I’m a single mum – I skip meals to afford my son’s school uniform & feel like a failure but I’m not alone

I’m a single mum – I skip meals to afford my son’s school uniform & feel like a failure but I’m not alone

THE crushing cost of uniforms is hitting families hard, with thousands of parents feeling the pinch as the new school year looms.

A poll commissioned by Fabulous as part of our Baby, Bank On Us campaign found that one-in-five parents can not afford to buy their children a new uniform, with 71 per cent blaming high living costs.

One-in-five parents can not afford to buy their children a new school uniform
One-in-five parents can not afford to buy their children a new school uniformCredit: Getty
With uniform prices going up 11 per cent mums like Kirsty Reed have been left stressed and anxious after trying to balance costs
With uniform prices going up 11 per cent mums like Kirsty Reed have been left stressed and anxious after trying to balance costsCredit: Samantha Orton

It is hardly surprising when it costs an average £287 to kit out a primary pupil each year.

And that soars to £422 for secondary school, says The Children’s Society.

These are worrying numbers for those grappling with the cost-of-living crisis.

Like many struggling mums, Kirsty Reed has been left stressed and anxious after trying to balance uniform costs, up 11 per cent, with other household expenses.


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‘I do everything I can to keep costs down’

The 38-year-old, who is a full-time single mum, lives in Hartlepool with her son Heath, eight.

She says: “The constant worry about how you’re going to afford essentials like uniform and PE kit just creates constant mam guilt and you feel like a failure.

“At one point I felt constantly stressed, upset and teary and struggled to sleep, worrying.

“I do everything I can to keep costs down — sometimes I’ve had to skip meals. But as long as Heath is fed and clothed, that’s all that matters.”

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Donna Jones is in the same predicament.

The 37-year-old McDonald’s worker, who lives in Leicester with husband Matthew, 37, a factory worker, and children Joseph, 15, Samuel, 12, Oliver, five, Olivia, four, and Sophie, three, feels plagued with money worries as the new term approaches.

She says: “We work hard and have never claimed benefits, and this is the first year we’ve found buying school uniforms a real struggle. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on us as a family has been awful.

“We have to visit the local food bank once a week because the food shop is just too expensive. We’ve cancelled the gas direct debit and pay off what we can afford each month instead.

“With the school uniform on top, it’s ridiculous. I’ve had sleepless nights, worrying. If I total up everything I have to buy for school, it’s around £600 — and that doesn’t include items like blazers with the compulsory school logo on either.”

Statutory guidance introduced in September 2022 ordered schools to keep branded uniform items “to a minimum”.

Schools were also encouraged to make second-hand garments available and to allow high street clothing to be worn.

However, it seems the guidance has not gone far enough.

Our poll found that shoes are the top item mums struggle to afford, followed by coats and jumpers.

It also revealed 16 per cent have had to send their children to school with ill-fitting clothes, while one in seven kids wear damaged items, such as shoes with holes in them.

Our poll of 2,000 mothers found that 21 per cent have taken out a loan or credit card in order to buy school uniforms, while 15 per cent say their child’s school is “not at all supportive”.

What are baby banks?

– Baby banks provide essential items for babies and young children whose parents are living in poverty – including nappies, wipes, clothing, bedding, Moses baskets, cots, blankets, toys and books.

– There are over 200 baby banks in the UK, and they run out of shops, community centres, warehouse units and even people’s living rooms and garages.

– Last year 4.2 million children in the UK were living in poverty and 800,000 children lived in a household that used a food or baby bank.

And 34 per cent say worrying about the cost of school essentials has affected their sleep.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save The Children UK, which supports our campaign, says: “School uniform is not a luxury.

“It is unacceptable that uniforms, winter coats and shoes have become unaffordable for many parents.

“The impact on children can be devastating.

“They are often sent home for wearing the wrong uniform or feel embarrassed when they can’t join PE lessons if they don’t have the right clothing.”

Donna says her family’s outgoings have “practically doubled” in recent years and she now relies on friends to help ease the uniform cost burden.

She says: “My partner works 12-hour days, six days a week and I work four night shifts around his shifts too, just to be able to afford the essentials.

“Because we don’t claim benefits, we don’t qualify for the two sets of gifted uniform offered by the school. Thankfully, I’ve been given some bits from friends whose children are moving up from primary to secondary school. Charity shops and Facebook pages have also been helpful.”

Kristina Murphy decided to help mums pay for uniforms by launching Rubery Swop Shop in Birmingham
Kristina Murphy decided to help mums pay for uniforms by launching Rubery Swop Shop in BirminghamCredit: Edward Moss Photography
Mum of five, Donna Jones, feels plagued with money worries as the new term approaches
Mum of five, Donna Jones, feels plagued with money worries as the new term approachesCredit: Fabio De Paola

Our research shows that, like Donna, a third of mums scour charity shops for cheaper uniforms, while 41 per cent are worried about the cost of buying a coat for their child this winter.

In January this year, Kirsty visited her local free school uniform service — Hartlepool ReLoved Clothing — for the first time.

She now volunteers there twice a week.

She says: “I used to trail around the charity shops trying to find items of uniform that would fit, or scour the sales. Then I saw ReLoved Clothing advertised on Facebook.

“Initially I felt too ashamed and nervous, so I put off going for a month or so.

“But I shouldn’t have worried. There was such a welcoming atmosphere and I realised how many other parents are also struggling.”

Many baby banks across the country also help provide families with school uniforms.

Charity Stripey Stork in Reigate, Surrey, has already responded to school uniform requests for 2,479 children and expects another 1,000 bundles before the end of September.

How YOU can support Fabulous’ Baby, Bank On Us campaign

– Give money by donating hereor by scanning the QR code. 

– Give clothing, toys and essentials to a baby bank, wherever you are in the UK. 

– Give your time volunteering. To find your nearest baby bank, visit Littlevillagehq.org/uk-baby-banks.

Chief executive Nicola Dawes says: “We focus on providing new and preloved school uniforms, shoes and bags filled with all the stationery and essentials needed for the new school year ahead.”

High street chain New Look has donated school uniforms to baby banks through our campaign.

A spokesman for the store says: “New Look is proud to support Fabulous’s Baby, Bank On Us campaign with a donation of school uniforms. We hope this contribution helps a family in need.”

Meanwhile, Kristina Murphy decided to help mums by launching Rubery Swop Shop, a community project providing free school uniforms.

Kristina, a patient safety specialist who lives in Rubery, Birmingham, with her children, Teddy, 16, and Connie, 15, says: “The demand is completely nuts and every year it’s growing.

“We’ve constantly got boxes of tissues out, because you always see people upset.

‘Government needs to give adequate support’

“But they’re often tears of relief, as it’s one less thing to feel anxious and stressed about.

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“In the beginning we’d help kit out around ten children a week, but last year we helped 3,200 children — more than 60 a week. This year I expect it to be much higher.”

Becca, from Save The Children, adds: “Baby banks and charities like ours are playing our part, but the UK Government needs to provide consistent adequate support to families to ensure kids get the essentials they need.”

Baby, Bank On Us urges readers to give cash, supplies and their time
Baby, Bank On Us urges readers to give cash, supplies and their time


BELOW is a selection of baby banks by region. See the web address at the end of the page to find contact details for all the country’s baby banks

  • North West

Baby Basics Bolton & Bury, West Lancashire

Baby Basics Carlisle, Cumbria 

Baby Basics South Lakes, Cumbria 

Baby Basics, Cleator Moor,  West Cumbria

Trafford Little Bundles, Lancashire

TippyToes BabyBank Preston, Lancashire

Salford Baby Bank, Lancashire

Snowdrop Doula CIC Burnley, Lancashire

Cascade Baby Bundles, Audenshaw, Cheshire

The Baby Room at Spinners, Leigh, Lancashire

The Healthy Gems Baby Bank, Oldham, Lancashire

NCT Mid Cheshire

NCT Preston Baby Bundles, Lancashire

KidsBank Chester, Cheshire

Motherwell Pass It On Baby Bank, Winsford, Cheshire

Hyndburn Baby Bank, Accrington, Lancashire

  • North East

Growbaby Newcastle, Tyne & Wear 

Love, Amelia, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear

Birth Bath and Beyond, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Clothe and Feed South Shields, Tyne & Wear

Clothe and Feed Sunderland, Tyne & Wear 

Rosie’s Corner, Hexham, Northumberland 

Stockton Baby Bank, County Durham

Darlington Baby Bank, County Durham

Baby Basics Darlington

Growbaby Hull, Yorkshire

Little Acorns Baby Bank Durham, County Durham

Hartlepool Baby Bank, County Durham 

Growbaby Teeside, Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees

Baby Basics Leeds, West Yorkshire

Baby Basics Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Leeds Baby Bank, West Yorkshire

Baby Basics Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Birth Bath and Beyond Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Bradford Baby Bank, West Yorkshire

POPI Baby Bank Keighley, West Yorkshire

Rainbow Baby Bank Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire

Stepping Stones Baby Bank Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Calderdale Lighthouse, West Yorkshire

Tiny Hands Baby Bank Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Growbaby York, North Yorkshire

  • South West

Ashley’s Birthday Bank, Christchurch, Dorset

Baby Bank Network Bristol

Baby Basics Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Baby Basics Cornwall

Baby Basics Plymouth

Brighter Bristol Storehouse, Bristol

Baby Basics South, Ilminster, Somerset

Growbaby Tiverton, Devon

Children’s Storehouse Plymouth, Devon

Uplift Tiverton, Devon

Exeter Baby Bank Network, Devon

Little Lighthouse Baby Bank Wythenshawe, Manchester

Baby Bundles Wiltshire

The Nest Project, Bath, Somerset

Gloucestershire Bundles, Gloucester

Open Door Exmouth, Devon

Forest of Dean Baby Bank, Gloucestershire

Small Stuff Baby Bank, Radstock, Somerset

Stroud District Kid’s Stuff, Gloucestershire 

Teignmouth Baby Bank, Devon

Ten Little Toes Baby Bank, Cowfold, West Sussex

Growbaby Swindon, Wiltshire

  • South East

Baby Bank & Beyond (South Wealden) CIC (Hellingly), East Sussex

Baby Bank Herts, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Sebby’s Corner Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

Stevenage Babyshed, Hertfordshire

Baby Basics Billericay, Essex

Growbaby Whitstable, Kent

Growbaby Aylesbury, Bucks

Baby Basics Bromley, Kent

Best Start Baby Bank, Eastbourne, Sussex

Basildon Borough Baby Bank, Essex

Growbaby Maidstone, Kent 

Growbaby Rayleigh, Essex

Baby Basics Chelmsford, Essex

Growbaby St Albans, Herts

Growbaby Hemel Hempstead, Herts

Precious Bundles Colchester, Essex

Fighting Chance Baby Bank, Petworth, West Sussex

Baby2Baby, East Sussex

Baby Basics Brighton

Baby Basics Dover & Deal, Kent

Baby Basics Englefield Green, Surrey

Baby Basics Folkestone, Kent

Baby Basics Willvern, Essex

First Days Reading, Berkshire

Baby Basics Hastings and Rother, East Sussex

Baby Basics, Grays, Kent

Baby Basics Shoreham, West Sussex

NCT Winchester Baby Bundles, Hampshire

NCT Woking Baby Bundles, Surrey

Pelican Parcels Brighton and Hove, Sussex

Baby Stuff Braintree, Essex

Tots 2 Teens Colchester baby bank, Essex

Stripey Stork, Reigate, Surrey

Sunshine Baby Bank Southend, Essex

The Baby Bank HQ Havering, Essex

The Baby Bank HQ Thurrock, Essex

Community Wardrobe Chelmsford, Essex

The Baby Bank Windsor, Berkshire

Growbaby Storehouse Ashford, Kent

Moses Basket Brentwood, Essex,

Growbaby Chelmsford, Essex

NCT Little Bundles Baby Bank Chichester & Arun, West Sussex

NCT Baby Bundles Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent

Mama to Mama, Margate, Kent

Home-Start West Berkshire Baby Bank, Newbury, Berkshire

Growbaby, Wokingham, Berkshire

The Baby Bank HQ Barking, Dagenham and Redbridge, Essex

Baby Basics Portsmouth, Hampshire

Baby Basics Guildford

Baby Branch Southampton, Hampshire

Baby Necessities Southampton, Hampshire

Portsmouth Baby Bank, Hampshire

  • Channel Islands

Baby Basics Jersey

214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Brent

214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Hammersmith & Fulham

214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Kensington & Chelsea

Growbaby Lighthouse, Sutton, Greater London 

Growbaby, Newham

Growbaby, Merton

Bromley Brighter Beginnings

Growbaby Purley

Baby Basics, Barnet

Cariad Baby Bank, Harrow

Growbaby Kingston upon Thames

Choices Boutique Islington

Cornerstone Baby Bank Leyton

Growbaby Wandsworth

Baby Basics Sunbury

Growbaby Enfield

Ealing Salvation Army Baby Bank

The Small Project South London

Tiny Toes, Tiny Feet, Northwood

Camberwell Baby Bank

Orchard Baby Bank, Woodford

Peabody Toddlers Clothes Bank, Ilford

Pram Depot Wood Green

Little Village (London-wide)

Mammakind Baby Bank, Greenwich

MerryGoRound Islington

Growbaby Hoxton

NCT Redbridge Baby Bundles

Hackney Children & Baby Bank

Ilford Salvation Army Baby Bank

Mama2Mama Woolwich

Lloyd Park Children’s Charity Baby Bank Walthamstow

The Extra Mile, Hampton, Richmond Upon Thames.

Brierley Hill Baby Bank, Dudley, West Mids

Baskets of Joy Leicester

Growbaby Leicester

Alice Charity, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire

Growbaby Northampton

The Arches, Nottingham 

High Peak Baby Bank, Buxton, Derbyshire

Growbaby, Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Growbaby Bedworth, Warwickshire

Bicester Baby Bank, Oxfordshire

Elayos Baby Bank Birmingham

Baby Basics Wolverhampton

Growbaby Birmingham St Michaels Church

Baby Aid Birmingham

Baby Basics Warwick

Baby Godiva Coventry

Growkids Coventry

Baby Basics Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Baby Basics Long Eaton, Notts

Baby Basics Leicester

Baby Basics Northampton

Baby Basics Hinckley, Leicestershire

Growbaby Birmingham Vineyard City Centre Site

Tots in Need Walsall, West Mids

Spark Baby & Children’s Bank Staffordshire

Staffordshire Baby Bank, Stafford, Staffs

Telford and Wrekin Baby and Toddler bank, Shropshire

Clothe and Feed Wallsend, Herefordshire

Little Stars Shropshire

Karis Baby Bank Central Birmingham

NCT Malvern Hills Baby Bundles, Worcs

Little Cherub’s Baby Bank High Peak, Derbyshire

Growbaby Worcester

Baby Basics Dryffryn Clwyd Denbigh

Baby Basics Vale of Glamorgan

Baby Basics Newtown

Baby Basics Swansea

Baby Basics Port Talbot

Baby Basics Wrexham

Cwtch Baby Bank Cardiff

Baby Basics Penrhiwceiber

Cariad a Cwtch Baby Bank Llandrindod Wells

Growbaby Cardiff

Pembrokeshire Baby Bank

Splice Baby Bank Bridgend

Bundles Baby Clothing and Birth Support, Newport

Bethel Baby Bank Port Talbot

NCT Cardiff Baby Bundles

Ely Baby Bank

Feed Newport Baby Bank

Bairn Necessities, Glasgow

AberNecessities, Aberdeen

Growbaby Fife

Baby Bank Scotland, Hamilton

Bairnecessities Aberdeenshire

Bear Necessities Airdrie

Togs for Tots Dundee

Glasgow Baby Food Bank

GRA Baby Bank Aberdeenshire

Nelly Boxes East Renfrewshire Baby Bank

No 1 Glasgow Baby & Family Support Service

Tiny Treasures Baby Bank Oban

Button and Bows Baby Bank Perth

Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Care

Misty Glen Baby Bank Fort William

Dingwall Primary Baby Bank

Moray Baby Bank

Monklands Baby and Family Clothing Aid

Abi’s Footprints, Sudbury, Suffolk

Baby Bank Norfolk

Baby Basics Lowestoft, Suffolk

Baby Basics West Norfolk

West Marsh Baby Bank, Lincolnshire

Suffolk Baby Bank, Bury Saint Edmunds 

Baby’s Basket, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

Growbaby Thetford, Norfolk

Growkids Norwich, Norfolk

Fenland Family and Baby Bank, Cambridgeshire

GrowKids Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Little Family Baby Bank, Sutton On Sea, Lincolnshire

Little Treasures Baby Bank, Horncastle, East Lincolnshire

Little Bundles, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

  • Northern Ireland

Baby Basics Antrim & Newtonabbey

Baby Basics Ballymena

Baby Basics Belfast

Bump2Baby NI (Mid-Ulster Baby Bank)

Baby Basics Banbridge

Baby Basics Causeway

Baby Basics Magherafelt

Baby Basics Mullavilly

Growbaby Enniskillen

Carrickfergus Baby Bank


Sarah Barns

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