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Are you eligible for help with school-related costs?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Benefits claimants may be eligible for help with some of the costs of their children going back to school.

According to Citizens Advice, the number of people searching its website for advice on how to manage school-related costs has increased by 20% in the past year.

The charity saw 76,000 web views of its online advice ‘Help with school costs’ between August 2020 and July 2021, compared to just 63,000 web views in the same period the previous year.

According to government research, the average price of secondary school uniform and PE kit costs more than £300 per pupil in England.

Rachel Ingleby, benefits expert at Citizens Advice, said: “We know the start of the school year can be expensive. And with rising energy costs and a looming cut to Universal Credit, pressure will be added to many people’s already stretched budgets.

“If you’ve claimed benefits for the first time during this pandemic, or have seen your circumstances change, it’s worth checking whether you can apply for extra help with costs such as school lunches, transport or uniforms.

“Anyone who needs help finding out what support is available can contact their nearest Citizens Advice or local education authority.”

Which benefits might you be entitled to?

  • Free school meals

Children in reception, year 1 and year 2 automatically get free school meals. If you have older children, you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits. If you applied after 1 April 2018 you would be eligible if you earn less than £7,400 a year without benefits.

To apply for free school meals you need to contact your local authority.

  • Transport

If your children are aged between five to 16, your local education authority might offer free or lower cost transport if you don’t live near school or your child is unable to walk there. You need to apply to your local education authority for help.

  • Uniforms and other costs

Your local education authority might also be able to help with some other costs, like uniforms, music lessons or trips and activities. There may also be local charitable schemes to help with school uniforms, it’s worth checking with the school to see if it knows of any. Schools can also sometimes advise on finding second-hand uniforms.

  • Disability Living Allowance

This is extra money to help with everyday costs if your child is under 16 and disabled or has a health condition. You can get between £23.60 and £151.40 a week, and it isn’t means tested, so how much you earn doesn’t impact how much you can get.

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