Families Struggling With Back To School Costs

SVP Supports NI Families with ‘as good as new’ Uniforms.

Even with government assurance that uniform grants will not be cut for the 2017/18 school year, thousands of families across Northern Ireland are facing the desperate situation of having to find enough money to purchase essential school clothing for their children.

Rather than the ‘nice to have’ newest pair of trainers or ‘coolest brand’ of clothing, a school uniform is a necessity for each child attending his or her respective institution.  However, with family budgets constantly compromised to stretch to the ever-increasing price of food and heating, the added expense of kitting out children with vital school clothing is beyond the means of many.

Uniform grants help pupils from low income families in primary, post-primary and special schools and although this year’s budget, as had previously been mooted, is no longer going to be slashed, it has been confirmed that it will remain at the 2016/17 level, despite the fact the price of uniforms are going up year-on-year.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has a presence in communities right across Northern Ireland and its volunteers have seen that this issue is affecting thousands of families, who are struggling to get by.  The charity is doing its bit to help those in need by offering low cost ‘as good as new’ official school uniform items in its 32 Vincent’s shops across Northern Ireland.

Anne Crossan, Regional Retail Services Manager for SVP, explained:  “We are a volunteer-led organisation and our priority is to help alleviate poverty in local communities.  Our volunteers operate at such a grass-roots level across Northern Ireland that we understand and see, first-hand, the extent of issues such as this, that make a real difference to individuals, families and communities themselves. One of SVP’s support services is our Vincent’s shops which stock pre-loved clothing and we have noticed more and more families specifically asking if we have school uniform items.

“While there is a government-funded uniform grants’ scheme, the allocation per pupil only touches the tip of the iceberg of what realistically is needed by a student.  The cost of a basic secondary or grammar school uniform and PE kit can be daunting, in most cases in excess of £200.

“This is a challenging amount for most families, particularly those with more than one child who simply don’t have money like this available and it adds huge pressure to those who may already be struggling to meet bills.  However, the same uniform items in our shops would be a fraction of the price and in very good condition.

“We are more than aware of the many financial burdens on families in the run up to the start of a new school year.  The expense of uniforms, new school shoes, PE kits, stationery, school bags, swimming gear, with enough money for lunches and break time snacks every day, can often seem to add up and up.  Through our shops, families have the option of purchasing even one or two of the regulatory items at a reduced price, freeing up money to spend elsewhere.

“In light of this increasing demand for uniform items, we are calling for the public to help by donating previously used uniform pieces at any time of the year, which are still in good condition, into any of our charity shops across Northern Ireland.  Just call in with outgrown items or even school equipment that is no longer needed and this could alleviate some of the pressures on another family.  All donations are gratefully received and funds raised go back into supporting the work of SVP across local areas.”

SVP is a volunteer-led organisation and teams work tirelessly, 365 days a year, to provide assistance to all sections of the community across Northern Ireland.  Through Conferences (groups), the Society works with those in need, irrespective of creed, ethnic or social backgrounds, health, gender or political opinions, in local areas.  Around 1800 SVP volunteers provide the charity’s wide-ranging services which includes paying weekly visits to around 2,500 people, as well as carry out a wide range of activities and support across the province including crèches, breakfast clubs and the management of 32 Vincent’s shops.