September Advice Column
My oldest child is starting school this month and, with uniforms and PE kits, the costs are already mounting. The school we got into isn’t within walking distance so I now need to budget for bus money five days a week too. We’re already pretty stretched, so I’m not sure how to cover these new costs. Is there any extra help I can get?
The start of a school year can be tough for many people’s budgets, so you’re not alone in your worries. But there is help available.
On the Citizens Advice website, we have lots of information on the support you might be entitled to for school-related costs. If you’re claiming benefits it’s worth checking if you can get extra help for things like school lunches, transport and uniforms.
Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 automatically get free school meals. For older children, you can apply for free school meals if you claim certain types of benefits. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website, and includes Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support. You’ve mentioned you’re worried about transport costs. For children aged five to 16, your local education authority might be able to offer free or discounted transport if you’re not able to walk to the school. Contact them directly to find out how they can support you.
Your local education authority might also help you with activity and school uniform costs, if you’re on a low income. You’re probably considered to be on a low income if you get means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. There are also some local charitable schemes that can help – check with your school, as they will usually know if these kinds of schemes are in your area. Schools can sometimes also advise on finding cheap or free second-hand uniforms.
If your child is disabled or has a health condition, you can also claim Disability Living Allowance (this isn’t means-tested)
A lot of peoples’ budgets are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with starting school costs.