Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Rates
260. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the increase seen or expected in the back to school allowance as a result of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39027/21]
273. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the increase seen or expected in the back to school allowance as a result of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39054/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 260 and 273 together.
The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or return to school each autumn. The Government has provided €53.5m for the scheme in 2021 which operates from June to September.
The allowance is payable for eligible children between the ages of 4 and 17 in respect of whom a qualified child increase is being paid. It is also payable to those between the ages of 18 and 22 who are in full-time second level education and in respect of whom a qualified child increase is being paid.
Similar to previous years, the majority of customers were awarded BSCFA automatically and these customers were notified of their award by the 21 June. This year, over 111,000 families have been approved for the BSCFA in respect of 204,000 qualified children automatically. Payments amounting to approximately €42m are issuing to these families this week.
Customers who have not received notification of an automated payment will need to apply for BSCFA online on www.mywelfare.ie. Customers who are experiencing issues applying online for the BSCFA should phone the BSCFA contact centre on 071 9193318 or 0818 11 11 13 or email email@example.com and an officer will help the customer apply online or, if necessary, will issue an application form directly to the customer.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is a qualifying payment for the BSCFA. Recipients of this payment will also need to satisfy all the other qualifying conditions in order to qualify.
The scheme opened to new applications on 21 June. In the first 3 weeks, 18,600 applications have been received. In the first 3 weeks in 2020, 23,600 applications were received. This represents a year on year decrease of applications received in the first 3 weeks of 21%. However, the online application opened on the 21 June this year compared to 6 July last year. It is too early at this stage to assess whether there will be an increase in applications due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The closing date to apply for this year's BSCFA is 30 September 2021.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.