Free school uniform charity in Kirklees issues summer appeal for donations and volunteers as it faces a massive rise in requests for help from parents
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Uniform Exchange has been shocked to discover that requests for help have almost doubled over the last school year, with a vast number of requests coming from Dewsbury and other parts of North Kirklees.
Founder Kate France noticed there was a big surge in requests earlier this year and when she checked back on her figures they showed an 87 per cent rise in applications for help over the last school year compared with the previous one.
Uniform Exchange was set up 12 years ago and has been a registered charity since March 2018.
Demand on it has grown every year and this year expects to give away at least 75,000 items of school uniform – but possibly much more.
The charity helped 1,800 schoolchildren in 2019 but that had soared to 3,500 in 2021 and topped 5,500 last year.
All of the uniform is donated at collection points in schools, supermarkets, libraries and community centres across the district, and now is the time for people to donate unwanted uniform so it can be turned round and sent out to other families before the start of the new school year.
Kate said: “We have more than 20 volunteers and the demand on us as a charity is now huge over the summer and until the end of September.
“At one point last summer we had 1,000 requests for help in our in-tray and we are expecting the demand to increase this summer.
"It’s a massive logistical exercise collecting all this uniform, sorting it out, cleaning and mending it where it’s needed and then sending it out to those who have requested it.”
Poverty affects one in three households in Kirklees – equating to 15,000 children - and the cost-of-living crisis is making life even tougher for families struggling to make ends meet.
Uniform Exchange works with all 182 schools throughout Kirklees to make sure the children get the uniform they need.
Several schools hold pop-up giveaways in partnership with Uniform Exchange to distribute free uniform. These are organised by the pupils themselves through their eco clubs.
Although the charity was set up primarily to help people facing poverty and deprivation, Uniform Exchange wants second hand to be seen as the first choice to make it far more sustainable and cost-effective.
The average full set of high school uniform costs about £300 but consists of 32 per cent polyester or similar synthetic fibres, which results in a lot of plastic going into landfill every time it is thrown away.
Uniform Exchange kept around 50 tonnes out of landfill in 2022 and everything it receives is reused or recycled so nothing is thrown away.
To order your free reused school uniform, visit https://www.uniform-exchange.org/free-school-uniform/ and fill in an online form.
Uniform Exchange is also looking for more volunteers to join its team who sort the uniforms and deliver them.
Anyone who would like to volunteer over the summer, as the charity now has evening and weekend slots, can make an expression of interest at https://www.uniform-exchange.org/volunteer-for-us/
Alternatively, email the charity at [email protected] or phone 07955 724789.