Recent research has revealed the minimum cost of raising a child has risen 4% in the last year. Alongside the rising cost of living, low wages and continued spending cuts, many families are struggling to meet everyday expenses including school uniforms, lunches and trips for their children.
Here Karen Holmes, Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity Turn2us provides tips for parents about the financial help that could be available to help with their children’s school-related costs.
1. Do a benefits check
The first thing parents should do to see if they can boost their income is carry out a free and easy benefits calculation to work out which welfare benefits they might be entitled to.
If you are on a low income, whether you are working or not, you might be eligible to claim Child Tax Credit which helps with the costs of bringing up a child. The amount you receive is made up of different parts based on your personal circumstances, such as whether or not your child has a disability.
If you are a single parent and are not working, or are working less than 16 hours a week, and are responsible for a child under five year’s old, you may be entitled to Income Support.
The benefits you may be eligible for depend on your household income and situation. Even if you have checked your entitlements to benefits before, it is worth checking again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances.
2. See if you are eligible for a charitable grant
Research by Turn2us revealed that one in three parents were worried about paying for school-related costs, yet less than 1% had approached a charity for financial support.
There are over 3,000 charitable funds that give grants and other forms of support to help people in different circumstances with a number of different needs. This could include grants for school equipment or trips.
Turn2us has a free and easy-to-use Grants Search database which provides access to all of these grants so you can find ones that best meet your needs. The database also includes details of each fund’s eligibility criteria and how to apply.
3. Look at other financial help
Parents may be able to get help towards the cost of school clothing depending on where they live.
In England and Scotland, your local council may be able to help with the costs of school uniforms, by providing a grant, voucher or the clothing itself. In Wales, one-off grants are provided to all pupils when they go to secondary school, as long as they qualify for free school meals. You need to contact your local council to find out how to apply for this help.
In Northern Ireland, you could receive a Full School Uniform Allowance if your child is at secondary school and you are claiming certain benefits. More information on this is available at NI Direct.
Across the whole of the UK, if your child is disabled and you receive income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support, you may be able to get an interest-free loan called a Budgeting Loan to help with the cost of school clothing.
Also, parents claiming certain benefits may be able to claim free school meals for their child. Further details on this are available on the Turn2us website, and to apply, you will need to get in touch with your local council.
Finally, you may be able to get free school travel for your child, with local councils providing their own transport, or providing free passes for public transport. Whether your child qualifies depends on factors including their age, whether they have a disability or special educational needs, how far away the school is and your family income. The rules are complicated, so you may wish to seek help from a local adviser to find out if your child is eligible.
4. Find further information
There is further information about financial help for anyone expecting or bringing up a child and financial help with education related costs on the Turn2us website.
You may also find Money Advice Service’s Back-to-school planner useful to help you budget for school essentials.