Can I get help to pay for school uniforms or meals?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: We are a family on a low income with one child starting grammar school. The uniform is very expensive; can I get any financial help with the uniform or school meals?

A: The Education Authority (formerly Education and Library Boards) pays a uniform grant and free school meals to pupils who attend a primary, secondary, grammar or special school. It does not apply to pupils in attendance at nursery schools, nursery units or reception classes.

A uniform grant is available to pupils if their parent or guardian gets one of the following:

Income Support; income based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit; support by the National Asylum support Service (NASS); Child Tax Credit and their income is below £16,190 gross; Working Tax Credit and their income is below £16,190 gross and the pupil was born on or after July 2, 2000.

The level of assistance available is as follows: Primary school - £35.75; post-primary/special school under 15 - £51; post-primary/special school over 15 - £56; post-primary/special school PE - £22.

Only one clothing allowance per pupil will normally be paid during the school year.

The eligibility criteria are similar to those used for free school meals, with the addition of the following criteria: The child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or he/she is a boarder at a special school.

How do I apply for a grant?

The Education Authority is responsible for the administration of the scheme. Application forms are available by telephoning the EA in your region at the relevant contact number below.

Education Authority North Eastern Region – 028 2566 2571, 028 2566 2572 or 028 2566 2573.

Education Authority Belfast Region – 028 9056 4239 or 028 9056 4240.

It is advisable to apply as soon as you become eligible.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau - go to or call at: Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole. Telephone advice is available 9am - 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (lunch 1 - 1:30pm); email advice is available by contacting