A charity says some families in Northern Ireland are spending so much money on school uniforms they have problems paying for food or fuel.

St Vincent De Paul says it plans to set up a uniform recycling scheme across Northern Ireland.

The price of one uniform can be £200, but the maximum uniform grant for secondary school is £56 and £22 for sports kit.

The charity plans to send recycling bins to schools for a week.

Recycling bins

Uniforms which are still in good condition but which children have grown out of can be donated.

Mary Wade from St Vincent De Paul explained the parents’ dilemma.

“They haven’t the money to buy the uniforms at full price in the uniform shops in the town. If you have three children and you’re spending roughly £200 on uniforms, that’s £600. People don’t have that money,” she said.

The charity says that once parents have paid for uniforms they need help to buy necessities, such as groceries and electricity.

In Bangor, County Down, an artist, Marianne Kennerley, is encouraging recycling by holding “Unicycle” pop-up shops.

She said the quality of the used clothes was impressive.

“They’re actually pretty good. I get more good uniforms than I get bad ones, which is not what you’d expect. There’s very few that I have to reject,” she said.

“I am trying to bring in the process of repairs as well, so that if there is a torn knee or a hem that can be repaired and go back into the Unicycle to be set out again.”

Swap shop

One of her customers, Áine McGreeghan, approves of the swap shop philosophy.

“I’m a big believer in recycling, and as well as that, the cost of school uniforms can be quite high whenever you add it all up,” she said.

“And now I’ve got two going to school this year so it probably could have cost me in the region of £200 to kit them both out, so any help is very much appreciated.”

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