Parents of children beginning or returning to school in September are being urged to apply for school clothing vouchers and free school meals.
Around 1 in 10 eligible families have not applied for free school meals, which means hundreds may be missing out on free support.
Since 2014, all children in reception and years 1 and 2 have been automatically entitled to free school meals, but many parents miss out on a free school clothing grant because they haven’t officially applied for free school meals.
The free school clothing grants are provided by Westmorland and Furness Council and are worth £50 for each Primary School child and £100 for secondary pupils. Anyone who’s successfully applied for free school meals, will also receive free school clothing grants.
Furthermore, eligible families who register for free school meals will also benefit from free council-funded activities and meal vouchers during the school holidays.
What’s more, if a family with children is eligible for free school meals but hasn’t applied for them, their child’s school could also miss out on a Pupil Premium payment from the government of up to £1,320 each year. These payments enable schools to provide extra support to pupils to help them achieve their potential.
Parents may be eligible for free school meals if they are in receipt of income support, Job Seekers Allowance, Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit. Applying online is quick and simple - the whole process takes around five minutes. Once approved, the council sends parents a voucher which they can redeem for cash at the Post Office, giving them the choice of where to buy school clothing.
Anyone who’s already successfully applied for free school meals in the past, does not need to do apply again and will continue to receive them as normal.
Councillor Sue Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Education and Skills at Westmorland and Furness Council, said:
“It’s so important eligible parents apply for free school meals even if their child is in reception or years 1 and 2. If they don’t apply, not only are they missing out on help with the cost of school uniforms, but their child’s school could also miss out on thousands of pounds.
“We know many families really benefit from subsidised school clothing and that is why the council continues to fund school clothing grants - we have a commitment to helping children and families who really need it. The application process is so quick and straightforward, don’t miss out!
“Many families often don’t realise they’re entitled to additional financial support. If you’re struggling or you’re unsure, please visit westmorlandandfurness.gov.uk/costofliving. In these challenging financial times, many families are finding themselves in difficult situations and it is important they do not feel embarrassed to ask for a helping hand.”
Parents can apply online through the Westmorland and Furness Council website. If you are unable to apply online, please call 0300 373 3300 for further details.