More than a third of parents are struggling to make household budgets stretch to meet rising prices and one in 10 are falling into debt to cover everyday costs, a survey has found.
An annual school-costs survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) shows parents are now spending an average of €1,195 per primary school child – up €9 on last year – and €1,518 per secondary school pupil – up €27.
The vast majority of parents – 89 per cent – have seen their income or household costs affected by the rising cost of living. Most have experienced higher grocery costs and utility bills, with 61 per cent telling researchers the increasing cost of food for school lunches was having the biggest impact on their household budget.
When asked what options they were considering to reduce costs, 65 per cent said they were cancelling or reducing non-essential services and activities such as gym membership and subscription TV packages.
Just under one-third said they would try to earn additional income, while a similar percentage said they would be borrowing from lenders or family and friends. The research also suggested that 3 per cent of those who took part said they would consider going to a moneylender.
Some 66 per cent of parents in the national study agreed that back-to-school costs were a financial burden, up from 63 per cent last year.
The use of credit cards to purchase back-to-school items was up 6 per cent to 23 per cent.
The study recorded a sharp increase in parents saying they will deny their children extracurricular activities because they cannot afford them, rising to 67 per cent from 46 per cent in 2021.
The survey comes as the Government announced 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.
Commenting on the survey’s findings, ILCU head of communications, Paul Bailey, said: “The costs of sending children to school this September are the highest since the ILCU started its annual survey in 2017. This, on top of the rising costs of living and high inflation, will heavily impact on households across the country.
“What is particularly concerning is the increase in the amount of parents reporting that they will go into debt to send their children to school.
“While two in three parents believe that schools don’t do enough to keep school going costs down, many are cutting back on extracurricular activities for their children to balance the books. Others are relying on savings or turning to family and friends for loans.
“We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of parents using their credit cards to purchase back to school items. As we know this is an expensive form of finance and I would urge parents to consider cheaper forms such as a credit union or bank loan.
“When it comes to moneylenders, it is concerning that 10 per cent of those in debt know they are using an illegal moneylender, while another two thirds don’t know if their moneylender is regulated or not. Again, I would urge parents who feel they have no alternative to a moneylender to talk to their local credit union about accessing more affordable and ethical forms of finance.”
The findings were revealed in a national survey of 764 parents of school children by ILCU. The survey was carried out by market research company iReach Insights in June 2022.