Education news

Families still getting into debt over back-to-school costs

Almost one in four said they were forced to deny children certain items because they could not afford them

THOUSANDS of families are getting into debt over back-to-school costs, a survey has found.

Almost three quarters surveyed by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) said preparing children for their return to class was a "burden".

Parents claimed they could not afford new school shoes for their children while gym gear was also being cut by many.

The numbers of parents in debt in Northern Ireland remained steady since last year.

Primary school spend increased by £22, while there was a £93 drop for secondary.

Almost one in four said they were forced to deny children certain items because they could not afford them.

Two-thirds said schools were not doing enough to keep costs down.

Of those parents in debt, more than one third said they used a doorstep lender or payday loan company to help cover costs.

The Irish League of Credit Unions carried out the survey

Almost half said costs were their biggest back-to-school related worry. This concern was well ahead of the worry that children would not settle or make friends.

Parents said they were spending £776 per primary-school child, a £22 rise since last year. Parents of secondary school-children were, however, significantly cutting back. Costs were down by £93 since last year and now stand at £1,067. Parents appeared to be more cautious with spending on non-essential items, with a substantial reduction on school trips and extra-curricular activities.

The biggest spend at secondary school level was £169 on uniforms/clothing, followed by lunches at £166. Trips came in as the third most expensive item.

At primary school level, the biggest spend was on school lunches at £119, followed by after-school care.

The survey found the biggest sacrifice parents had to make to cover back-to-school expenses was family holidays.

"The research tells us that 75 per cent of parents are paying for the costs through their monthly income, which is positive news," said ILCU's Paul Bailey.

"However, we are very concerned to see that the numbers using credit cards has risen from 14 per cent last year to 22 per cent this year.

"We would encourage all parents in need of financial assistance to contact their local credit union and forego credit cards completely. The interest rates charged can be incredibly high, while people are often confused about how the interest actually works. Credit union loans by contrast are straightforward, with no hidden charges and affordable interest rates which are fair and capped by law."

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