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More entitled to school costs help after working tax credit changes

More families can now apply for assistance with school costs as a result of changes to the working tax credit criterion.

That is the message from the Southern Education and Library Board, which has issued information for parents whose children may be entitled to free school meals, school uniform allowance or PE clothing allowance.

In terms of entitlement, an SELB spokesperson explained that these supports can be awarded if parents are in receipt of one of a number of benefits including income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, the guarantee element of state pension credit, child tax credit or working tax credit with an annual taxable income of £16,190 or less.

Also eligible are those who are asylum seekers supported by the Home Office National Asylum Support Service, or where a child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or where a child claims income support in their own name.

Noting that pupils must be in full-time education at school, the SELB has advised that parents can apply for free school meals for students at Colleges of Further and Higher Education who have not reached 18 years of age on July 31, providing they are not attending a paid training course.

A PE clothing allowance can only be applied for if the course includes PE.

The clothing scheme does not apply to pupils in attendance at nursery schools, nursery units, reception classes or independent schools, or to pupils qualifying for free school meals under the special diet criterion.

In explaining the changes from September 2014, the SELB spokesman said: “The working tax credit criterion previously only applied to eligible pupils of nursery and primary school age and those of equivalent age in special schools.

“From September 2014, more families can now apply due to the extension of the working tax credit criterion to include eligible post-primary pupils for free school meals or school uniform or PE clothing allowance. Eligibility conditions apply, for example if in receipt of working tax credit you must also have an annual taxable income of less than £16,190.”

If entitled, parents/guardians may save annually in excess of £400 per child be receiving free school meals and in addition can claim, as applicable, an allowance ranging from £22 up to £78 per child towards the purchase of a school uniform and/or PE clothing.

Eligible applicants can apply now for free school meals, school uniform and/or PE clothing allowance for the next school year commencing September 2014.

“Only one application form is required to be completed, which can be obtained from all local schools, Social Security offices, Citizens Advice Bureau offices or by contacting the SELB’s Meals and Uniform section on 02837 512523.

“Information and assistance is also available from Board staff by contacting the above number or by writing to the Meals and Uniform Section, SELB, 3 Charlemont Place, The Mall, Armagh BT61 9AX.

“Your child’s school is given extra funding for children entitled to free school meals.  It is not necessary for your child to take the meal – the school will still receive the additional funding if your application is successful,” he confirmed.

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