HARD-UP parents face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting financial support with school uniform costs for kids, a Sun investigation has found.
Some councils, such as Islington, pay up to £150 to parents to help with the cost of buying uniform for the new school year.
Whereas others will pay just £25 – or don’t offer free cash support at all.
The Sun looked into 25 councils in England to see how much they pay to parents and found 15 will offer the grant.
While 10 said they no longer offer the grant or never have.
School uniform grants, which are issued under the Education Act 1990, can only be claimed by parents on low incomes or certain benefits.
But years of cuts have reduced the budgets of some councils who have had to pull their grants entirely, meaning parents could miss out on up to £150 a year, simply due to location.
The act is not a statutory duty in England so it’s up to the discretion of councils, meaning a postcode lottery for parents.
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How much does it cost to boil a kettle?
It’s different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where councils are required to offer assistance – in Wales school children can get up to £125, and Scottish pupils are entitled to at least £100 in support.
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.
Parents spend on average £219.50 on uniforms for each child according to MoneySupermarket’s latest data, so the extra grant money will be welcomed by low income households who’ll benefit the most.
Who qualifies for the grant?
If your local council does offer a grant it will typically be available for people on benefits like Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s allowance and child tax credits.
In many cases your income needs to be less than £16,000 to be eligible too, but the exact figure of your qualifying earnings can vary between council’s criteria.
The grants usually go hand in hand with free school meals too, so if your child qualifies for this then they could receive the uniform grant too.
How much can I get?
The maximum amount any council is offering is £150 in Islington, London.
Some offer slightly lower like Greenwich council’s £100 grant, and the same goes for Hackney’s, Somerset’s and City of York’s.
But others only offer out lower amounts like Sandwell’s £25 grant for secondary students.
You can get £45 if you live in Southwark too, and there’s £50 on offer from South Gloucestershire council.
We discovered that last year Blackpool residents could apply for up to £100 in school uniform grants because of the pandemic, but the council has since removed the funding so you can’t apply this year.
Some councils don’t offer the funding at all like West Berkshire council and Oxfordshire council as well as Cambridgeshire council and Cornwall council.
The councils that are offering grants will usually offer their maximum amount to each child in your household transitioning from Year 6 to Year 7 with other amounts available per child too.
When will I be paid?
When you can expect to see the grant paid into your account will differ between councils as it is up to them to set their own rules about eligibility and deadlines for applying.
If you are successful in your application you will usually see the money given in enough time before term starts again.
It depends on when you applied too, as parents leaving it until now to begin an application may have to wait until September to be paid, when the school year will have already started and uniform already purchased.
Otherwise, depending on if your council continues the grant program, you will have to reapply each year if you wish to continue receiving the money.
Does my council offer help?
The government has a tool dedicated to searching councils that offer the grants.
You can use it to work out which local authority you fall under by typing in your postcode.
If the search tool doesn’t have an answer for your area then it will advise getting in contact with your local council or checking its website for further details.
Click on the education tab or search for “uniform grant” on your local council’s site for this.
There should be a section that tells you whether help is on offer, how much you might get, the criteria, and what you need to do to apply.
But some councils like like Lancashire allow you to go through the motions of applying for the grant, only if you’re eligible, before disclosing how much you could receive.
You’ll also be able to find out the deadline to apply for your area, in most cases applications opened at the start of the summer in July, and will close at the end of September – one month into the new school term.
It varies between councils though so it’s worth contacting yours directly.
The government site also states that if your council doesn’t offer help, you can try speaking to the school instead to see if they have budgets to offer help.
What are my other options?
If you can’t find that your local council or the school itself can help out with funding then there are charities that give grants to help with the costs of education.
Charity Turn2Us has a free grants search tool so you can find out what help is available to you.
But bear in mind they often have a limited amount of money to give and usually have specific criteria which must be met in order to get a grant.
Sasha Evans, money expert at MoneySupermarket said: “If there’s no requirement for you to buy official uniform from a specialist supplier, supermarkets should be your first port of call: they’re often much cheaper than school suppliers.
“Aldi continues to offer a uniform bundle for just £4.50 and includes two polo shirts, one round-neck jumper, and either trousers or a skirt.
“Once you’ve bought all your uniform, be sure to label everything so your child doesn’t lose belongings – replacing lost items is an added expense which you could do without.”
Last year struggling parents who worked in supermarkets during the pandemic could apply for a £150 grant to help with the cost of school uniforms too.
If you do manage to secure one of the grants then there are ways to make the money you receive go further, with the cheap options retailers have available.
Parents are sharing their tips too, with one mum explaining how she nabbed a blazer from as little as £2, so it’s worth joining forums to discover tips to bag cheap uniform too.
Source: The Sun