Hull City Council to cut grants for school uniforms
GRANTS helping low-income families in Hull pay for school clothing could be axed.
In a new report, city council officers say the authority can no longer afford to subsidise poorer parents in the same way it has done for nearly 20 years.
Government funding cuts are blamed for the policy rethink.
Last year, the council handed out £256,000 of grants to families who qualified for them.
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That figure was £83,000 more than originally budgeted for.
But in a new report, the council's head of learning Vanessa Harvey-Samuel is recommending replacing the annual allocation with a £20,000 discretionary fund, only to be used in cases of extreme hardship.
Today, one leading charity urged councillors to reject any move to scrap school clothing grants.
John Dickie, of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "It is extremely worrying that as families have come under increasing financial pressure we are seeing spending on school clothing grants reduced in too many areas.
"School clothing grants are a vital source of financial support to many low families struggling on low incomes.
"It is absolutely vital that local authorities are doing everything they can to make sure the process for applying and receiving the school clothing grant is as straightforward as possible and doesn't require parents to go through any form of stigmatising process."
At the moment, families that meet the scheme's qualifying criteria receive an annual grant of £25 per primary age child and £35 per secondary age child.
The eligibility criteria is directly linked to the provision of free school meals for children from low-income households.
Latest data suggests just over 10,800 children in Hull qualify for the grants.
In her report, Ms Harvey-Samuel says: "Due to the continuing pressure on the budget and practice that is now being adopted in other areas of the country, it is recommended to cease the current discretionary school clothing grant with effect from January.
"Maintaining existing provision is not recommended, given the consistent overspend in this budget."
She said many councils had stopped paying a school clothing grant some time ago.
In her comment on the report due to go before scrutiny councilors next week, education portfolio holder Councillor Helene O'Mullane said: "Budget pressures indicate this is a reasonable time to withdraw such grants.
"Much cheaper uniforms are now available and a discretionary fund for hardship and emergencies will be maintained."
The move to axe the current grant regime will have to be approved by the council's cabinet, which is due to meet to discuss the issue later this month.
Councillors will also be asked to consider charging people for using council day centres for the first time as a way of generating extra income because of funding cuts.