Parents left struggling as councils axe school uniform grants


COUNCILS across England have quietly axed grants for school uniforms leaving thousands of parents on low incomes with no cash to buy back-to-school kit for September.

The grant, which can be up to £150, was introduced by the government in the 1980s to help families on low incomes meet the cost of uniforms.

The cost of kitting out kids for school can mount up but councils have slashed help offered to low income families

But councils don’t have to provide it, and many say they’ve been forced to scrap or reduce it in recent years due to wider funding cuts.

Of 42 councils in England which HOAR checked at random this week, 28 offer no grant at all.

These include Barnsley, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Leicester, and Somerset.

It’s unclear when they scrapped the help but all their websites indicate it has been offered in the past.

Of the remaining 14, 11 offer grants between £15 and the maximum £150 for some pupils, while three others offer some form of financial help on a case-by-case basis.

Sandwell Council, for example, will provide £20 for a child starting in an eligible reception class school from September.

While Islington in London will give families who qualify £150 for a child who is going into year seven this autumn.

Teresa Heritage, vice chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, told HOAR: “While some councils choose to help parents with the cost of school uniforms, funding pressures on council budgets are making it increasingly difficult for them to continue these concessionary grants.

“We have been calling for the government to provide guidance for schools to help disadvantaged families with the costs of a uniform.”

HOAR has asked the Department for Education, as well as all the councils that no longer offer the scheme for a response.

Can I get a school uniform grant?

Whether you can access the grant depends on where you live as you have to live in a qualifying local authority area to get your hands on any money.

You can find out whether your local authority still offers the grant by visiting this government website, which will direct you to the relevant council page.

In order to qualify for any of the grants available, your child usually has to be receiving free school meals.

The amount you can claim depends on your local council’s budget, butas a general rule, grants are available for people on a range of benefits including jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment or support under the national asylum seekers support system.

You can also apply if your annual household income is less than £16,190.

Deadlines also vary – you may have missed the cut off for this September already, although some councils allow you to apply until March 31, 2021.

Where councils don’t offer grants, most suggest you could apply to your child’s school or approach charities for help with costs.

For example, struggling parents who work in supermarkets can apply for a new £150 clothing grant to help with the cost of school uniforms. 

The School Essentials Grant, which was launched by the charity GroceryAid last month, is aimed at helping to ease the financial burden of kids going back to school in September.

Are the rules different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland the rules are slightly different.

Councils in Scotland are required to provide grants of at least £100 to cover the costs of school uniform, and in some cases offer higher amounts.

For example, Glasgow Council offers £110 for every qualifying pupil.

In Wales, the amount is set centrally, so all councils will provide a grant of £125 which can be used to buy school uniform, equipment, sports kit and kit for activities outside of school.

In Northern Ireland, primary-age pupils can receive £35.75 towards uniforms and PE kit, secondary school kids under 15 can get £73, and kids in school over 15 can get £78.

This is administered by the Northern Irish government, rather than by individual councils.

Last year, research firm Mintel found that parents spent an average of £134 on school uniforms and shoes alone.

It is possible to buy some items of school uniform cheaply though: both Aldi and Lidl are selling a complete set for £4 this year.

And here’s how to feed your family for less during the summer holidays.

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