Parents Face ‘Postcode Lottery’ for School Uniform Grants

With the new school term looming, purchasing a uniform can become a costly expense, but low-income families may be able to claim up to £150 to help cover the costs, depending on which council they fall under.

A recent retailer survey by The Schoolwear Association revealed that it costs an average of £101.19 to equip a child with a secondary school uniform, meaning over a million families in England have to cut back on essentials to pay for it, according to a report by The Children’s Society.

Parliament passed a new law in April to make school uniforms more affordable for families, and there is also a grant that struggling parents can apply for to help with the purchase of a new uniform.

The school uniform grant is typically available for families on benefits such as Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s allowance and child tax credits – or children who qualify for free school meals.

The financial help available varies between councils and the amounts depend on the child’s age and the type of school they are attending.

Councils across England do not have to provide the grant, and this means the help varies widely depending on where families live, with payments ranging from £20 – £150 per child.  Some councils have scrapped the grants completely, due to wider funding cuts, leading to a ‘postcode lottery’ for those who are eligible.

Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We would like to see the Department for Education publish guidance on school uniforms to help disadvantaged families, including having uniform items that are widely available on the high street.”

Azmina Siddique, policy manager at The Children’s Society, said “It’s disappointing that so few areas are offering these grants.

“They help struggling parents forced to make impossible choices between kitting out their children and essentials like food and heating.

“But in addition to nationally accessible and funded grants, what we need now is to make uniforms affordable in the first place.”

To determine if your council offers the grant, visit the government website and search for your postcode.

The deadline for applications varies between councils, so it’s worth contacting your local council directly to discuss their criteria for making a claim.