Residents across Mid and East Antrim have ensured another very successful FREE School Uniform Campaign, which was delivered by Council in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and supported by Volunteer Now.
Initially piloted in 2019, the scheme is getting bigger and more successful year on year.
Mid and East Antrim’s Poverty Action Group took this initiative forward as the rising costs of school uniforms is a source of emotional and financial stress for many low income families. In some cases, families have described having to choose between eating and getting their children kitted out for school. This has also pushed some families into debt, with some families saying that they had turned to loan sharks such was their desperation.
The Northern Ireland Poverty Bulletin published for the financial year April 2018 to March 2019 stated that 24% of children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty – approximately 107,000 children. Almost a quarter of all children living in poverty is a stark figure given that Northern Ireland has seen a huge increase in the cost of living, coupled with an energy crisis.
Sadly, the rising costs of school uniforms can also be a deciding factor when choosing a school. It can cost families more than £300 per child to buy school uniform ready for the new academic year. This places additional stress on families. In these tough times with budgets already stretched, it could be ‘make or break’ for some of the households of the 30,000 schoolchildren across Mid and East Antrim.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Alderman Noel Williams said: “This initiative has been a major success with so many positive outcomes. Council continues to work hard to tackle poverty, particularly in the wake of multiple job losses over the last year due to the pandemic, along with the increase in the cost of living and unpredictable energy cost changes.
“The reach this scheme has had this year, helping 929 children and gifting 2,568 school uniform items, has been a true reflection of the effort our community and staff have provided to help families ensure their young ones are ready for the new academic year.”
Deputy Mayor, Councillor Beth Adger MBE said: “2022 has been a positive year, both in terms of the quality and level of donations from our very generous residents. Thanks to all who donated high-quality school uniforms to our five Household Recycling Centres throughout July.
“Your generosity has allowed us to help 929 school children (173 local families in 2021) by gifting 2,568 uniform items (1156 items in 2021) from the school uniform pop up shops, which took place throughout August. Thanks also those who came along to Council’s Pop Up Shops to pick up uniforms. This year’s total cost savings equated to £39,172.”
These very impressive statistics do not include the large number of beneficiaries who have accessed help directly through MEACAS who have headed this up since 2019.
Anyone that requires any last minute items can contact MEACAS on 028 9600 1333.
To make the School Uniform Scheme even more accessible and engaging in 2023, Council are asking residents to complete a short questionnaire which covers questions on the location of drop off points, the timing to access uniforms, as well as any additional items you’d like to see included in the scheme. You can have your say by visiting: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SchoolUniformScheme2022
Council would like to thank everyone involved including the Household Recycling Centre staff, the wider Council waste team, as well as Council’s DEA Officers, Volunteer Now and MEA Community Advice Services (MEACAS), along with the partnership working of the Practitioner Advisory Group (PAG) members. All members highlighted and advertised the scheme on their social media and encouraged their clients to use the service, along with regular promotion on Council’s website and social media.