Single parent on low income asks, can I get help to pay for my son’s school uniform?

The rising price of school uniforms often causes parents financial stress.
The rising price of school uniforms often causes parents financial stress.

Jaclyn Glover answers our readers’ financial queries. This week, she tackles the issue of getting help to pay for school uniforms.

Q. I am a single parent on a low income, can I get help with school uniforms for my son?

A. You may be eligible to get a school clothing allowance if your son attends primary or secondary school. There is no assistance available for nursery schools.

If you are in receipt of one of the following benefits you will be entitled to help towards the cost of school uniform:

Income support;

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance;

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;

Guarantee element of Pension Credit;

Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit provided you have an annual gross income of less than £16,190;

Support under the Immigration and Asylum Act;

You may also be entitled to help with school meals.

The eligibility criteria for school meals is similar to those used for a school clothing allowance with the addition of the following criteria:

Their child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or he, or she, is a boarder at a special school.

The Department for Education have recently announced that the level of support available for the 2017/18 year will remain at 2016 levels.

These are as follows:

Primary school - £35.75;

Post-primary/special school under 15 - £51;

Post-primary/special school over 15 - £56;

Post-primary/special school PE - £22.

If your son is a student attending Colleges of Further and Higher Education you cannot be provided with an allowance for school uniform but if their course includes Physical Education they are entitled to apply for an allowance for Physical Education clothing if not a paid training course.

An application for a school uniform grant can be made at any time during the school term.

You can get an application form from the Education Authority or the school.

Only one grant will be awarded for each pupil claimed for during the school year. The grant is paid directly into a bank account or by cheque.

Applications for grants for a pupil who will be 16 by August 31 will not be processed until after the school or college confirms that the pupil is back at school in September.

One form has to be filled in for a household and will include details for each eligible pupil and has to be signed by either the principal or secretary of the school the pupil is attending during the current school year.

If a household has more than three eligible children then an additional form must be used.

If you are in receipt of income support of income based Jobseeker’s Allowance the form will need to be stamped by the Jobs and Benefits Office.

In some cases if you have previously applied for, or a pupil is getting, free school meals the school uniform application will not need to be stamped by the Jobs and Benefits Office as the Education Authority will have a record that income support or income based jobseeker’s allowance is being paid.

If this may apply to you, check with the Education Authority.

The application form requires a parent to sign a section stating that a grant will be used solely to buy items of school uniform listed on the guidance notes. This section also states that the Education Authority could seek to confirm that this was done.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland.