The true economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to be seen, but with the Government's furlough scheme ending, it is widely anticipated that low paid workers will be most at risk from the expected rise in unemployment later this year.
It can cost families up to £300 per child to buy school uniform ready for the new academic year. This places additional stress on families. In these tough times with budgets already stretched, it could be ‘make or break' for some of the households of the 30,000 schoolchildren across Mid and East Antrim.
Not only does it make good financial sense to reuse preloved uniforms, it also strengthens communities and makes good ecological sense. School closures have been commonplace during the pandemic, so whilst many uniforms may be outgrown, they will have had little wear, so should be perfectly good to be used by another child. On average, each household bins more than 25 kg of textiles a year. So, rather than adding to the landfill mountains please play your part in helping us to sustain our beautiful environment.
The school uniform scheme accepted all good quality garments including trousers, coats, skirts, cardigans, blazers, shoes, jackets, trainers, jumpers, sports kits, polo shirts, and dresses.
The scheme ran from June 2021 to August 2021. The school uniform scheme was aimed at helping families across Mid and East Antrim cut the cost of going back to school.
The area's Community Planning Partnership teamed up with Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and Volunteer Now to help provide parents with good quality, clean and pre-worn school uniforms. The scheme ran across the borough's three main towns of Ballymena, Larne, and Carrickfergus.
There was a tremendous response to the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council School Uniform Scheme, with some amazing feedback, which was quite humbling. Compared with previous year's figures, we are delighted to say that in 2021/22, 173 families benefitted from 1,156 items of clothing. This is a leap from 2020/21, where 145 families were gifted 554 items.
In addition, the council helped one charity in Larne and one in Ballymena who were delighted to take any discontinued uniforms to send overseas for needy children in the Far East.
We ensured that we had a network of organisations ready to help with this scheme, including Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and Volunteer Now, to help sort through clothing donated. We also engaged council staff, particularly the five Household Recycling Centre staff, who managed the drop off points at their sites, whereby residents could call in to donate. We also organised drivers to ship the clothing items to a centralised area in each town, where the volunteers and recycling centre staff helped to sort. We also engaged our communications team to promote the scheme online (via the council website and social media), through the Bin-ovation app and through a local press release. Staff at the centralised locations were also on hand to ensure a smooth set up and to ensure accessibility to the centralised collection points.
This is the third year of the scheme, so there have been lessons learned each year. This year saw a very efficient and effective delivery of the scheme.
Our advice for others hoping to establish a similar initiative would be as follows.
Ensure you have the correct network of people available and that they are up to speed on key dates etc. Ensure you advertise the scheme well in advance to give residents time to respond. Ensure the timing of the scheme is considered, to ensure residents have the opportunity to collect school clothing items, in advance of school returning. Ensure that there is an end-destination of clothing items not collected, this ensures no items of clothing will go to waste such as landfill. Ensure to report on the figures following the scheme, and make this information widely available to the public. This helps to raise awareness of the existence of the scheme, emphasises the benefits to the environment and the community, and ensures the scheme's longevity. Ensure senior management is aware of the necessity of the scheme to support families on the run-up to school starting.
Number of school uniform items gifted.