Campaign seeks to aid parents in direct provision facing back-to-school costs

Every Child is Your Child campaign supports parents with school book and uniform costs

It costs an average of €330 to send a child to senior infants and €735 for a child in their first year of secondary school, according to a survey. Photograph: iStock

It costs an average of €330 to send a child to senior infants and €735 for a child in their first year of secondary school, according to a survey. Photograph: iStock

 

Families living in direct provision will face “major difficulties” in meeting the back-to-school costs for their children over the coming weeks, a campaign aimed at supporting asylum seekers has said.

The Every Child is Your Child (ECIYC) campaign, which is run by a community group based in Limerick, has launched its annual appeal to support parents to buy essential school items such as uniforms and books.

Its founder Donnah Vuma said the Government’s annual back-to-school allowance for families in direct provision was only a “drop in the ocean” when it comes to meeting all school costs, particularly for those living off the €38.80 weekly allowance.

Parents in direct provision receive the same financial support as all Irish parents with school-going children – €150 per child aged 4-11 and €275 per child aged 12-22.

According to last year’s Barnardos Back to School survey, it costs an average of €330 to send a child to senior infants and €735 for a child in their first year of secondary school.

“We are greatly concerned that the high cost of education creates a barrier to full participation by children in direct provision,” said Ms Vuma. “Parents face major difficulty in meeting costs that are associated with going to school such as uniforms, ‘voluntary’ contributions, book rental fees and extracurricular costs such as class trips and sports clubs.

‘Burden’

“We are hoping that this drive will help to ease the burden on parents and ensure that children living in DP are fully equipped when they get back to school.”

There are currently just more than 7,000 people living in direct provision and emergency accommodation centres, including more than 1,300 children. The Government has committed to ending direct provision and implementing the new International Protection Support Services system by 2024.

The additional financial strains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are placing an even heavier burden on parents in direct provision this year, said Ms Vuma.

Bulelani Mfaco from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland described the lack of support for families facing back-to-school costs as “disgraceful”. “Successive governments have consistently ignored children in direct provision hence ordinary people have to step in and help with back to school expenses each year,” he said.

John Lannon, director of the Doras human rights charity, warned that when children don’t have the opportunity to participate fully and properly in education, “the impact on their future lives is huge”.

“The small weekly allowance given to parents in direct provision isn’t enough to provide children returning to school with the essentials, so filling that gap is very necessary,” said Mr Lannon.

The campaign is asking people to help by buying bookshop gift cards and uniform gift cards and stationery items including backpacks and workbooks which can be left at drop-off points run by ECIYC around the country. Donors can also offer a general financial support or opt to sponsor a child.

For more information on the campaign visit everychildireland.org