More than one-third of families in debt due to back-to-school spend

The average debt reported for secondary school parents is €443

More than one-third of families in debt due to back-to-school spend

Schoolchildren use tablets in class at a school in Germany | Image: Armin Weigel/DPA/PA Images

A new survey has suggested that over 36% of parents in Ireland are getting into debt to cover back-to-school costs.

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), which commissioned the survey, say this is a noticeable increase on the 29% who reported being in debt last year.

Parents of primary school children are, on average, in debt of €367 - up from €345 in 2017.

For secondary school parents, the average debt reported is €443 compared with €415 last year.

While 67% of parents in the national study say back-to-school costs are a financial burden.

Almost half (46%) say that costs are their biggest back-to-school related worry, well ahead of concern that children will not settle or make friends (15%).

Four-in-10 say they are under pressure to buy branded goods and other items for their children.

This figure was higher for parents of secondary-school children with over half (54%) feeling the pressure, compared with 39% of parents of primary school children.

Those admitting they will be forced to deny their children certain school items has also increased, rising from 25% in 2017 to 31% this year.

Of this group, four-in-10 say they cannot afford new school shoes for their children, while seven-in-10 say extracurricular activities will be cut from the budget.

Source: ILCU

Sacrifice spending

In general, just over one-third of parents say they will have to sacrifice spending on family holidays to meet school costs.

While 22% say they will have to cut spending on household bills and 15% say spending on food will have to suffer.

Of those parents in debt, 27% say they have turned to a moneylender in an effort to cope with back-to-school costs - up from 20% last year.

Of this group in debt, three-in-10 say they have borrowed between €400 and €500, while more than one-quarter say they had borrowed over €800.

When asked why their preferred option was a moneylender, 46% of this group say they felt they would be guaranteed the money and that the approval processes in banks and credit unions would be more difficult.

Some 42% say they felt they had no other option because they had a bad credit history.

A significant number of this group (77%) say they will use a moneylender again this year to cover the back-to-school spend.

Source: ILCU

Falling prices

The study found however, that overall, costs have fallen somewhat since last year.

Parents say they are spending €999 per primary-school child, a €49 decrease on 2017.

For secondary school-children, parents say the cost per child has fallen €22 to €1,379.

In general, the decrease was due mainly to falls in the prices for extracurricular activities, transport and after-school care.

Paul Bailey, ILCU head of marketing and communications, says: "Despite the current recovery of our economy, families continue to struggle to cope with the cost of sending their children to school.

"It’s somewhat encouraging that parents are reporting that costs have reduced a little since last year, but at the same time we are seeing increasing numbers of parents saying they are in debt, and a rise in the numbers saying they are turning to moneylenders.

"I would really encourage these parents to talk to their local credit union, even where they feel they have a poor credit history."