Universal Credit UK: Citizens Advice release benefits ‘checklist’ for school costs

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UNIVERSAL Credit & other state benefits can provide support for parents who need extra help covering the costs associated with raising a child. With many children across the UK set to return back to school in the coming weeks, Citizens Advice have collated a checklist to help people who need support for school costs.

Universal Credit can provide additional payments for certain lifestyle costs which can cover housing and childcare costs. Additionally, other state benefits can also provide perks for families who are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

This issue in itself has been made worse by coronavirus and some families may be worried about their financial burdens as school gates open up again across the nation.

There is evidence for these worries in newly released data from Citizens Advice.

The charity revealed that they had seen double the number of visits to their “Help with School Costs” page during the run-up to the first week of term for many pupils in England and Wales.

The page views for this section jumped from 5,566 in August 2019 to 12,069 in August 2020.

Rachel Ingleby, a Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, provided insight into what people should do if they’re struggling or worried: “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.

“Anyone who needs help finding out what support is available can contact their nearest Citizens Advice.”

Fortunately, Citizens Advice have released a checklist for help with ongoing school costs.

It should be noted that the following guidance mainly concerns people living in England, with there being differing rules in Wales:

Free school meals

“Children in Reception and Years one or two automatically get free school meals. If you have older children you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits:

  • Universal Credit – if you started your claim for Universal Credit before 1 April 2018 or generally earn less than £7,400 a year after tax, not including benefits.
  • 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 – you might get this for four weeks if you’re no longer eligible for Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Guarantee Credit (part of Pension Credit)
  • Asylum Support – if you’ve asked for asylum and you’re waiting for a decision”

Citizens Advice point out that to apply for free school meals in the first place a person will need to contact their local authority.

Details for these local authorities can be found and checked on the government’s website.

Of course, school meals are not the only cost associated with getting a child ready and sending them to school.

The charity went on to provide advice on how to handle other costs associated with schooling:

Help with transport to and from school

“If your child is aged five to 16, your local education authority 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 apply to your local education authority for help.”

Help with activity costs and school uniforms

“If you’re on a low income, your local education authority might help you with some other costs, such as uniforms or musical instrument lessons.

“You’re probably on a low income if you get means-tested benefits such Universal Credit, tax credit or Income Support, Housing Benefit, Employment Support Allowance or JobSeeker’s Allowance.

“If you’re not sure, you can ask staff at your local education authority.

“There may also be local charitable schemes to help with school uniforms, it’s worth checking with the school to see if it knows of any.

“Schools can sometimes also advise on finding secondhand uniforms.”

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.”

Carrying on learning after year 11?

“If your child is staying in education 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 this letter to keep getting Child Benefit.”

Free school meals

Help with transport to and from school

Help with activity costs and school uniforms

Disability living allowance

Carrying on learning after year 11?

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