Help with back to school costs – including childcare – for September 2022

While we are still enjoying the summer holidays, parents are already planning for back to school, including buying new school uniforms and other supplies. It is an expensive time for families, but there may be help available with back to school costs.

What help may be available?

Help with school meals

The Education Authority oversees the free school meals scheme for primary and secondary school pupils. Eligibility depends on parents receiving specific benefits and, in some cases, on household income. Assistance is also available for children with a statement of special educational needs and specific dietary requirements.

Help with school uniforms

The Education Authority also oversees the school uniform grant. Eligibility criteria is similar to the free school meals scheme. The school uniform grant has been increased by 20% for the academic year 2022/23, reflecting the growing pressure on families. Eligible households are now entitled to a grant of between £42.90 and £93.60, per school-aged child, per academic year.

Transport costs to school

The Education Authority is required to provide transport to and from school for any pupils who meet specific criteria. 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 not secured a place in an appropriate school within that distance. A child with additional educational needs or disabilities may also receive assistance with transport.

How to apply

Free school meals and school uniform grant applications can be made online. Once submitted the application can take around four weeks to process.

Home to school transport assistance applications can also now be made online, for both primary and post primary school pupils. The Education Authority website provides an online Eligibility Checker to help parents find out if their child will qualify, prior to completing the formal application.

Note: the Education Authority advised parents to apply for help with school meals and the school uniform grant before 31 July 2022 in order to have arrangements in place for the new school term. This is because applications can take up to four weeks to process. However, there is no deadline and you can apply for support at any time. For example, if your circumstances change during the year, or if you did not realise you were eligible.

For further information on free school meals, school uniform grants and home to school transport, including how to apply, visit the Education Authority website:

Access financial support with the cost of registered childcare

Many families still require ‘wraparound’ childcare during school term-time. Now is the time to find out what financial support is available with the cost of breakfast clubs, afterschool clubs and other forms of registered childcare. Most working families are entitled to financial support with their registered childcare costs.

There are four main forms of support:

  • Tax-Free Childcare
  • Universal Credit
  • Tax Credits (now closed to new entrants)
  • Childcare Vouchers (now closed to new entrants)

Depending on your circumstances, working parents could save up to 85% on your registered childcare costs.

Additionally, parents in receipt of income-based benefits could receive a grant to assist with upfront childcare costs if they are moving back into work or significantly increasing their hours of work.

Don’t miss out on support you are entitled to. Our Family Benefits Advice Service can carry out a calculation and advise you which is the best form of support in your family’s circumstances – and potentially save you £1000s.

Personalised advice and guidance

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 and can help families work out if they are eligible for support with back to school costs, as well as the cost of registered childcare.

Call us on Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email