SCHOOL uniform banks are facing up to triple the demand from Glasgow families amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Glasgow’s Pre-Loved Uniforms in Govan is just one of the hubs across the city providing free uniforms for primary and secondary pupils.

Founder Donna Henderson has seen a significant increase in demand this year as bills rise and families struggle to cope.

Her comments come as The Glasgow Times raises awareness of the cost of living crisis through our Beat the Squeeze campaign. 

Glasgow Times: From left, Janet Roberts, Elizabeth MacInnes, Laura Dunbar, Mary Williamson and founder Donna Henderson.From left, Janet Roberts, Elizabeth MacInnes, Laura Dunbar, Mary Williamson and founder Donna Henderson.

Ms Henderson told the Glasgow Times: “We are always really busy each summer, but this year the traffic has doubled.

“We’re seeing more working families looking for support, especially with blazers and high school blazers more so.

“There are people being refused clothing grants even though their circumstances haven't changed from last year.

“A lot of people think families automatically get a clothing grant, but you might be just a couple pounds over the threshold and so, you’ve got the same bills to pay as maybe your next-door neighbour but they’re getting £150 per child so they are better off than you.”

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Ms Henderson stressed the importance of the service for many families in the city.

She said: “We work with family support workers and social workers, and when they drop off the families, the family say they are absolutely delighted that we’ve been able to get them uniforms.”

Another platform used by Ms Henderson and other clothing bank volunteers to cast the net wider to those in need is through supermarkets.

Tesco in Maryhill is on a mission to help parents and children prepare for the return of schools this August by offering free second-hand uniforms.

Glasgow Times: Amanda McLaughlin (left) with a collection of donations from Glasgow's Pre-Loved Uniforms Amanda McLaughlin (left) with a collection of donations from Glasgow's Pre-Loved Uniforms

Tesco Maryhill’s community champion, Amanda McLaughlin, 33, said: “It’s been really popular.

“People have been coming and saying they can’t afford uniforms this year.

“It’s really sad but everyone wants to help each other. The community has all really came together to support each other. It’s really positive.”

Ms Henderson said it’s important for people to be able to access affordable uniforms for their young ones, adding: “People are saying to us that they’re just struggling with their bills going up, and any wee bit of uniform they can get help with just means that they’re able to pay other bills.

“All we care about is that kids are wearing actual school uniforms so that everybody looks the same.

“It’s important for kids to fit in and be able to learn and that way they do.”

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The volunteers at Back to School Bank, based in Glasgow South, have also seen a striking increase in their numbers.

Families in need are ‘referred’ to the bank via schools and other organisations such as Women’s Aid and Home-Start, and the small team of three volunteers purchase brand new uniforms to be donated.

But since seeing referrals triple in three years, volunteer Janine McGarvey feels that the greatest increase has come from those who are not eligible for benefits such as the uniform grant, but who are struggling amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

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Ms McGarvey, 54, told the Glasgow Times: “I think there’s a need out there for people in other circumstances, who maybe are not earning the same as they were and are working but are not on benefits.

“We get a lot of referrals from people who cannot claim uniform grant. Many people work zero hours contracts and are not working over summer to cover childcare, and people in work don’t qualify for free uniforms.

“Costs go up and people find they get to the end of the summer and are really struggling.”

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A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “Any families who think that they might be eligible for a school clothing grant should apply via the council website and many of our schools and nurseries work with families to upcycle school uniforms to help support their school communities.

“There are also a number of organisations across the city who offer services in their local communities to provide pre-loved and cost-effective uniforms which helps our families throughout the school year.”

Ms McGarvey feels that while some do have the uniform grant, it only covers basics, and the money will run out when children need warmer clothing in winter or have simply outgrown their shirts, skirts, and trousers.

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She said: “I wish everyone got a realistic amount to cover the year.

“Uniforms level the field and it can be relatively cheap - I just wish there was that awareness that a lot of people are struggling.”

Because of the increasing demand, the team are struggling to cope with referrals, and are worried about how long funds will last. 

Ms McGarvey added: “This year we’re struggling with our fund - we’re having to be strict about what referrals we take.

“We’re about to run out of money. We do a lot of work trying to get grants from trusts and we have a bit of money this year but it’s very hard and it’s getting harder so we’re quite worried about being able to continue.”

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Meanwhile, online service ApparelXChange has had to close referrals altogether due to a recent surge, despite being a social enterprise which subsidises free uniform packages through their business.

Director Izzie Eriksen said: “We launched referrals at the end of June, and within two weeks we had 200, which is a massive demand.

“We do think it’s having a massive impact on families; they are feeling impact of bills increasing and uncertainty in jobs as well so it’s come at a good time, but at the same time we have a limited capacity on what we can deliver on.

“We had to close referrals at 225 and we aren’t in a position to reopen them so there’s a lot to be done.”

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A great focus of ApparelXChange, who run their clothing bank in partnership with Glasgow City Parents Group, is to make sure that they can accommodate families where shops do not.

Ms Eriksen added: “A lot of high street retailers don’t stock uniforms, they’re a product range that they push during summer holidays whereas people can get in touch with us when they need it.

“It’s more sustainable for us to respond to people when they need it, rather than getting everything in summer.”

Glasgow Times: Sonja KainonenSonja Kainonen

The team’s efforts so far have been appreciated in the community, as volunteer Sonja Kainonen explains: “Fulfilling the packages has really met a need from families in the city.

“We have tried our best to ensure the packages have as much as possible including shoes, trainers and jackets as requested.

“We have received positive feedback regarding the quality of the clothing from the families who already received their package. It really means a lot to us and meets our social mission.”