Communion grant cuts ‘inevitable’ say parents

A recent government decision to withdraw exceptional needs payments (ENPs) for religious ceremonies grants has secured the backing of parents locally.

A recent government decision to withdraw exceptional needs payments (ENPs) for religious ceremonies grants has secured the backing of parents locally.

The Department of Social Protection announced the scheme’s termination following a review that advised such grants be paid in accordance to financial necessity as opposed to celebrations.

Just over €3.4m was paid in communion and confirmation grants in 2011 to around 14,000 families.

That payout fell by over half last year, resulting in 12,500 families securing grant aided monies totalling €1.5m.

Now, those entitlements are to be axed altogether, but reaction to the decision has been one of acceptance.

“It was inevitable,” said Granard mother of two Michelle Gettings. “As parents, we need to start looking at reducing costs ourselves. At the end of the day, it is about making a sacrament and is a celebration of that. Unfortunately, some people that were getting these grants were putting pressure on those that weren’t getting them.”

Ms Gettings said the Church had a key role to play in helping parents deal with the impending changes.

She said one potential solution mooted over the past few days that might alleviate pressures on cash strapped parents was the universal introduction of ceremonial robes or school uniforms for such occasions.

That suggestion was given further weight by fellow Longford parent Nigel Lynam. His 10-year-old daughter, Caitlan, is scheduled to make her Confirmation next year, an event he believes has been marred somewhat by the Celtic Tiger boom.

“You have always had kids wanting to wear their own thing. That’s fine, but if they put a robe over the top of it, that would be the perfect solution,” he said.

“There has been times when people just seemed to go overboard by spending too much money. It (First Communion and Confirmation) went away from being a religious thing and it was more about who was dressed the best.”

A recent survey by EBS revealed parents expect to spend in excess of €570 on average on First Communions this year, a statistic Nigel and others like him to express their own concerns over.

“There’s talk that robes might only cost (a parent) €10 a year. It makes perfect sense. What’s the problem with every child being the same?” he asked.