One in three households with school-going children are struggling as cost-of-living crisis deepens

Credit Union survey points to higher back-to-school costs and impact cost-of-living crisis is having on parents

The scale of the cost-of-living crisis on parents with school-going children has been revealed in a new survey which suggests that over a third are struggling to make household budgets stretch to cover the spike in prices and 10 per cent are falling into debt to cover everyday costs.

According to the research from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) published today (Wednesday), 89 per cent of parents have seen their income or household costs affected by the rising cost of living. The vast majority have noted higher costs when it comes to groceries and utility bills, with 61 per cent telling researchers the increasing cost of food for children for school lunches was having the biggest effect on their household budget

When asked what options they were considering to help deal with 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 money lender.

Looking at back-to-school costs, two-thirds described it as a financial burden, with parents of secondary schoolchildren likely to spend €1,518 per child – up €27 on last year – and parents of primary school children spending €1,195 – up €9 on last year.

The use of credit cards to buy school items is up 6 per cent to 23 per cent, with a significant jump recorded in the number of parents cutting back on extracurricular activities reaching 67 per cent, up from 46 per cent last year.

The most expensive secondary school item was transport at €213 per annum compared with €195 last year, while schoolbooks and uniforms were priced at €210 and €195 respectively. After-school care is the top expense for primary school parents at €184 for the year, up €27, followed by extracurricular activities at €167.

The survey looked at childcare options and found that more than half of parents with schoolchildren will balance remote or office working with looking after their children over the school holidays, while a third said they would be relying on family and friends for help.

When asked about the impacts of home schooling during the pandemic lockdown on their children, 82 per cent of parents said that the biggest impact was that children missed their friends and social activities. Almost half said their child’s physical health had suffered, with two-thirds worried about their mental health.

As regards their child’s education, the biggest concern for parents is the pressure on their children to catch up on missed teaching over the past two years. There was a marked drop from 2021 in parents’ concern of their child being exposed to Covid 19 as a result of returning to the classroom, down from 41 per cent to 27 per cent.

“The costs of sending children to school this September are the highest since the ILCU started its annual survey in 2017,” said credit union spokesman Paul Bailey. “This, on top of the rising costs of living and high inflation, will heavily impact on households [and] 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.”

The findings were revealed in a national survey of 764 parents of schoolchildren out of a sample size of 2,460, carried out by independent market research company iReach Insights on behalf of the ILCU in June.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast