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Education Secretary’s comments a ‘smack in the face’ to squeezed families

10 September 2013

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy condemned comments that families under financial pressure have themselves to blame as “appalling.”

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“It is appalling to suggest the rise of food banks is due to poor financial management. It’s a smack in the face to families who are working hard but can’t make ends meet, leaving them with no other option but to turn to food banks to feed their families.

“These comments are completely misjudged. As our bureaux advisers can testify, millions of families with low incomes run the tightest budgets and manage them right down the last penny.  

“Instead of condemning struggling households, the Education Secretary would be well advised to call on schools to ease the pressure on parents’ purses by introducing sensible uniform policies.

“One in four parents told Citizens Advice that they will have to borrow money to pay for school uniforms this term. Schools can put extra pressure on squeezed parents by changing uniforms regularly. Just today one Citizens Advice Bureaux reported to me that a London school introduced a new uniform this term at the cost of £200.”

In August, Citizens Advice released new findings highlighting how 1 in 4 parents were going to borrow money in order to pay for their school uniform this term.

Parents told Citizens Advice that school mergers often led to the introduction of a new uniform.  Branded school clothing and a change in uniform policy also bring considerable extra costs to parents.

One mum, who sought help from a CAB, fears her child will get detention if she is not wearing the correct uniform. The clothing has bespoke badges and even a specific type of skirt that her daughter must wear, meaning she can’t use the one she had for primary school but can’t afford to buy a new one.

One parent told the Citizens Advice study that this year the uniform changed for the second time in three years and now more items need to be bought from a specific store. Another reported the school badge had changed to incorporate team colours – meaning items can’t be passed onto younger children.

Citizens Advice is encouraging schools to find ways to cut costs for families.  Through ‘the great Big school uniform’ study, parents revealed different ways schools and councils are supporting them:

  • first school uniform provided by academy;
  • second hand uniform sales including at summer and Christmas fairs;
  • offers certain first items free;
  • help available towards cost;
  • able to make weekly payments for school uniform;
  • children can wear generic uniform bought from cheaper shops like supermarket.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.