'Horrific' guilt of parents struggling to afford school uniforms
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Parents have been left feeling huge guilt as they struggle to kit their children out in new uniform following lockdown, says the woman behind Suffolk Baby Bank.
Klaire Peck, founder of the Suffolk Baby Bank, said parents are struggling financially because of the pandemic, and while they normally receive 10 to 15 requests a year for help with school uniform, either from schools or parents, they have already had 37 pleas for help since the start of the year.
Mrs Peck said: "There is a lot of of anxiety for parents that are struggling at the moment and it is not a situation they have created.
"We are trying to alleviate that stress at the moment."
She is also concerned about the detrimental impact not having the right uniform will have on teenagers, who are already having mental health problems because of the pandemic.
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"We always stock school uniform and over the last few months we have had more individuals requesting it, especially those with children in the five to nine and 13 to 15 age groups.
"There has been a particular need in the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket area," said Mrs Peck.
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A Facebook post about school uniform in February saw an influx of donations for the baby bank, who also provide children with stationery and revision books.
They can also help with specific requirements from schools and families, including items needed by children with special educational needs.
Mrs Peck said: "All of my team are really friendly, they chat to mums and find out what their children like, for example Minecraft, and try and tailor the bundles to them.
"It is all about setting them up in the right emotional state for school and the children really like their packs."
Recent research from the Children's Society said that families with a child at secondary school are spending an average of £337 per year on uniform for each child while those with primary school-aged children are spending £315.
MPs are currently debating a new bill which will mean schools will be encouraged to keep the cost of school uniform down.
This will be done by limiting the number of compulsory school-branded items, such as blazers, that pupils need.
If the bill is approved it is not yet clear when the changes will come into effect.
Free school uniform Ipswich
As well as the Suffolk Baby Bank there is also a popular Ipswich Facebook group that was set up with the aim of helping parents find school uniform for their children.
The free school uniform Ipswich Facebook group is run by two mums who noticed many schools are unable to run second-hand uniform sales because of Covid restrictions.
Mum-of-three Mahayla Blake is one of those that runs the group, she said: "If people are having to go to food banks for food then there is definitely a need for people to have support with uniform.
"I have three children all in school so I recognised the cost of uniform, as at times I have struggled myself to get everything and I have accepted clothing from the page myself."
Miss Blake, who is a child development student at the University of Suffolk, said: "I saw that people were advertising free second-hand uniform on selling pages and decided to set up a page for parents to join and advertise the uniform they are willing to give away. Or to look for uniform that others are advertising.
"People have recommended others and I think there are nearly 200 members now."
The 'Free school uniform Ipswich' group adheres to social distancing requirements and encourages those collecting or donating uniform to wear face coverings.