1,300 Greater Manchester families turn to charity for free school uniforms

More than 1,300 families have had to turn to a charity so their children can have new uniforms for school this autumn – a huge rise on last year. This is from the Manchester Evening News

The Wood Street Mission, which helps families in Manchester and Salford , says it has been inundated with parents who cannot afford new clothes for the school year.

Based off Deansgate, the charity provides a pair of trousers or skirt, two shirts and a jumper for each child in families referred by social workers or housing associations.

Last summer holidays the charity gave away 1,060 uniforms. The figure this year is more than 1,300 – an increase of 27 per cent.

Staff at the charity say many parents have been left penniless after providing food for their children over the six week holidays – normally provided through free school breakfast clubs and lunches.

Staff try to stock a range of sizes and colours in clothing for children from four to 16 to match their school’s uniform as closely as possible.

All the items are bought new for each child – as staff want them to feel proud of their appearance as they start the school year.

Rachel Bywater, a development worker at the charity, said: “What we’re finding is that summer is a really difficult time for families. It’s expensive because the kids are off school and parents have to try and afford child care or take time off work.

“Children are also not getting school meals. At the same time the cost of living is going up, and places who could help, like Sure Start centres and charities, are closing down.

“It means by the end of summer parents just don’t have any money left to afford a new school uniform. We provide them new because that stops a child going to school in jeans or other unsuitable clothing.

“That could make them stand out as being from a poor family or being labelled as being naughty when it’s not their fault, and this could affect their performance in lessons.

“Doing well in school is the best chance they have at not bringing their own children to Wood Street in 15 years’ time for help – it’s about removing the barriers kids can face.”

Families facing financial difficulties are referred to Wood Street from May onwards and can collect uniforms over the summer holidays – with many parents choosing a size up so the clothes fit the child the longest.

Wood Street cannot provide branded school jumpers, ties or shirts, but try to provide plain sweatshirts, trousers and skirts which match the colours of a school’s uniform most closely.

The charity says the prices of uniform branded for a specific school – and often sold only by one shop or supplier – is often way beyond what many parents can afford.

It costs the charity £15 to provide a uniform for each child, leaving them desperately in need of financial donations after the sudden increase in families seeking help.

More at:  1,300 Greater Manchester families turn to charity for free school uniforms

Are you noticing increased levels of parental hardship in your area? Has the summer holiday been harder than normal and are schools doing enough to keep costs down? Is it time to insist on ‘generic’ non-branded uniforms for all? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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