PARENTS prepping for the big return to school can get extra help to cover the cost.
Kids school kit can quickly add up – from school uniforms to feeding them – taking up hundreds of pounds of your budget each year.
More mums and dads are searching for support for school costs, according to Citizens Advice.
The return to school comes just before a £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and the end of furlough, while energy bills are expected to rise this winter, putting more pressure on hard-up parents,
Rachel Ingleby, benefits expert at the organisation, 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."
She added that anyone who needs help finding out what support is available can contact their nearest Citizens Advice or Local Education Authority.
Here we've rounded up the help you could get, and it's always worth checking a benefits calculator to check you are getting everything you're entitled to.
Free school meals
Your kids may be entitled to free school meals.
Given the average family spends £437 on lunches per child over the course of a school year, if you qualify for free meals that could be a big saving.
Of course the exact amount you can save will depend on your circumstances.
Kids in the first three years of primary school automatically qualify for free lunches – that's reception and years one and two.
To apply for free school meals after this age, you need to go through your local council which you can find on the government website.
You'll be eligible if you claim certain benefoits and generally if you're earning less than £7,400 a year without benefits.
The majority of councils will ask you to fill in an online form.
Depending on your children's age, some councils will ask you to contact the school directly.
And it depends on the council how quickly you'll get the perk after applying.
All children between the ages of 5 and 16 qualify for free school transport if:
- They go to their nearest suitable school
- They're under eight-years-old, and live two miles from school
- They're eight or older and live three miles from school
- There is no safe walking route home
Children from low-income families may also be eligible – this includes kids entitled to free school meals, and families receiving the maximum Working Tax Credit.
There are also criteria to meet:
- They're aged eight to 11 and the school is at least 2 miles away
- Aged 11 to 16 and the school's 2 to 6 miles away – as long as there are less than 3 suitable schools nearer to home
- Between the age of 11 and 16, and their school is 2 to 15 miles away – plus, if it's their nearest preferred faith school
Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or mobility problems are also entitled to free transport, no matter the distance.
You'll need to go through your local education authority to get the help whic hyou can find through gov.uk by searching your postcode.
Your local education authority can help cover some of the costs of school uniforms and other other expenses, like activities and trips.
The average secondary school uniform and PE kit adds up to £300 a year for each pupil, according to the Department for Education.
You'll need to go to your local council directly to find out what's available which you can do through gov.uk by searching your postcode.
But this help and the amount you get can depend on where you are.
A recent investigation by The Sun found that some councils pay up to £150 a year to help with school outfits while others offer just £25 – and some offer no cash at all.
If you can't get a grant locally then Citizen's Advice recommends looking for local charitable schemes and schools may be able to tell you about them, so it's worth asking.
The school may also be able to tell you about where to find secondhand uniforms.
If your local council does offer a grant it will typically be available for people on benefits like Universal Credit, Jobseeker's allowance and child tax credits.
In many cases your income needs to be less than £16,000 to be eligible too, but the exact figure of your qualifying earnings can vary between council’s criteria.
The grants usually go hand in hand with free school meals too, so if your child qualifies for this then they could receive the uniform grant too.
We've created a handy guide to help you apply for the school uniform grant.
Disability living allowance
If your child is disabled or has a health condition they may be entitled to more support.
The Disability Living Allowance offers kids under 16 between £23.60 and £151.40 a week regardless of parents' income.
For the full details of who else qualifies, visit the DLA page on the government’s website.
To apply, you need to print off and fill in the DLA form or call the DLA number (0800 121 4600) and ask for a form to be sent to you.
Half a million parents could have child benefit STOPPED if they don’t take action now.
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