Hardship charities for school staff swamped by demand

Aid groups report rising demand for help covering essentials, as the cost-of-living squeeze hits current and former education staff

Aid groups report rising demand for help covering essentials, as the cost-of-living squeeze hits current and former education staff

10 Sep 2022, 17:00

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Hardship charities for current and former education staff are facing soaring demand for help to cover bills, food, petrol and other essentials.

The Teaching Staff Trust (TST) received an “unprecedented” 231 applications for grants this year as the cost of living squeeze bites – more than twice pre-pandemic levels. It was so overwhelmed by demand recently it had to temporarily stop taking applications.

Meanwhile, mental health charity Education Support reports “huge demand” from teachers, teaching assistants and other staff for its grants service – currently up 63 per cent on last year. 

Sinéad Mc Brearty
Sinéad Mc Brearty

Staff needed help with essentials including food, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and travel-to-work costs, said chief executive Sinéad Mc Brearty.

Applications to Unison’s school clothing grant fund also jumped 30 per cent this year. The union, which represents school support staff and other council employees, funded clothing for 1,627 children. 

Judith Smith, the chief executive of the Kent-based TST, said it faced a “perfect storm” as reserves no longer generated enough investment returns. The charity is now seeking grant-making partners to plug a £240,000-a-year shortfall. 

The charity will pay supply teacher Naomi Carter’s bills this month after Covid forced her to take time off work without sick pay, followed by an end-of-term lull in demand.

She started summer with “nothing in the bank”, and said it was “mortifying”that she needed family and charity help. She is worried she will have to limit heating this winter, and is seeking more work locally to curb soaring petrol costs.

Smith and Carter describe agency staff – the most common group seeking TST’s help – as “invisible”. Applicants reported draining savings during Covid. Many received no or limited furlough support, according to the National Supply Teachers Network.

Judith Smith

TST grants focus on unexpected problems. Becky*, a school administrator in the south west, applied after illness forced her husband to stop work, and then their oil tank broke. 

The charity helped to replace it after the couple expected to be “stuck without heating or hot water this winter”. 

She remained concerned support staff still have not had their April pay rise, and worried about soaring oil bills.

Meanwhile, TST vouchers will help Jasmine* cover groceries and children’s clothes. Mental ill health forced her to give up secondary teaching, which she attributed to burnout and bereavements.

She has “struggled” on universal credit since. 

“I can’t thank TST enough. Most days my husband and I eat cereal for an evening meal.”

* Not their real names

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