If you’ve got children you know just how expensive this time of year is. The cost of a new uniform and all the kit they need for school can sometimes be on a par with the amount of money that you spend at Christmas.
But did you know that you may actually be able to get help if you can’t afford it – and that includes for the PE kit?
Firstly you should talk to the school because the governing body may be able to help but in England and Wales, local authorities – your council – is sometimes in a position to.
The grant applies to maintained schools, colleges for further education and sixth form colleges. And it’s not just uniforms – they sometimes help with non-uniform clothes, shoes and sports kits.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau said: ‘Some local education authorities restrict help to school uniform only, some pay a one-off grant when the pupil starts school while others pay regular grants as the pupil grows and needs new clothing.
‘Some local education authorities give the help as cash grants, while others give vouchers to be used at local shops and others give actual items of clothing.’
How do I find out if I qualify?
Well, as we’ve said – first of all contact your school to see if there’s any assistance from them.
Otherwise contact your local council who may be able to help.
How much can I get?
That depends on your local council, so it’s a bit of a postcode lottery. For example many local authorities don’t offer any assistance at all. Instead they advise parents to speak to the school as the governing body may help out.
However councils such as Greenwich offers grants ranging from £40 to £100 depending on what stage of education your child is at.
West Lothian council offers up to £110 per child, according to a BBC investigation, while North Ayrshire offers up to £40.
Some councils, such as Lancashire County Council, don’t specify how much they will give on their website but says they offer assistance in ‘very exceptional circumstances’. However Lancashire County Council added: ‘low income in itself would not generally be considered as an exceptional circumstance’.
In Northern Ireland grants are available up to £56 for school uniforms and up to £22 for PE kits.
What does the Citizens Advice Bureau suggest?
If you can’t get help from the school or local authority, you may qualify for an interest-free budgeting loan.
The bureau says: ‘If you get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Pension Credit, it may be possible to get an interest-free budgeting loan from the social fund to help with the cost of school clothing.’
Vanessa Craig, 39, from Londonderry, set up the uniform recycling group after seeing her own daughter’s going to waster (Picture: Vanessa Craig)
A single mum has set up a uniform recycling group in a bid to help struggling families save a fortune on their kid’s school uniform.
Vanessa Craig, from Londonderry, recently set up the uniform recycling group on Facebook, with the aim of uniting old school uniforms with families who need it the most.
The Facebook group, called School Uniform Recycling, has since been inundated with requests for help and uniform donations.
So far, Vanessa has had 120 requests, with almost three quarters of them being fulfilled.
The full-time single mother told Metro.co.uk: ‘I remember paying £150 for a blazer for my daughter, and being a single parent, that’s a lot of money to see it go to waste.
Since setting it up, Vanessa has managed to gather uniforms for every school in the Derry City area. (Picture: Vanessa Craig)
‘We knew a lot of people, especially with the tax credit cuts, would find it really hard, so rather than people throwing them away we asked if anyone had any unwanted uniform that they wanted to forward on.
‘Immediately, we received a lot of uniform requests from parents concerned about the grants being stopped.
‘So we decided to set up the group, where parents could message confidentially and request uniforms, without feeling embarrassed about asking.’
Since setting it up, Vanessa has managed to gather uniforms for every school in the Derry City area.
Vanessa, 39, said: ‘Derry people are always generous anyway but we’ve been overwhelmed with how good the response has been. A lot of people have grown up here where we’ve got a lot of poverty so they’re aware of the situation.
The single mum is urging more people to donate uniforms (Picture: Vanessa Craig)
‘Some people are even donating anonymously out of the goodness of their hearts.’
Though the demand has roughly been split between reception, primary and secondary school uniforms, an increasing number of parents are requesting uniforms for teenagers as they’re more expensive.
The 39-year-old, who wants more people to donate, said: ‘It’s mainly been a mixture of both but there’s definitely been more demand for secondary as it’s a lot more expensive.
‘We’ve had single parents with four or five kids that require uniforms for school next month, so the demand is definitely there.’
At the moment, only requests made in the area have been fulfilled but Vanessa hopes to help families elsewhere too.
She said: ‘Though we haven’t been able to help everyone with uniforms, we have still been able to provide them with rucksacks and other basic items.
‘If we had the resources, we would extend the group as we’ve received requests from people across the country.
‘We only realised how great the need was after we started the group.’
Vanessa is due to hold an open day this Friday at Unit 8, Lenamore Business Park, from 10am to 3pm, in order to meet the high demand for school uniforms.
All the uniforms will be laid out and people are invited to come along and chose what they need.