SVP says back-to-school costs made up a big chunk of requests
The charity St Vincent de Paul (SVP) says over 5,000 families sought back-to-school assistance from them last month.
The group says it received "a record number" of calls in August, which included calls seeking back-to-school help.
SVP says back-to-school requests made up some 40% of the overall calls from households in need.
It says this figure may even be understated, as SVP members often see families cut back on essentials like food and heating due to school costs.
SVP spokesperson Tricia Keilthy says: "Particularly at this time of the year, families approach SVP for help with utility bills or food shopping because of the pressure of buying uniforms, books and other materials and paying for the so-called 'voluntary' contribution."
"Back-to-school this week has been a really exciting time for lots of children and their parents.
"But for many low income and struggling households, the preparation for the new school year has been a huge source of stress and anxiety".
Ms Keilthy adds: "As well as the ordinary costs of school, some of the emerging issues that we see include the huge costs of Transition Year registration and trips and an increasing requirement for expensive digital devices.
"Achieving in school can break the cycle of poverty, but if children don’t have the materials they need to learn, if they feel different because their uniform is too small, or they can’t take part in activities like their friends, that really influences their experience of school and educational progress.
"If we really want all to children to have good opportunities, we have to stop making cost a barrier to participation".
SVP is calling on Education Minister Richard Bruton to start making free education a reality "with proper funding for schools and additional supports for parents".