Citizens Advice: Help available as children return to school

citizens adviceCITIZENS Advice has seen double the number of visits to its ‘Help with School Costs’ national website page on during the run-up to the first week of term.

Page views jumped from 5,566 in August 2019 to 12,069 in August 2020.

Rachel Ingleby, benefits specialist at Citizens Advice, said: “We know the start of the school year can be a stretch for people’s budgets, particularly if you’re on a low income.

“If you’ve claimed benefits for the first time during this pandemic, or have seen your circumstances change, it’s worth checking whether you can apply for extra help with costs such as school lunches, transport or uniforms.’’

Below is a checklist for local help with ongoing school costs:

  • Free school meals: Children in Reception and Years 1 or 2 automatically get free school meals. If you have older children you can apply for free school meals if you get the following benefits:
    – Universal Credit: this is as long as your household income is less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get).
    – Child Tax Credit (but you can’t apply for free meals if your yearly income is £16,190 or more before tax or you’re also entitled to Working Tax Credit.)
    – Working Tax Credit ‘run on’ (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).
    -Income Support
    – Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    – Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    – Support under Part VI of the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 – Guarantee Credit (part of Pension Credit)
    To apply for free school meals locally you need to contact Dorset Council and your school via the website
  • Help with transport to and from school: If your child is aged five to 16, Dorset Council might offer free or lower cost transport if you don’t live near school or your child’s unable to walk there. You need to contact Dorset Council for assistance via the website
  • Help with school uniforms and activity costs: As a first step it’s always worth checking with the school about finding second-hand uniforms. If you’re on a low income, you may be able to claim school clothing grants for children attending school. Dorset Council website lists grant-giving organisations which may be able to help with costs such as uniforms and other expenses – visit the website Citizens Advice can also help you research local charitable schemes to help with school costs.
  • Disability living allowance: This is extra money to help with everyday costs if your child is under 16 and disabled or has a health condition. You can get between £23.60 and £151.40 a week, and it isn’t means tested, so how much you earn doesn’t impact how much you can get.
  • Is your child staying in education or training after year 11? If your child is carrying on learning 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 the letter from HMRC to keep getting Child Benefit.

Anyone who needs help finding out what support is available can contact Citizens Advice Bridport & District. Phone us on 01308 456594 or call Dorset AdviceLine on 0344 111 444 or send an email to and we will call you back.

We are also offering a limited drop-in service Monday to Friday following government social-distancing guidelines from 10am at 45 South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY.

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