number of parents getting into debt compared to last year (29% both years). Thankfully, the message on getting a credit union loan rather than using Payday or money lenders for help with back-to-school expenses seems to be getting through.  For back-to-school supplies, 4% will seek a credit union loan and no respondent said they would go to a bank or moneylender.  This is the type of community need which Credit Unions meet every day”.

Mr Malone said that more generally, cost of living increases are impacting all households and 40% of parents of school children have cancelled or reduced non-essential services / activities to cover rising costs. More concerning is that 18% of parents of school children are trying to earn additional income and the potential impact this might have on family life.

“13% of parents said they were seeking a loan to cover additional household costs with 2% saying they would go to a money lender to do so. Again, we would urge anyone needing help with household costs, particularly those who feel they have no option but to use a money lender to talk their local credit union”.

Back to School Costs

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is very evident this year with a significant increase in the number of parents saying they are under financial pressure with the costs of children returning to school.  72% of parents say that covering the costs of back to school is a financial burden compared to 66% in 2022.  Despite this, the amount being spent per child on back-to-school costs has fallen compared to last year and the average debt burden has also fallen.

  • 72% of parents say the cost of Back to School is a financial burden
  • Parents are spending €1,152 per primary school child (2022: €1,195)
  • Parents are spending €1,288 per secondary school child (2022: €1518)
  • Extra-curricular activities is the top expense for primary schools (€191)
  • School Books (€187) is the top expense for secondary schools
  • More than 1 in 4 (29%) say they get into debt covering back to school costs.
  • The average debt amount is €306 (down €33 vs 2022) with 17% having debts over €500
  • 70% of parents believe that schools don’t do enough to keep the costs of going back to school down
  • 75% of schools ask for a ‘voluntary’ contribution.

Free Primary School Book Scheme.

Despite schools being responsible for informing parents of the Free Primary School Books Scheme nearly half of parents surveyed did not know about it.  Introduced by Government earlier this year, the scheme removes the costs of schoolbooks, including workbooks and copybooks for children attending recognized primary schools and special schools.

  • 49% of parents have not been informed of the Free Primary School Books Scheme
  • Of those parents who do not know about the scheme, 39% say they will buy their children’s primary school books outright
  • 92% of parents think the new Free Primary Books Scheme will reduce their back to school costs, with 2 in 5 (40%) saying costs will reduce a lot
  • More than 9 in 10 (92%) want the free books scheme extended to secondary schools.

Cost of Living Impacts

A majority of households (88%) are experiencing cost of living increases.  Of parents with school going children, 88% also said they have been affected by general cost of living increases. Many parents are using savings to cover these extra costs, while 13% are seeking loans. Slightly more parents (40% compared to 38% of general respondents) are cutting back on activities to save money.

  • 88% of respondents have been affected by rising costs of living since the start of 2023, including 88% of parents with children in school.
  • A third of parents (33%) with school children are dipping into their savings to cover cost of living increases
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of parents of school children are trying to earn additional income.
  • 13% of respondents, including 13% of parents with school children, are taking out loans to cover rising costs, with 2% using Payday / moneylender services
  • 2 in 5 (40%) of parents of school children have cancelled or reduced non-essential activities to save money
  • Increasing costs of food for school lunches (57%) is the biggest effect of the rising cost of living followed by increasing costs for school trips / activities (47%) and uniform costs (43%)
  • 63% of parents shop online for school books. Saving money is the reason given by 61% of these parents.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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