“Having long been vocal about the urgent need to tackle childhood obesity, I was even taken aback at the news that an increasing number of Irish seven-year-olds are being fitted for ‘adult’ or plus fit school uniforms over the past 15 years. Although some of the size changes can be attributed to natural progression in height, there is no disputing much of this change is due to the obesity epidemic. In fact according to the last National Nutrition Survey, the average Irish 14 year-old is now over 3.5 stone heavier than in 1948.
“No VAT has been applied school uniforms since 1972. However more parents of overweight children are having to purchase ‘adult’ or plus fit sizes to accommodate their children. This means are not eligible for the 0 % VAT rate and must pay an extra 23% for their school uniforms. Considering the majority of children who are overweight or obese in Ireland fall into the lower social economic demographic, this is an extra financial burden these families can ill afford to bear.
“The solution is to extend the vat exemption to plus fit uniforms in the short term whilst putting in place strong measures in schools to battle obesity from the moment children start school.
“According to The World Health Organisation, the Finnish city of Seinäjoki, has managed to halve the level of obesity in its five year olds over the course of just six years. The health department instituted comprehensive yearly health examinations in schools, which included monitoring each child’s weight annually and parent education on healthy eating. The municipality’s health department in the city worked with childcare, education, nutrition, recreation and urban planning departments to ensure all day care centres and schools provide the same quality of services.
“The urban planning department also improved school playgrounds. More physical activity in schools was implemented and day care centres eliminated sugary snacks and and schools served healthier lunches.
“I urge the Government here to consider a similar initiative to halvechildhood obesity by 2022.”