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Advice Column #1 – August 2023

My children are starting new schools in September, one is in primary school and the other secondary. Between uniforms, PE kit and knowing they’ll need to catch the bus each day the costs are adding up. I’m already pretty stretched, so I’m not sure how to cover these extra outgoings. Is there any help I can get?

A new school year can put pressure on lots of people’s budgets, so you’re not alone in your worries. But there is help available.

A good place to start is the Citizens Advice website where you’ll find lots of information on the support you might be entitled to for school-related costs.

The help you can get to cover school lunches will vary depending on how old your children are and if you claim benefits. Children in Reception, Year 1 and 2 automatically get free school meals. You can apply for free school meals for older children if you claim certain types of benefits, including Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website.

You mentioned concerns about travel costs. If your child can’t walk to school because of special educational needs or disabilities, they should get free school transport. You may be able to get help with transport costs from your Local Education Authority if your children can’t walk because it’s dangerous or too far. Rushmoor’s Local Education Authority is Hampshire County Council – use this link  HCC Help with School Transport to access the right information and support for Hampshire.

If you’re on a low income, your Local Education Authority may also be able to help you with activity and school uniform costs. You’re likely to be considered to be on a low income if you get means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. In Rushmoor most schools have local schemes that can help with school uniforms and other “back to school” support. Just contact the school itself or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and they will be able to tell you about the local scheme.

A lot of people are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with starting school costs and you’re not alone. For more information visit the Citizens Advice website.