Coronavirus in Scotland: Charity's plea to increase school uniform grant

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Alloa uniform bank
Image caption,
Donna Sabo (L) is one of the parents using the school uniform bank in Alloa

A charity that supports low-income families has called for more financial help for parents and carers in Scotland struggling to pay for school uniforms.

Scotland's schools have been given the go-ahead to reopen from 11 August.

Eligible pupils currently receive a minimum £100 school clothing grant, with some primary school starters eligible for a further £250.

Child Poverty Action Group said some parents faced "extraordinary financial pressure."

Image caption,
A school uniform bank has been set up in Alloa Town Hall

John Dickie, Child Poverty Action Group director in Scotland, said the grants were a good way of "getting additional support direct to families."

He said: "We're particularly keen to urge local authorities and national government to work together to increase the value of those school clothing grants or provide additional grants this year in recognition of the extraordinary extra financial pressures that families are facing."

About 120,000 children and young people benefit annually from the School Clothing Grant, which is jointly funded by the Scottish government and local authorities.

The Scottish government said it would work with local government body Cosla to review the value of the grant for 2021-22 to ensure that it "continues to provide the level of support needed."

Image caption,
John Dickie said some parents faced "extraordinary financial pressure"

The Gate charity, which runs a uniform bank, has taken over Alloa Town Hall in Clackmannanshire to ensure safe distancing for their volunteers and clients.

They have seen demand steadily increase, and have supplied hundreds of families with items this year.

They said the service was needed more than ever this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Donna Sabo is one of the parents using the Alloa uniform bank.

She receives the school clothing grant, but said "it soon goes" when trainers, shoes, and jackets are on the shopping list.

Image caption,
Monifieth High School is giving every pupil a free hoodie this year

Schools relaxed the rules on uniforms when pupils were due to return part time.

However, with pupils set to return full time, some schools say they will be expecting full uniform from day one.

Others, like Monifieth High School in Angus, are staying with a more relaxed uniform for the time being.

The school has given every pupil a free hoodie in school colours, with the option to buy more.

Image caption,
Mrs M-C McInally hopes the free hoodies will help "take the burden" from parents

Head teacher Mrs M-C McInally said the last few months had been stressful for parents.

She said: "Many are furloughed or have been made redundant or have their businesses and haven't been able to open these businesses.

"So I genuinely felt if we could provide every person with a free hoodie it would just take that burden away from the parents."

'Considerable cost'

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We know school uniforms can be a considerable cost for families - especially this year in light of the impacts of coronavirus.

"We believe every child in Scotland should be able to attend school feeling comfortable, confident and ready to learn.

"Working with Cosla, we will review the value of the School Clothing Grant for 2021-22 to ensure that it continues to provide the level of support needed."