A Sinn Fein MLA has said “workers and families are already struggling” without the added amount of purchasing a school uniform as he calls for help to be made available to families as a new school term approaches.
West Belfast representative Pat Sheehan has said it’s time for the Executive to “get up and running “so a plan to help the cost of school uniforms can be progressed.”
“The recent increase in the uniform grant is welcome, but more must be done to support families with rising uniform costs. We need a long-term solution. Sinn Fein has a plan to make school uniforms affordable and cut costs for families when back to school time comes around,” he said.
Last year, research from The Parent Engagement Group found the average cost in Northern Ireland of a primary school uniform was £173 per primary school child and £378 per post-primary school child on school uniform, PE kit and footwear.
“To implement this plan, we need an Executive up and running now so that we can start to put money in people’s pockets and implement a plan to cut the costs of school uniforms. One party should not hold that important work to ransom” said Mr Sheehan.
Earlier this year Antrim and Newtownabbey Council agreed to continue their ‘uniform recycling scheme’ where older or used uniform items can be donated and then collected by those in the area. It’s been supported by Newtownabbey schools such as Glengormley High School and runs across the summer and into the autumn.
A Department of Education spokesperson said: “The Department is undertaking a Review of Free School Meals and Uniform Grant eligibility criteria and this work has not ceased.
"The Minister agreed, as an interim measure, to uplift the current rate of Uniform Grant by 20% for 22/23 year, as a contribution to the actual costs of uniforms pending the outcome of the review.
“The review is considering a number of options for free school meals and uniform grants, including the removal/adjustment to current thresholds for Universal Credit/Working Tax Credit as well as the potential to legislate on uniform policy. The review is expected to conclude in early 2023.
“The Minister is very aware of the financial pressures on families at this time and has made it clear to schools that every effort should be made to ensure school uniforms are as affordable as possible, in line with the department’s guidance on this issue.”