SDLP West Belfast representative Paul Doherty has said a targeted intervention is urgently needed to help families deal with back to school costs.
Mr Doherty is currently operating a preloved uniform scheme out of his Foodstock foodbank on the Andersontown Road.
He said he had never seen such demand for uniforms, with parents travelling from all over Belfast and further afield in need of help and support.
Mr Doherty said:
“We have been operating our preloved uniform scheme at Foodstock for a number of years, with demand growing every year, but we never seen anything like the number of people in need of help with families under increasing pressure from every angle.
“The cost of school uniforms are becoming prohibitive for the average family. When you add up a uniform, P.E kit and other assorted school materials the cost is well over £100, and when you have more than one child at school you are talking hundreds and hundreds and for many people this just isn’t possible.
“I have met with countless parents who are at their wits end worrying about how they are going to pay for their child’s uniforms. I have once again been astounded by the community response to this situation, people have come together and donated what they have to our uniform scheme and we have been able to help a huge number of people. I’m very proud of the work we do, but the community shouldn’t be expected to step in and make up for political failure time after time.
“The debate around uniform prices has been raging for years and has been ignored by successive Education Ministers and their department. The school uniform grant doesn’t go anywhere near far enough and unless we see direct action before the start of school term in September a large number of families are going to be placed in a very difficult position. I’m urging Minister McIlveen to go to her department and look at what can be done in the interim to help parents with back to school costs. Unless action is taken quickly we are going to see families, many of whom are already struggling to pay their heating bills or put petrol in their cars, plunge themselves into debt or worse just so they can afford to buy their child a uniform.”