A one-off school uniform discount is now open across the country for thousands of parents to apply for.
The School Uniform Grant is a government scheme which could give qualifying households as much as £150 per child ahead of the new academic year.
Applications are now open for the discount which is offered by the Government to help families on low incomes manage their budgets, as part of the Education Act 1980.
In Scotland, the benefit is compulsory and local authorities are obligated to pay qualifying families at least £100 per child.
But in England, it's not a statutory right and many councils have been forced to scrap or reduce it in recent years due to funding rows.
In the past two years, the Mirror reports dozens of councils have withdrawn from the scheme – with many stating they no longer have the budget for it.
This includes Stockton, Cornwall, Cambridgeshire and Northumberland, while other areas such as Nottinghamshire now only pay it to children with special educational needs.
In Merseyside, Knowsley Council no longer offers the School Uniform Grant.
We contacted Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral councils for more information.
Despite the cuts, it's always worth checking your local authority to see if you qualify.
Right now, residents in Gloucestershire can apply for up to £25 off, while those in Islington, London, can claim up to £150 off.
If you don't, the Department for Education says parents may be able to apply for a reduction from their child's school, instead.
"Our guidance emphasises that schools should give highest priority to cost considerations," a spokeswoman told Mirror Money.
"No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply to, or attend a school of their choice due to the cost of the uniform."
How to apply for the school uniform grant
If you're on a low income and claim one of the benefits below, you can now apply for the scheme if your local authority offers it.
Applications typically open in July, when mums, dads and guardians can submit their forms online.
To be eligible, you have to be earning less than £16,190 a year.
To find out if your council offers it, enter your postcode into the Gov.uk page for school uniform support page here.
Once you've located your authority, you'll also be directed to other types of support you might qualify for around education and learning such as travel relief, free school meals and help with childcare.
Who qualifies for help?
The Education Act stipulates "local authorities must make provision for the clothing of pupils that would otherwise be unable to afford schoolwear" – but it's not compulsory in England.
The amount you can claim depends on your local council's budget, however as a general rule, grants are available for people on a range of benefits including job seeker's allowance, income-related employment or support under the national asylum seekers support system (Nass).
You can also apply if your annual income is less than £16,190.
It's worth noting the scheme won't be applicable if your child is enrolled at an academy as these are independently-run.
To claim the grant you must be receiving one 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
You must also prove that you are legally responsible for the child by sending the school admissions and benefits team a recent copy of your bank statement confirming the payment of child benefit to your account.
How much you can claim
As it's not a statutory duty in England, the available amounts – and terms – tend to vary.
Mirror figures show in Southwark, south London, clothing grants are for children aged 11 and above only, who are moving from a primary school to a secondary state or voluntary aided school. This grant is a one-off £45.
In Hounslow, west London, the council will pay a one-off £15 per child in primary school and £60 for those in secondary school.
If you live in Harringey, are eligible for free school meals and have a child that's about to enter secondary school, you may be able to apply for a one-off clothing grant of £60.
Tower Hamlets, meanwhile, pays the grant for children aged 11 who are changing from primary to secondary school. Last year, an average of £100 was paid out per qualifying family.
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In South Gloucestershire, it's £25 if your child is already in school and £50 if they are transferring schools. This includes moving from primary to secondary school, or starting school.
And if your child is an Islington resident and is eligible for free school meals, they'll be able to claim a one-off £150 to help cover costs when they transfer to secondary school from year 6.
In other areas such as Nottingham and Lancashire, the benefit is now only paid in exceptional circumstances, such as if the child has special educational needs.
Sadly, some councils such as Stockton, Cornwall, Cambridgeshire and Northumberland offer no help towards school clothing cost at all. Parents in the area are encouraged to get in touch with the school directly.
In Wales, the Government offers a Pupil Development Grant (PDG) instead.
Applications for this tend to open in early July and each grant is worth £125 or £200 if the child is in Year 7.
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The money can be spent on anything from school uniforms to educational trips and equipment. The closing date is December 31 2020.
In Scotland, the School Clothing Grant is now compulsory – with all councils required to offer a minimum of £100.
When should I apply?
Generally applications can only be made between June 30 and September 30 – though it's worth double checking this date with your local authority.
You'll have to re-apply per child for each academic year. Some councils will only pay the grant once.
How will I be paid?
By cheque, which must be paid into a bank or building society account in your name.