Call for schools to take action

Local politicians have called on schools in Lisburn to take action to help parents who are struggling to afford new uniforms for their children.

The urgent appeal comes in the midst of the current cost of living crisis after it was revealed by the School Uniform Bank at Trinity Methodist in Lisburn that parents are resorting to making minor changes on uniforms with a biro. And that children are even having to sellotape their shoes together.

Lagan Valley MLA Emma Little-Pengelly said that parents are “in despair” and urged schools to take action to relive the burden,

“While schools understandably want their pupils to look smart, there must be an urgent recognition of the financial burden the specifications and requirements are putting on parents and their families,” she said.

Lagan Valley MLA Emma Little-Pengelly at Trinity Methodist during a recent visit to the School Uniform Bank

“This is made all the more difficult due to rising costs of living that everyone is facing.

“Parents are in despair at the costs, with too many struggling under pressure to meet the high price of what is required by schools. This must end.

Schools should urgently recognise the stress this is putting families under.

“There are solutions that would mean a better balance between branded and generic clothing.”

The School Uniform Bank at Trinity Methodist Church is well stocked

The Lagan Valley MLA, Emma Little-Pengelly has appealed to schools to make their uniforms more affordable. 
“The Education Minister has increased the school uniform support scheme payments by 20%, putting an additional £1m into the scheme,” she continued. “She has also written to all schools asking them to be cognisant of the costs of uniforms.

“This is while a review is underway to see what more can be done centrally to ensure school uniform costs are reduced and become reasonable for all.

“Action can be taken now by schools, I would urge them to do so.

“I visited some wonderful community initiatives around uniforms last week, including Lisburn Methodist’s School Uniform Bank.

Green Party Councillor Simon Lee

“This is helping so many families and the volunteers and organisers deserve huge recognition. They need more help and support to enable them to run these schemes.

“These members of the community are stepping in and stepping up. Longer term solutions must be found urgently.”

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Green Party Councillor Simon Lee said he is concerned that many parents who are struggling are not seeking the help they desperately need.

“It’s no secret that the cost of living is squeezing families hard,” said Mr Lee. “School uniforms are adding to the financial pressures already having an impact.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Jenny Palmer

“While I have heard from constituents who are struggling with this added expense, I worry about those who are not seeking help and perhaps who could benefit from help.

“There is support available for parents. In addition to the school uniform grants available from the EA, organisation like the School Uniform bank in Trinity Church Lisburn have been a real lifeline.

“Urgent support must be put in place by the executive to help people navigate the current crisis.

“The cost of living support payments haven’t gone far enough, and too many families are falling through the cracks.”

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Ulster Unionist Councillor Jenny Palmer said that her Party has included the issue of scool uniform afforadabilty in its manifesto and is encouraging schools to set up their own ‘uniform bank’ to help those in need within the school community.

“I sit on the board of a couple of schools in Lisburn South,” explained Mrs Palmer. “In relation to the school uniform banks, Tonagh PS do it in house.They recycle them in school and also offer them for sale and a nominal cost.

“I know Trinity Methodist church hosts the school uniform bank and is another route for parents in need of help with the cost of uniforms.

“I believe there is merit in schools providing this service as they can get the uniform directly to where it is needed.

“The Ulster Unionist Party recognise the cost of school uniforms and has included it in its manifesto launch in April this yeaalr.

“This includes a commitment to bring forward legislation that will give the Department for Education powers to issue statutory guidance on school uniforms, similar to recent legislation in England, if unnecessary burdens continue to be placed on parents.”

Mrs Palmer went on to say that the Ulster Unionsit Party is deeply concerned about the cost of living crisis facing families and has calle on the Minister for Communities to establish a cross departmental fuel poverty task force, which is supported by many within the third sector.

In Decemer 2021, UUP Minister of Health Robin Swann MLA warned of the cost of living crisis. He said: “A sustained cost of living crisis demands a sustained Government response, at both Westminster and devolved levels. That should include a concerted cross departmental approach here in Northern Ireland. The situation we are facing is extremely challenging and concerning.”