Pre-worn uniform scheme has been 'vital' for some families in Ballymena area

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

MID and East Antrim Council’s pre-worn school uniform scheme has proven to be lifeline for low income families in Ballymena.

Now the scheme, which is being delivered in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and supported by Volunteer Now, is being rolled out again.

The scheme was piloted in July 2019 and has been providing good quality pre-worn school uniforms ever since.

It proved vital for many families, particularly during lockdown when charity shops were closed.

Last year, families were able to telephone MEACAS and arrange to collect uniform items safely (subject to availability).

Council’s Poverty Action Group took the initiative forward as the rising costs of school uniforms is a source of emotional and financial stress for many low income families.

In some cases, families have described having to choose between eating and getting their children kitted out for school, and the costs have pushed many into debt. The true economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to be seen, but with the government’s furlough scheme due to end later this year, a rise in unemployment is expected.

It can cost families up to £250 per child to buy school uniform ready for the new academic year, which causes additional stress.

In these tough times, with budgets already stretched, it could be ‘make or break’ for some of the households of the 30,000 schoolchildren in our borough.

Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Matthew Armstrong, said: “This is such a great initiative that has so many positive outcomes.

“Council is working hard to tackle poverty, particularly in the wake of multiple job losses over the last year, due to the pandemic.

“Not only does it make good financial sense, it also strengthens communities and makes good ecological sense.

“School closures due to the pandemic have meant that while many uniforms may be outgrown, they will have had little wear so should be perfectly good to be used by another child.

“On average, each household bins more than 25kg of textiles a year. So rather than adding to the landfill mountains, please play your part in helping us to sustain our beautiful environment.”

The school uniform scheme is accepting all good quality garments including trousers, coats, skirts, cardigans, blazers, shoes, jackets, trainers, jumpers, sports kits, polo shirts and dresses. Donations of good quality, clean school uniforms can be left at Waveney Road Household Recycling Centre between Monday 28th June and Saturday 9th Julv.

Please note that at the end of this two week donation period, all uniforms will be safely sorted in line with all government restrictions and in late July, Council will announce details of where families can collect items of school uniform free of charge.

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