As children across Northern Ireland return to school over the next two weeks, Advice NI is urging people to seek support as many struggle to cope with additional childcare and school uniform costs.
Arfawn Yasin, Tax & Benefit Project Manager says that this can be a very difficult time for many parents, some of whom may be eligible for benefits which they are unaware of:
“Those most vulnerable or working low income families find this a very stressful time as children go back to school, the added cost of school uniforms leading to further financial strain. According to an American Express report the average school uniform cost in Northern Ireland is £202 per child and is £25 higher than the UK average of £177.30. It’s no wonder families struggle to make ends meet.”
Advice NI and its members, who last year dealt with 262,854 advice enquiries, say the costs really adds up for working low income families. Those returning to work in September after the summer break or returning to work from maternity leave, will also feel the pinch with average full time childcare costs mounting to £8,528 per year per child, an increase of 1.2% since 2014. It is also an increase which is 1.2% higher than the rate of inflation.
Arfawn Yasin, Tax & Benefit Project Manager concluded:
“We urge families struggling to cope with additional childcare and school uniform costs to get in touch. We find many working families think they are not entitled to any help as they are in work. We can offer a free & confidential benefit entitlement check to include advice on Tax credits, child benefit, and childcare costs.
“We can advise on eligibility of grants for certain categories of pupils through the Clothing Allowance Scheme, eligibility for free school meals, and provide details of your local Education Authority who administer the grants.
“Although, there may be grants available to those who meet certain criteria, families are still feeling the pinch as those with post primary children still need to find, on average an additional £129 per child.”
If you are struggling, get in touch with Advice NI on our Tax & Benefits FREEPHONE 0800 988 2377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org