Help for parents struggling with back to school costs

Citizens Advice has received many calls from parents worried about back to school costs.

Citizens Advice has received many calls from parents worried about back to school costs. - Credit: CITIZENS ADVICE

We have received many calls from single parents and others who have lost their jobs during the pandemic who are worried about about how the cuts to Universal Credit will impact budgets.

Many are worried about being able to pay for school uniforms and shoes and asking if there is any support out there?

If you're on a low income or employed, you might be able to get help with some of the costs of sending your child to school, including school meals, transport and uniform.

It’s always worth talking to your local education authority (Cambridgeshire County Council) to see what support is available. 

Free school meals

Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 automatically get free school meals. If you have older children you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits.

If you are on Universal Credit, and you applied after April 1, 2018, or if you earn less than £7,400 a year without benefits, you will be eligible. You can see the full list of eligibility requirements on the Citizens Advice website.

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To apply for free school meals you need to contact your local authority, you can check the details at** by typing your postcode in.


If your children are aged between five and 16, your local education authority might offer free or lower cost transport if you don't live near school or your child is unable to walk there.

Uniforms and other costs

Your local education authority may be able to help with other costs, such as uniforms, music lessons or trips and activities.

There are also charitable schemes to help with these costs so it’s worth checking with the school. Schools can also sometimes advise on finding second-hand uniforms.

What’s next

If your child is staying in education after year 11, you must tell HMRC’s Child Benefit Office if you want to continue receiving child benefit and any extra support for children within means-tested benefits.

When your child turns 16, HMRC will send you a letter asking whether your child will stay in education or training. You must reply to this letter to continue receiving Child Benefit.