A new report recently conducted by Covid Realities at The University of York has revealed that parents and carers are struggling to cope with the costs of school uniforms. The report finds that parents are having to take out crisis loans and other loans in order to pay for their children’s uniform. Other parents are forced to make decisions like having to make the choice to go without healthy food in order to pay for their children’s school uniforms.
In the report it gives examples of how a families father was placed on furlough from his job at the beginning of the pandemic which dramatically cut the family’s income enough so that they qualified for universal credit. Reporting that trying to make ends meet became “a constant battle day by day,”.
The report also states that this family had previously relied on second-hand uniform fairs at their son’s school to buy items for £1 each, but with those fairs were cancelled in lockdown so they were forced to ask family for “a couple of pounds each” so she could buy uniforms.
“He wasn’t going to get uniform otherwise, The kids’ clothing is essential. But when it comes to school uniform, it’s such a high cost for so little time.
“You get a whole list of what they need for PE, which they’re doing once a week. And they’ll grow out of those clothes in three months.”
The report published by Covid Realities quotes that the practice of schools requiring badged uniform from approved suppliers has drastically increased school uniform costs for families. Uniform costs had been driven higher for those in poverty, especially when charity shops were closed during lockdown.
This isn’t the only increase in living costs during the pandemic though, families have faced soaring electricity and gas bills due to families isolating at home. The report reveals that a family of five were forced to go two weeks without heating in the middle of winter just to ensure they could still afford hot water for washing.
At the time of the report an extension was given for the £20 uplift payments for Universal Credit payments saying that facing the cut was “a hell of a big worry, stating “I didn’t know how much more I could take.“We were already not covering the essentials. Taking that £20 away, it was going to be just another thing that we needed in order to live but couldn’t have.
“They’re just delaying the inevitable,” she said of the extension until September. “You’re going to cut it right before winter, when there are extra costs? Leading up to Christmas? The financial problems are going to last a lot longer than the pandemic.”
Now facing the cut their fears are likely to become a reality.
The researchers at Covid Realities and The University Of York are asking that the Government increases monies for families with children plus national guidance on school uniform cost to lessen the financial impact on struggling parents.
A bill which could address this is currently being debated in Parliament.
“Uniform costs often cluster at the start of an academic year, and so for families on a low-income it can be a source of acute anxiety and worry,” said Dr Geoff Page, a research fellow on the Nuffield Foundation-funded Covid Realities programme. “Uniform can be hard to accommodate in precariously balanced budgets, where almost every penny is meticulously accounted for.
“Our participants described a sense of the unmanageable – of living with unmanageable expenses, with school uniform representing another turn of the financial screw.
As the schools break up for the summer holidays, the financial worry of having to pay for children’s school uniform, as well as for food and wellbeing increases. I also feel this stress and to be honest I don’t know how I’m going to manage it.
Many families are as the report states having to make the decision wether to feed their children a decent meal or pay for a piece of their expensive uniform.
The pandemic and the way that the government has handled it has had a detrimental effect upon families and children, causing them to live on a much lower income but still forced to provide the same things.
It’s not always possible to find school uniforms in charity shops or at school swap or donation sites. Each and every child needing school uniform are different sizes which is virtually impossible to replicate in donations and charity shops.
As the report states there needs for it to continue to be debated and acted upon in parliament, otherwise our children and their parents will continue to be let down and made to feel like they’re not good parents.
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