Help with back to school costs

The summer holidays are nearly at an end and it’s time to start getting the children ready for going back to school. School shoes and uniforms need to be purchased, stationery supplies topped up, wraparound childcare for the younger children arranged and transport to and from school for big brother and sister organised. Parenting can be a pricey business, and costs can rapidly add up at this time of year.

The good news is there may be some help available to parents with back to school costs.

Help with school meals

The Education Authority oversees the free school meals scheme for primary and secondary school pupils. Additionally, assistance is available for children who have a statement of special educational needs and specific dietary requirements. Eligibility criteria is dependent on parents being in receipt of one of the following benefits: Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, some Tax Credit claimants (with an annual taxable income of under £16,190) or Universal Credit (with net household income of less than £14,000).

Help with school uniforms

The Education Authority also oversees the school uniform grant. Eligibility criteria is similar to the free school meals scheme, and households are entitled to one clothing allowance of between £22 and £56, per school-aged pupil, per academic year.

Help with transport costs to school

The Education Authority is required to provide transport to and from school for any pupils who meet specific criteria. In addition to this, a child with additional educational needs or disabilities may also receive assistance with transport.

Support is made available where there is no suitable school within a legal walking or qualifying distance from the pupil’s home, or where the pupil has failed to secure a place in an appropriate school that is located within the legal walking or qualifying distance. The legal walking or qualifying distance is two miles for primary aged pupils and three miles for secondary aged pupils, based on the safest, shortest route a child could be expected to walk, accompanied if appropriate.

Help with the cost of wraparound childcare

‘Wraparound’ childcare wraps around the school day and can be incredibly useful for working parents. The most common types are breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs. Some schools offer wraparound care on their premises, otherwise many day nurseries and childminders will offer afterschool care and many provide the school drop-offs and pick-ups as parents require. Working parents can claim help the cost of registered childcare through either the Childcare Voucher scheme (for existing users only), Tax-Free Childcare, Tax Credits (for existing claimants only) or Universal Credit.

Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service provides free, impartial and confidential advice to parents on the financial support their family is entitled to, including with back-to-school costs. Freephone 028 9267 8200 or email We also have lots of useful information on the Parents’ pages of our website which you can find HERE.