Overhaul Back to School Allowance and help parents and the State, says senator

An innovative approach to an allowance paid to parents to help meet their schoolgoing children’s needs would boost support for parents and save the State millions of euro, it was claimed this week.

Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on Social Protection, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, has suggested that by diverting some of the funding spent on the Back to School Allowance (BTSA ) and investing it in a school book rental scheme, parents receiving the allowance would get a full set of books rent free and the State could simultaneously realise significant savings.

“At post primary level, for example, by reducing the BTSA from €305 to €152.50 and investing this in a fund we can provide increased support for parents in receipt of the allowance with a full set of books worth on average €220. This would save the State over €29 million over a period of five years. This is a win-win proposal for parents and the State and it merits careful scrutiny.

“Additionally, by sponsoring the set-up of a nationwide rental scheme all parents can benefit from reduced costs of rental versus purchasing expensive text books. There are currently numerous individual schemes operating successfully in schools around the country. By the Government taking the lead and providing the funding for investment in seed stock, this scheme can soon be rolled out to all post primary schools.”

She stated apart from reducing costs this would drive reform in terms of book changes. “Reusing books for rental will bring transparency and accountability to the current system and create a culture of recycling which quickly becomes sustainable. Furthermore, there would be no additional costs associated with the set up and administration of the current scheme. It is simply a matter of reducing the amount of money allocated to the BTSA and increasing the amount of monies allocated to the Department of Education’s Book Allowance.”

Senator Healy Eames said this was a targeted approach with “fairness and value for money” as core objectives.

“I have shared it with ministers Noonan, Quinn and Burton who are giving this proposal attention. The figures for it were worked up by a parent and business manager who runs a Galway city book rental scheme. Most importantly, this proposal presents a scenario which supports all students and their families in a sustainable, cost effective way, saving the State, and more importantly parents, a substantial amount of money.”

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