Up to 180,000 families will receive back-to-school payments this year to help cover the costs of the new school year.

The Department of Social Protection has said 82% of payments have already been made.

However, children's charity Barnardos is warning that the income thresholds should be raised to help more struggling families qualify for the benefit.

So far, almost 174,000 families have applied to the department for the allowance.

Around 115,000 qualifying families automatically received their payments in July.

More than 58,000 other families have applied since the scheme opened in June and their applications are currently being processed.

The department has processed all of those who applied up until 1 August and is working through the others.

The scheme is open for applications until 30 September.

If parents or guardians meet the means-tested qualifying criteria, then the department will pay €100 for children aged between four and 11.

The payment for those aged between 12 and 22 in full-time education is €200.

But a recent survey from Barnardos found that the back-to-school cost for a primary school child can be up to €400.

It said that cost can be up to €785 for a first year student in secondary school.

The department has budgeted less for the allowance this year compared to last year and expects to pay out to fewer families.

Last year, it paid out €65.7m, but this year it has budgeted for €48.8m.

However, the department stressed it is a demand-led scheme and all applicants who qualify will receive the allowance, even if this exceeds the budgeted €48.8m.