A CHARITY which provides school uniforms for Edinburgh families facing financial hardship has seen an alarming increase in appeals for help.
Edinburgh School Uniform Bank has already received 472 requests so far this year for back-to-school packs, over double the number for the equivalent period in 2018 – and the number is set to rise even before the school term begins.
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The volunteer-run charity operates using a referral scheme where professionals such as guidance teachers or family workers can request school uniform on behalf of a child or a family in need.
Demand for packs has been rising rapidly year on year; in the whole of 2018 the total number of referrals was 644 which was over twice the number for 2017 where they received 308 referrals.
Children going to school without the correct uniform are vulnerable to stigma, lack of confidence, social exclusion and poor engagement with their school.
Julia Grindley, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the charity, said: “It’s hard to pin down a reason why there has been such an increase, I think there are two things, professionals, like guidance teachers and support workers are hearing about our service so telling their colleagues and so people get to know about us, which is great because we’re reaching more kids.
“Secondly, times are very hard and families are struggling for a number of reasons, the number one reason is low income and a lot of families are struggling to make ends meet."
Mrs Grindley said: “No parent wants to send their child to school without appropriate uniform, and there is a reason behind every referral that comes to us.
“Every parent wants dignity for their family regardless of the situation they find themselves in. Times are hard, and when there is no money at the end of the month, there is no money.
“One particular example we have seen was a family who had several children, the father was working multiple jobs on a self-employed basis and the mother was at home to look after the kids, because self-employed work can be unpredictable the family were struggling and needed our help.”
The charity is appealing to local families and businesses to “sponsor a child” by donating new items for back-to-school sets at one of their drop-off points around Edinburgh.
A typical pack contains two jumpers, two pairs of trousers or skirts, a pack of shirts, a filled pencil case, gym shorts and T-shirt, and a school bag.
Between June 14 2018 and 21st August 2018, 4,339 Clothing Grants were awarded which was an increase of over 1,000 grants on the previous year.
Education convener, Cllr Ian Perry said:“A lot of innovative work is taking place to proactively tackle child poverty in Edinburgh through our 1 in 5 project which has over 80 of our schools involved in helping to reduce stigma and tackle the costs of the school day.
“The decision by Education Committee to increase the school uniform grant last year from £43 (primary) and £53 (secondary) to £100 across the board is one reason why we have experienced an increase in the number of grants awarded over the past year – rising from 3,281 to 4,339.
"Other improvements to the scheme have undoubtedly contributed to this increase such as aligning the clothing grant/free school meals eligibility resulting in around 500 more children becoming eligible for the clothing grant. We have also used council tax reduction and housing benefit records to verify eligibility which means an automatic award of the clothing grant without families having to make an application.
“School uniform clothing grants are just one of many schemes taking place across the city tackling child poverty including the setting up of our Child Poverty Action Group, uniform swap shops, income maximisation advice and free sanitary products . All these different projects are making positive differences as we raise awareness of this issue in Edinburgh and our plans to mitigate its impact.”
The Clothing Grant award increased to £100.00 per child from the 2018/19 academic year and will be paid at the same rate for the new academic year.
Full details of how to support the Edinburgh School Uniform Bank are on their website www.edinburghuniform.org