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Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on Social Protection, Fidelma Healy Eames, has proposed an innovative new approach that increases support for parents and simultaneously saves the State millions of Euro. By diverting a portion of monies spent on the Back to School Allowance (BTSA) and investing it in a School Book Rental Scheme, parents in receipt of the allowance would be provided with a full set of books rent free and the State can simultaneously realise significant savings.

“At Post Primary level, for example, by reducing the BTSA from €305 to €152.50 and investing this in a fund, we can provide increased support for parents in receipt of the allowance, with a full set of books worth on average €220, while saving the state over €29 Million over a period of 5 years. This is a win-win proposal for parents and the State and it merits careful scrutiny.

“Additionally, by sponsoring the set-up of a nation-wide rental scheme all parents can benefit from reduced costs of rental versus purchasing expensive text books. There are currently numerous individual schemes operating successfully in schools around the country. By the Government taking the lead and providing the funding for investment in seed stock, this scheme can soon be rolled out to all post primary schools.

“Aside from reducing costs, this will drive reform in terms of book changes. Reusing books for rental will bring transparency and accountability to the current system and create a culture of recycling, which quickly becomes sustainable. Furthermore there would be no additional costs associated with the set up and administration of the current scheme. It is simply a matter of reducing the amount of money allocated to the BTSA and increasing the amount of monies allocated to the Department of Education’s Book Allowance.

“This is a targeted approached, with fairness & value for money as core objectives. I have shared it with Ministers Noonan, Quinn and Burton who are giving this proposal attention. The figures for this proposal were worked up by a parent and business manager who runs a Galway City book rental scheme. Most importantly, this proposal presents a scenario which supports all students & their families in a sustainable, cost effective way, saving the state, and more importantly parents, a substantial amount of money.