Recent figures show that on average UK tenants spend more than half of their disposable income on rent. Childcare fees have soared by 52% over the last ten years, compared with a mere 17% rise in earnings.
The rising cost of living is having a devastating effect on working class families, pushing many of them ever closer to the poverty line.
This year we decided to use the money raised from our employees dress down contributions to try and help those living in poverty in our area. Earlier in the year we supported local food banks after the South Wales Argus launched an appeal for more donations.
But that got us thinking.
If you can barely afford to put food on the table how would you be able to afford other essentials, such as your child’s school uniform?
A recent ITV news report estimated that one million households are pushing themselves into debt to pay for school uniforms. Of those asked, 10% of parents say children have ended up in clothes that don’t fit because of the cost of replacements.
We couldn’t bear to think of a child being bullied over badly fitting clothes, or a parent sick with worry over how they will afford their children’s uniform. So we reached out to the Torfaen Families First programme, which offers a range of services to assist families that need support.
We told them that we wanted to help parents in the area that would otherwise struggle to afford to buy their children new uniforms to start the year in. They referred to us 27 families whose children they felt would benefit from our school uniform packs.
The age range of the children stretched from the first year of primary school right through to secondary school. Some referrals needed just one or two items whilst others needed the full uniforms. We bought everything from school shoes and coats, to socks and pants.
In some instances there were requests for multiple packages per family, so we had to make sure that we didn’t get the same pair of shoes or coats – no one wants to be matching their little brother or sister at school!
A recent sportswear dress down day helped us raise extra money to buy PE kits and trainers for the children. Our donation bins were also back out in the offices and staff kindly went out and bought school bags and stationary kits to be donated along with the uniforms.
Once we had completed the order, a number of case workers from Torfaen Families First came in to our offices to collect the parcels on behalf of the families. Since then they have provided us with feedback on how the parcels have been received.
Gwyneth Davies told us:
“The feedback from my family was of great relief and gratitude, especially for the comprehensive uniforms which are more expensive. It is the first time that the children have been able to have logos on their uniforms and they are very proud.”
Domonie Jones also commented:
“The uniform parcels have been very gratefully received by our families and there has been an overwhelming response of enormous gratitude. Many thanks to you all once again.”
It fills us with pride knowing that we have been able to take away some of the financial worry these families could have been faced with during this back to school period. Now, rather than worrying whether they will stand out as a result of badly fitting uniforms, the children can look forward to their first day of school, as they should do.