AS THE new school year starts next week, churches and community groups in one Kent town have joined together to help those who struggle to meet the cost of a new uniform. It can cost an average of £316 a year to buy just one secondary-school uniform, the Children’s Society reports.
Volunteers at the Community Wardrobe scheme in Sittingbourne have collected more than 1500 donations of outgrown uniform and taken them back to their homes to wash and iron, before matching them with other items from the same school.
Churches are at the heart of the initiative, together with Swale Borough Council, the housing association Optivo, and other voluntary groups in the area, including a support group for families who have experienced domestic abuse.
The clothes-donation scheme began last year in the community hub held at All Saints’, Murston, part of the benefice of Milton Regis with Murston, Bapchild and Tong; but the scheme has more than doubled in size in 12 months.
It has been overwhelmed with donations this year, the Assistant Curate, the Revd Lesley Jones, said.
“We had 24 families turn up in the space of just a few hours at one distribution session, which shows just how important it is. . . My concern was for families who are susceptible to illegal moneylenders, the loan sharks, who knock on their door and offer a quick cash loan.”
For Caz, a single mother of seven — five of whom are at school — the service has been a lifeline. “I do worry about whether I have everything I need, or whether I need anything extra,” she said.
“Going back to school is a huge pressure, and so this Community Wardrobe is of huge help to me and other families in the area.”