"WE HAD AN IDEA..."
CHILDREN grow out of their school uniform fast.
- What can families do if they cannot afford to buy new?
- Where do they go to clothe their children, especially with COVID-19 affecting so many aspects of everyday life?
- Kitting out children with school uniform that fits is a worry for all parents – how much more so for those on the breadline? There are 11,000 children in poverty in Plymouth alone.
- What can families do with perfectly good school uniform that their children have grown out of during lockdown?
- In summer 2020, we had an idea - to connect those with school uniform to give away to those without who desperately needed it.
WE rented a shop in Plymouth city centre, began collecting good quality school clothes from families; and opened Uniform Store Plymouth in the second half of August, running until the end of September.
Around 15 volunteers gave freely of their own time over many weeks:
- sorting through donations;
- quarantining the items;
- ironing, re-stocking and hanging;
- welcoming customers at the door and writing names;
- escorting customers around the shop and helping them choose items;
- staffing a Click & Collect operation for those who could not get to the store.
In four weeks - just 14 store days:
- around 1,500 children were given a new or pre-loved uniform for the new school year;
- 554 families visited 10 New George Street in Plymouth city centre;
- another 100-plus took advantage of the online click and collect facility.
More than 3,000 items of uniform found a new home, including:
- 542 shirts;
- 476 pairs of trousers;
- 344 skirts;
- and 292 PE kits.
Why A Store?
We researched the opinions of children’s services and poverty relief organisations; Barnardo’s; primary schools; secondary schools; Transforming Plymouth Together; Plymouth Foodbank…
…the response was unanimous.
All reported a need for helping families with uniform and all said that a shop environment would remove the stigma of receiving help and make it accessible to clients.
All expressed a current concern over families disconnected from usual support networks because of the COVID-19 effects.
Who We Helped
THE single dad...
...who was given custody of his two daughters a few weeks before they were due to start primary school. He was struggling financially as it was and had no extra money to kit out his children with uniforms. He came to the shop and we were able to supply both of his children with full uniforms.
...with seven grandchildren whose parents were unable to afford uniforms for them. We were able to supply the basic uniform for each of her grandchildren.
The single mum...
...who came to the store very anxious as she could not afford the school blazer that her son needed; they cost around £60-£70 brand new. She was able to find one in the shop, and a few other things as well.
A young child with autism...
...who visited the shop with is mum. He had been grumpy all day has he had very precise likes and dislikes. In the shop, he found a particular pencil case that he loved. He left with a huge grin plastered on his face!
WE want to continue the project next summer, for the school year beginning in 2021 and take it up a notch.
We also want to continue providing during this school year and during school years to come by providing Click & Collect Weeks at intervals.
We would like to add a delivery service for the surprisingly large number who cannot safely leave their own home.
What We Need to Fund
- A part-time project manager to run the operation next summer, and to oversee the project's use of social media;
- Rental on city centre premises that provides a shop front; facilities for year-round storage; and space to quarantine, iron and sort uniforms;
- Improved internet facilities, to ensure smooth running of an enhanced Click & Collect and delivery operation;
- Staff running costs, including reimbursing volunteers for their own expenses. Increasing the number of volunteers is essential to expanding the project to allow it to open more often;
- Office running costs all-year round, and shop running costs when the USP is open.