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With pupils getting ready to return to school, parents are opening their wallets for uniforms, stationery and other essentials. TIM MILLER and DAN HUTCHINSON look at what parents and schools are doing to ease the financial burden.
Family stores and online auctions are braced for a pre-term rush as families - and not just the cash-strapped - hunt for cheaper alternatives to new school uniforms.
The price of a new full school uniform in Dunedin can range between $200 for a junior uniform to more than $850 for a senior uniform, depending on the school.
As of Wednesday, one online auction site had more than 100 auctions of uniforms for Dunedin schools and a Facebook group called Dunedin School Uniform Buy/Sell/Swap has more than 450 members.
Dunedin School Uniform Buy/Sell/Swap administrator Lyn Johnsen said the popularity of the group had steadily grown since it was started about eight months ago.
‘‘It just gives parents more choice,'' she said.
So far, she has not heard of any people selling items that were not in the advertised condition. She said those using the group seemed pleased.
‘‘There are always people on there looking for specific uniforms or selling something and usually there seems to be someone out there with what they are looking for.''
Many schools offer layby payment options and deal with uniform suppliers directly. Many boards of trustees and parent› teacher associations run second-hand uniform shops.
Salvation Army South Dunedin Family Store manager Jane Orbell said the store had a few boxes of uniforms but more expensive items like blazers and jerseys were seldom donated. It was not just parents on low incomes who bought their uniforms through the family store, Mrs Orbell said. It could be a shock for parents who were just surviving financially to have to pay for uniforms, she said.
Dunedin Budget Advisory Service executive officer Shirley Woodrow said the best thing parents could do was plan ahead and look for bargains.
She said people moving out of the district would often sell or even give away uniforms.
There were usually non-compulsory items that could be bought later when parents had more money.
People should shop around. She said one of the two main uniform suppliers in Dunedin was cheaper than the other.
If people could not afford a uniform they should talk to their school, she said.
Families receiving a Work and Income benefit can apply for ‘‘Recoverable Assistance Payment Grants'', which are loans.
Work and Income was unable to say how many Dunedin families had used the scheme but 945 Otago/Southland families used the loans for school costs in 2013.
The Ministry of Social Development said the number of grants given had declined since 2011, in line with falling benefit numbers.