Struggling parents can apply for free school uniforms and transport for kids
Every parent knows of the headache that comes with buying their children school uniforms.
Then there's paying for travel, food, stationary and everything in between – and the costs can quickly rack up.
However, thousands of parents may be eligible for a discount – while others could get their child's school essentials for free altogether.
How does it work? Well, the Government currently has a series of schemes to help struggling parents – and the most popular one is free school meals.
And with food banks reporting their toughest year on record – it's a scheme that could save families huge financial stress.
If you've got a little one, here's what you need to know about applying for school support.
School uniform grant
The little known School Uniform Grant can give parents up to £150 off their child's expenses for each academic year.
It's part of the Education Act 1980 and is offered by the Government to help families on low incomes manage their budgets.
The benefit is compulsory in Scotland – where local authorities are obliged to pay qualifying families at least £100 per child.
In England it's discretionary. Residents in York, for example, can apply for up to £70 off, while those in Islington, London, can claim up to £150 off.
But applications only open in June, so you have to apply fast.
If you're on a low income and claim one of these benefits , you can apply. To be eligible, you have to be earning less than £16,190 a year.
To find out if your council offers it, you'll have to enter your postcode into the Gov.uk page for school uniform support .
Free school travel
Millions of parents are unaware that they could be entitled to free school travel for their child because of their property's location and their child's age.
Statutory government rules state anyone that anyone who has to travel two miles or more to get to school should get state-funded support; whether you're in London, where travel for under-16s is free, or another part of the country.
It's also there regardless of whether you claim any benefits such as income support or Universal Credit .
The guidelines state that all children between the ages of five and 16 qualify for free school travel 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
If there’s no safe walking route, the young person must be given free transport, regardless of how far they live.
If you're on a low income, claim the maximum working tax credit or have a child in receipt of free school meals, the rules are slightly different.
In these circumstances, your child will get free school transport if they're:
aged 8 to 11 and the school’s at least 2 miles away
aged 11 to 16 and the school’s 2 to 6 miles away – as long as there aren't 3 or more suitable schools nearer to home
aged 11 to 16 and the school’s 2 to 15 miles away – if it’s their nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief.
If your child's school is two miles or more away from home, you can make an application via your local authority.
Start by entering your postcode online here , where you'll be guided to your local council's website.
There’s a different way to check your eligibility in Scotland and Northern Ireland .
Free school meals
If you’re in England or Scotland, there are some circumstances where your child will be automatically eligible for free lunches, regardless of your family’s financial situation and whether you're on any benefits.
In England, all infant school pupils (every child in reception class, year 1 & 2) in state funded schools can get a free lunch.
In Scotland, all children from primary one to three in state funded schools are eligible for free lunches.
If your child isn’t in those year groups or goes to school in Northern Ireland or Wales, your child might still qualify for free school meals if you are claiming certain benefits and are on a low income.
Click the link relevant to where you live to find out more on your eligibility in England , Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland .
The process for applying for free school meals varies from council to council. In some cases, you apply through your local authority and in others you might need to apply directly to the school – but your council website will tell you this.
If you're not sure of your local council, you can use this tool to find out.
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