Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen has expressed concern at the lengthy waiting times, up to six weeks, for payments of the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.  This will result in many families across the country not receiving vital financial support until well after the school year has begun.

Deputy Cowen said: “I have received representations from a number of constituents, as have many of my party colleagues, about the significant delay in processing applications for the Back-to-School allowance this year.  I have been informed that the waiting time for payments is up to six weeks at the moment.  This means many parents in need of help with cost of sending a child to school not getting the necessary support for a number of weeks after the schools have returned.

“I have written to Minister Joan Burton and asked her to temporarily reassign staff within her department to speed up the processing of applications over the number few weeks.  I believe this is a reasonable step that the Minister can take to ensure more parents receive financial support in advance of the new school year.”

“I am aware that over 40,000 applications are still to be processed by the Department of Social Protection.  I welcomed the Minister’s decision earlier in the summer to change the operation of the scheme to ensure prompt payment for families who received the Back-to-School allowance last year but I believe the Minister must now look at immediate but temporary measures that can be applied to ease the burden on families.

“The Back-to-School allowance which helps parents cover the cost of school uniforms, footwear, stationery and other needs is extremely important for many families.  There has been a significant increase in the number of families who have applied for the allowance this year which has led to a waiting time of up to six weeks but I believe this can be reduced significantly if the Minister takes action now,” concluded Deputy Cowen.