Parents in the North East are fed up with rip-off school uniform policies, new research reveals.
A report – published by the Children’s Society – reveals families are forking out around £251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for a child at a state secondary.
Across the region, parents are spending an estimated £89.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories.
Parents are so stretched that around 24,000 children in the North East have gone to school in incorrect, unclean or poorly fitting uniform because of the cost, the research shows.
A survey of 1,000 parents found 95% of parents believe the amount they are expected to pay is “unreasonable”.
Last night bosses at the Children’s Society called for action from government to make sure uniforms are more affordable.
Lily Caprani, director of policy and strategy for The Children’s Society, said:
“Parents in the North East are fed up with paying the costs of stringent and prescriptive school uniform requirements that deprive them of the choice to shop around for prices they can afford.
“They are digging ever deeper into their pockets to pay for book bags and blazers when what they really want is for their children to receive a good education and a good start in life.
“We know that children whose parents cannot afford the cost of specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying for not having exactly the right clothes or kit.
“It’s time for the government to introduce legally binding rules to stop schools from making parents pay over the odds for items available only at specialist shops.”
Across the country parents pay about £2.1 billion per year on school uniforms. That is £1.3 billion more than what parents say would be “reasonable”.
In Newcastle, the Children’s Society found that 2,350 parents spend over £8,700 a year on their child’s school uniform.
Meanwhile, in Gateshead 1,804 parents spend over £6,700 on school uniform and in North Tyneside more than 1,900 parents spend £7,200 a year. In South Tyneside 1,300 parents spend £4,893 on their child’s uniform.
In other parts of the region, 2,976 families in Northumberland fork out more than 11,800 on school uniform per year and in Durham 4,490 parents spend a whopping £16,500.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Mar 2015
Almost a MILLION working parents are being forced to skip meals so that they can afford to pay the rent or mortgage, shocking new figures reveal.
A survey by YouGov, on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, has revealed that more than one in ten working families are going hungry to pay housing costs, while over a third admit they have cut back on buying food.
36.7% said they had cut back on how much they spend on food and 12.9% had put off buying shoes for their children. 9.7% said they had delayed purchasing school uniforms.
Government figures show that households spend, on average, 28% of their total income on housing costs. This rises to 40% in the private rental sector.
Shelter highlights the story of Katherine and her husband who both have full-time jobs but still struggle to pay their mortgage. “My husband and I don’t have breakfast because we can’t afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three times a month to help with the mortgage”, Katherine said.
She added: “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:
“No parent should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their children’s heads. These shocking figures show that millions of us are having to make these kind of agonising choices every day.
“Sky-high housing costs and cuts to support are leaving many families trapped on a financial knife-edge.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves said: “This report provides shocking new evidence of how the Tories’ cost of living crisis is hitting hard-working families.
“While David Cameron says the economy is fixed, people who put in the hours to provide for their children are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.”
The number of calls Shelter receives related to rent arrears has more than doubled in the last three years, and the majority of people regarded as living in poverty in the UK are in work.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“Housing costs have left some families standing on a financial cliff edge. Working households that have already cut back on spending to get by could find themselves in the red if interest rates go up.
“Citizens Advice research shows 3 in 5 households are worried about the impact of rising bills this year, with over half forced to cut spending to balance the books.
“The competing pressures of sky-high childcare bills, rising energy costs and wages which are consistently below inflation, mean many people are struggling to pay for the roof over their head.
“Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 87,000 social housing rent arrears problems last year, up 10 per cent from 2012.
“It is welcome news that more people are in work, putting more households in a position to get on top of their bills. However, with record numbers of people becoming self-employed and increased numbers of jobs with uncertain hours, families face increasing instability in their income.
“An interest rate rise would put some in a more precarious position, so any rise needs to be slow and steady in order for families to manage the extra cost.”
According to the latest figures, there has been a 19% rise in cases of malnutrition in the UK over the past twelve months. Food prices have risen by 12% in seven years, while average wages have only increased by 7.6% over the same period.
Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Contrary to Shelter’s claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year.
“Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low, meaning home ownership is at its most affordable since 2007 while private rent levels are falling in real terms.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 28 Aug 2014
Hundreds of people from the North East joined 50,000 protesters in London’s Parliament Square to campaign against austerity measures.
Two coaches full of determined protesters assembled at Newcastle’s Central station and South Shields’ Town Hall on Saturday, before they made the six hour journey down to the capital.
> There was also a coach from Sunderland, according to the Sunderland Echo.
The protesters were armed with colourful banners and placards designed by local artist group, Artists for Change, their message was conveyed in just a few words; “No Cuts, No More Austerity; Demand the Alternative.”
Upon arrival, they marched passed the BBC headquarters in Portland Place where they accused the broadcasters of ignoring the plight of thousands of impoverished Britons affected by the cuts.
> The BC evidently didn’t notice, as they ignored the protest until the next day…
They then marched to Parliament Square where the crowds were addressed by union workers, politicians and celebrities such as Russell Brand and journalist Owen Jones.
Mum-of-four Ruth Stevenson, 35, from Wallsend, attended the demonstration after the cuts put her family under extreme financial strain. She said: “It was really well organised and there were loads of families and children, people in wheelchairs, and even choirs at the sides of the marches.
“There was a fantastic feeling of all people united. There were NHS staff, firefighters, monks and all sorts of people there. The amount of bus loads of people who arrived was amazing.”
The National secretary of the People’s Assembly, Sam Fairbairn, talked to the masses about the negative impact of the coalition’s cuts on communities and workers.
He said: “Make no mistake, these cuts are killing people and destroying cherished public services which have served generations.”
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched one year ago through an open letter co-signed by the late Tony Benn, along with a variety of union leaders, MPs and writers.
Ruth was moved to attend the demonstration when she realised she would have to forgo paying two-months worth of bills to ensure she has enough money to buy her children school uniforms.
She said: “I went because the cut-backs have really affected my family. This is the first year ever I am going to have to default on two months worth of bills to pay for school uniforms.
“School uniforms are really expensive and this year it is going to be too much. Although the cost of living has increased, wages have stayed the same. So it is really hard on families.”
She also has concerns for the future education of her four children.
“At the moment I am worried about my daughter Victoria who is really intelligent. I want her to go to university but I just don’t know how I am going to support her financially.
“And if I can’t support Victoria then I don’t know how I will manage with the rest of them,” she added.
Ruth believes the British people have fought hard for institutions such as the NHS, trade unions and the welfare system only to have them taken back.
“We have spent the last 50 years making sure that these institutions are there to protect ordinary people but now it is like the government is slowly removing the support network.”
Tony Dowling, Chair of the North East’s People’s Assembly, who helped to organise the North East protesters agrees that it is the hard-working and vulnerable who have been affected by the cutbacks the most.
He said: “The people who are being affected are the students who no longer have education maintenance allowance, the parents of children who have had their disability allowance cut or the NHS patients who face having to pay for their treatment in future.”
Tony helped to put together the North East’s cohort of the People’s Assembly in September 2013 at Northern Stage Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne, and since then, the fast growing group have been busy organising workshops, public meetings, and petitions.
The 57-year-old, who is a specialist behaviour support teacher from Gateshead, hopes the demonstration has encouraged more people to join the People’s Assembly. He also wants it to be a reminder that the crisis was not caused by the people, but by the banks and the sub-prime mortgage lenders in the US.
“The banks have been bailed out but ordinary people have been made to pay for it. There is a small number, around 85 people – a double decker bus load – to be exact, who own as much wealth as 50% of people put together.”
Tony added that the ultimate goal of the People’s Assembly is to make the government come up with an alternative economic strategy to end poverty in the North East and in the rest of the UK.
“We want more jobs, less cut-backs, no privatisation of the NHS,” added Tony.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 23 June 2014