Costs linked to school are a real day-to-day pressure for many parents from low-income households, Like John*, a 50-year-old father, who never expected that buying a school uniform would firmly tip a precariously balanced budget into the red.
John’s story was supposed to be heart-warming, a family reunion after years apart. He initially came into this country a few years ago from Africa; due to war and hardship, he was provided with support and benefits in a 50+ supported housing scheme. He lived away from his wife and children for a few years until his seven-year-old son was eventually old enough to come over and stay with him.
But things turned sour when John found that his accommodation was for elderly citizens only, and no children were allowed. They were removed from the housing and placed in temporary accommodation. They struggled with food, clothing, and essential utility costs for the following six months.
“My son had experienced a lot of war and poverty in Africa. Coming to this country, he hoped for a better future. Still, instead, he is experiencing a different kind of hardship,” John said to Halima, a Family Support Worker from Early Help Edgbaston.
John needed support with the cost of a school uniform and a school travel pass. Halima was able to refer him to the Karis neighbourhood uniform scheme, which provides free school uniforms for families with financial struggles. She also signposted John to information for travel assistance and explained to him how he could apply for his son.
Despite receiving benefits, John’s money was not enough to sustain them. So Halima helped John complete the Household Support Fund (HSF) application and she also signposted him to local food banks that provided the family with some free meals.
John was relieved when the HSF grant reached his account, giving him that little bit extra during a challenging time.He also qualified for travel assistance and managed to get a free bus pass for his son. Importantly, his biggest problem was solved, his son received the free school uniform they’d been struggling to afford for a long time.
Halima was delighted to receive the following text: “Good morning, Halima; due to your diligence and kindness, my son went to school this morning in his uniform! We sincerely appreciate you!” And with it was a photo of his son in the uniform.
John’s journey is far from over, there will be many new hurdles to jump, but he is finding life easier with the company of his son. Slowly but surely, they will get their life back on track and eventually, they hope his wife and other children will be able to join them so they can rebuild their life together.