Fewer families seeking school uniform allowance
on 23/08/2013 00:00:00
The payment was cut again this year by €50 per child, meaning it is now worth €100 for each child up to the age of 11 and €200 for children up to 18 or in full-time education up to 22 years old.
However, despite continuing financial difficulties in Irish homes, there were just 50,000 applications up to the second week in August from those who did not receive an automatic payment. This is significantly less than the 63,000 that had been lodged with the department at the same time last year, and the number of applications stood at 55,000 by the end of last week.
"The number of claims arriving each week has now begun to stabilise, with just over 4,500 claims received last week," a department spokesperson said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn insisted three weeks ago he has no authority over schools uniform costs.
Up to the start of this week, 30,500 out of 34,000 finalised applications had been successful, leading to payments of just under €8m in respect of 58,000 children. Those payments were in addition to the 115,000 families who received €30m, in respect of 207,000 children, in July.
The overall cost of the allowance to Ms Burton's department has almost halved in just two years from €90m in 2011.
The payment was withdrawn for children under four last year, when the amount of the allowance was cut by €50 for children of primary school ages and €55 for those 12 or over.
Figures given to the Irish Examiner show that the number of children for whom payments were made fell 11.5% last year to 340,000. But the bulk of the fall was accounted for by a 16% drop in the younger age category, probably due to the non-payment to under-fours, from 230,400 to 193,800.
The department said that at the start of this week, it was processing claims received on Jul 26, a three- week timeframe similar to this time last year. The processing times have significantly improved since the operation of the scheme was taken back from the HSE and all applications are now dealt with at a centralised unit in Letterkenny.
*Forms are available from social welfare offices, by texting 'Form BTSCFA' with your name and address to 51909, or online at www.welfare.ie.