SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES – AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM!

Summer’s supposed to be a fun, relaxing time! It’s not if you’re working and the kids need to be looked after. Or even if one parent is at home, there are more meals to make – and washing to do.

If you haven’t got a holiday planned, it could begin to feel like another lockdown.

There’s a little comfort in knowing that if you’re worried about bills, you’re not alone.

90% of parents with children under 4 are very concerned about how they’ll get through the summer, never mind what’s in store for this winter.

This year, family energy bills have gone up by an average £120. They’re spending £90 more on transport and an additional £65 on childcare.  

For now, there are a few things you can do to get help with things like childcare costs, putting food on the table and buying uniforms and new school shoes in August.  

It’s also worth checking if you may be due a tax refund. Two out of three people who are don’t know it – and an average claim can be £2,500.

If you haven’t claimed before, that figure may be higher. In any case, it costs nothing to find out.

CAN YOU GET HELP WITH CHILDCARE COSTS?

Relying on family and friends to help out with the kids over the summer can be a lifesaver. But it can also be fraught with problems. If you haven’t already, it’s worth checking if you are entitled to help with childcare costs over the school holidays – especially since they’ve also gone up by around 6.7%.

There are two support schemes if you use a registered childcare provider:

  • You may qualify for Universal Credit if your household income is less than £40,000.
  • Tax-Free Childcare if you’re earning at least £152 per week – employed or self-employed -and NOT getting Tax Credits, Universal Credit or Childcare Voucher.

Find out how Tax-Free Childcare works here.

In short, for every £8 you pay into an online account, the government will add £2, up to £2,000 per year.

Thousands of people don’t claim Tax-Free Childcare so there’s a good chance you’re eligible.

All three to four year old children in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare - amounting to 570 hours per year - from the term after their 3rd birthday.

Check out what you could get and apply online at gov.uk.

CAN YOU GET HELP WITH MEALS DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

If your child gets free school meals during term-time, there are two ways you can claim free meals for your children over the holidays.

  • The Holiday Meals scheme offers vouchers that can be exchanged for meals.
  • The Child Payment Bridging Payment offers four instalments of £130 paid throughout the year.

There are regional differences to - find out what’s available where you are:

England – there are council-run holiday and food clubs: the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme runs over summer, Easter and Christmas offers at least one meal a day and a range of activities. You must apply each holiday time – search online for the name of your area and ‘Holiday Food and Activities programme’.

If you’re in England and don’t already get free school meals, you can find out more and apply here.

Wales – Check with your local council to see if they offer vouchers, grants or packed lunches. In some cases, support is automatic. In other cases, you’ll have to apply.

Scotland – there’s a Holiday Meals Scheme offering vouchers or food parcels. Or there is the Child Payment Bridging Payment, a cash payment of £130 in four equal instalments. 

Northern Ireland – the Department for Education gives £13.50 per week per child between 1st July and 31st August, pay directly into your bank account or via cheque in the post.

If you’re not sure who your local authority is, put your postcode into the FREE local authority finder

CAN YOU GET HELP WITH SCHOOL UNIFORMS?

It’s likely you can if you qualify for free school meals (even if you’re not claiming them).

Help and support differs across the country, but you could get up to £200 in a non-repayable grant.

Each local authority sets its own criteria, but in broad terms, you’ll likely be receiving at least one of the following means tested benefits:

  • Child tax credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of pension credit
  • Universal credit
  • Working tax credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for working tax credit

If you don’t qualify for help, ask your school. Many offer financial assistance with vouchers towards the cost of uniforms.

Lots of schools also hold second-hand uniform sales.

Or nearly all the big supermarkets offer a school uniform range that is great value.

Check out Aldi where you can get a basic school uniform for £5!

TOP TIP: If you need a badged school uniform, it’s often cheaper to buy a generic sweater or blazer and iron on a school badge.

Check local Facebook groups for school uniform banks and opportunities to swap items, and Facebook Marketplace and eBay for second hand uniforms still in good condition.

IS THERE ANY OTHER HELP AVAILABLE?

There are many charities around the country who give grants to individuals and families. These can be one-off sums or regular amounts. One-off grants can help with things you need around the home or to improve your life, like training or holidays, for example. There may be regular amounts available to help with bills and household expenses.

Charity run website Turn2us is a good place to start searching for grants with details on how to contact charities directly. Register for a free account to send online enquiries and applications.

Know anyone who needs to know about help and support? Share this blog with them, or, if you're a RIFT customer already put them in touch with us through our Refer a Friend scheme.

If you’re not sure if you’re one of the two out of three people who are owed money from HMRC but don’t know about it, use our free refund calculator to find out. It only takes a minute  - and it could be worth £2,500.

That would help take the heat off this summer!