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Sinn Féin bring forward Bill to regulate voluntary school contributions and end pressure on families’ finances – Pat Buckley TD

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Sinn Féin TD for Cork East, Pat Buckley has called on the government to take action against voluntary school contributions which are placing unfair pressure on families’ finances.

The Education (Voluntary Contributions) Bill 2021, which will be debated in the Dáil this evening, would prevent families being singled out for not being able to meet these often crippling costs.

Speaking today, Teachta Buckley said:

“With the rising cost of living, parents are worrying about how they will meet the costs of the return to school this summer. One major cost that puts huge pressure on families is the school voluntary contribution.

“Year on year, families are being crippled by requests for contributions of very often well over €100 or €200 per child, and even as much as €300-400 in some cases. Every year I am contacted by many parents in Cork East who are very anxious about covering these costs.

“These are huge sums for families to be expected to pull together – particularly at the same time as the rising costs of energy, fuel, groceries all put a serious strain on families’ finances.

“We know that in reality, these contributions are voluntary in name only. In some instances, students and families can be denied certain services and extra-curricular activities and they can face stigma.

“The reason that this is happening is because the government has consistently underfunded our schools to the point that they feel they have to fundraise just to cover the basics. It has to end.

“This evening in the Dáil, my colleagues Matt Carthy TD and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD will bring their Voluntary Contributions Bill to 2nd stage, to try to bring an end to the pressure on families to make these donations. Our Bill will place an obligation on schools to make clear to families that these contributions are voluntary. It will ensure that no child is stigmatised or denied opportunities because their parents are not in a position to make a contribution.

“Our Bill will prohibit schools from contacting parents more than once per school year looking for contributions, and will work to end the stigma by disallowing any reminders of these contributions to be sent home with their children.

“It will ensure transparency, by placing an obligation on schools and the Department of Education to publish online the total amount collected in voluntary contributions and how this has been spent in each school.

“Crucially, our Bill sets out a pathway for bringing about an end to voluntary contributions for good once capitation levels are adequately restored by Government.

“I am calling on all TDs in Cork East to do the right thing and support our Bill this evening; these unfair voluntary contributions must stop.

“Sinn Féin will continue to listen to the calls of families for change and for a break from the cost of living crisis. We will stand up for families here in [constituency], to ensure they get a break from these costs and ensure our education system is fit for purpose.”

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