The last 18 months of school life has been a difficult and challenging time for many children, with home schooling in lockdowns, virtual lessons and eventually returning to lessons in school.

Now, as we look forward to the start of a new school year, we can only hope that things will be more settled and that normal school life can return. However, for many parents, their children returning to school after the summer holidays can be an anxious and worrying time.

The financial pressures of providing all the items on the ever-growing school uniform list, the cost of school meals or healthy packed lunches and travel to school can be very costly and have a huge impact on the family budget, particularly where there is more than one child to provide for or for lower income families.

According to the Schoolwear Association, the average family spends £101.19 – £300 per child per year for school uniform, school bags and stationery.

If you are struggling financially with back-to-school expenses, did you know you may be eligible for some support? Check out the links below for more information.

Help with buying school uniform

The Government advises parents to check with their local council to see what school uniform support is provided in their area. If it cannot help, then ask the school directly.

Some families can be supported with a grant of up to £150 towards the cost of school uniforms and PE kits – including in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The grants are available for low-income families, so eligibility will need to be checked before applying. Not every council will offer this so use the link below to check by entering your postcode –


Usually, you will be eligible if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Job seeker’s allowance (income based)
  • Child tax credit (provided you are not entitled to working tax credit)
  • Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
  • State pension (this benefit must be your sole source of income)
  • Support under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit
How To Apply

Generally, applications will need to be submitted between 30 June – 30 September but each council may have different application submission dates, so please check with them.

  • England – Click here to check if your local council supports the School Uniform Grant
  • Scotland – Click here to check if your local council supports the School Clothing Grant
  • Northern Ireland – Click here to check if your local council supports the Clothing Allowance Scheme
  • Wales – Click here to check if your local council supports the Public Development Grant

Other organisations may be able to help too. Turn2Us offers advice and help with the cost of sending your child back to school, which includes advice and information in respect to welfare benefits, childcare, food and free school meals, charitable grants, school uniform and help with transport costs.

Help with Transport costs

You can find out if your child is eligible for help with the cost of home to school transport through your local council. Just click here and enter your postcode to check.

Your children may be able to get free transport to school depending on how far the walk is, any special needs they have and whether the walk is safe. All children between 5 and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least:

  • 2 miles from the school if they’re under 8
  • 3 miles from the school if they’re 8 or older

Click here to find out more.

School meals

If you have children at a state school in England in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 they are entitled to free school meals, regardless of your household income.

In Scotland, if you have children at a state school in any year between Reception and Year 4, they are entitled to free school meals regardless of your household income. From January 2022 this will also be available for children in Year 5 too.

In any part of the UK, from Year 3 onwards, your children could get free lunches (and sometimes milk, breakfast or fruit) at school if you are receiving one of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

You can check if your child can get free school meals in England and how to apply on your local authority’s website. Click here to enter your postcode and check eligibility.

Don’t forget that we are here to help too. If you are experiencing financial hardship and would like our support, our friendly team of Welfare caseworkers are here to chat. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820 or make an enquiry online.