Donal McMahon (Local Democracy Reporter)
Co Antrim school uniform bank founder calls for action against schools on new uniform costs
Struggling parents have been urged to stand up against schools over the rising costs of new uniforms.
That is the advice of the founder of Lisburn’s school uniform bank (SUB), Emma Davis. who said that her charity is already inundated with worried families unable to pay for new school clothing.
The SUB, which is engaging with dozens of parents on a daily basis, is supported by the Rev Alan Craig of Trinity Methodist Church who provided space for the donation of school uniforms.
Ms Davis has this week called for schools across Northern Ireland to pledge a duty of care to their pupils as costs for buying new uniform designs puts parents in financial hardship.
“At the moment we have about 30 to 40 families calling in daily to receive donated school uniforms and come August that number will triple,” said Ms Davis.
“We were recently refused funding from Lisburn and Castlereagh Council ahead of this summer and I have been let down by every political representative that I have contacted, I’m very disappointed.
“They were all there at the beginning, but no one seems interested now.
“Parents are really struggling this year.
“There are parents whose children are at local grammar schools and they are telling me that they can only afford to pay either the fees or the informs.
“Schools must take a lot of the responsibility as they kept changing the school uniform and PE clothing designs.
“One school has just changed part of the colour on their badge, so we have some parents using a biro to colour in the badge themselves rather than having to fork out more money, it just doesn’t make sense.
“Schools should be making bills easier on the pupils and their parents not making it worse.
“In one scenario I heard of a young pupil needing cello-tape to stick his shoes together as parents are in a cost of living crisis, there needs to be some action taken so kids aren’t facing such situations,” she added.
The SUB has already had to increase its opening hours such is the demand for uniforms across the education district with the charity open for more volunteers to join.
It seems though that for this new education year parents will be again paying over the odds for dressing their children to school standards.
“When parents come to us for uniforms we do not ask what they earn or what benefits they are on.
“I would ask schools to have a heart and treat everyone the same.
“There is no need to have informs made by a certain clothing label.
“We need to see more generic clothing, a lot of which we have here at the SUB including trousers, skirts, socks and even school bags.
“I know of a school that has changed its netball skirt and can only be from a certain supplier.
“In what world does a netball skirt need to be from only one supplier, it’s daft.
“I would urge parents to stand up to schools and say enough is enough, it might be the only way to get them to listen,” said the SUB founder.
The Lisburn charity had requested an amount of £5,000 earlier this year from the council’s annual community funding programme for 2022/23.
However, the application was rejected.
When asked if the local authority would seek to support the SUB in the future a council spokesperson said:
“Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council provides practical and financial support to a wide range of community and voluntary organisations across the council area, in order to support communities.
“If any group or organisation has a specific query or wishes to find out more about support available please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the Bridge Community Centre and speak with our Community Development Officers on 028 9266 2496.”