Environment

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000

Description

At first glance, the Uniform Exchange is a boutique shop. It has colourful paintwork, theatrical lighting, scaffold poles for clothes rails, and big comfy chairs. The longer you spend in it, however, the more you notice what else is going on.

To begin with, it gives families the dignity of a normal shopping experience - but with the difference that uniform is the currency! Families swap uniform they’ve finished with for new or good-quality second-hand items they need, reducing waste, encouraging recycling and eliminating cost for families. As they’re “shopping”, they start talking to our friendly team – conversations can range from the cost of school to insecure housing. At this point, our team come into their own. Because they often have a background in family work they can empathise with families and offer support. This could be a brief chat or even an agreement to accompany them to an admissions panel hearing. This is our listening and signposting service. Because we work closely with Luton schools to ensure that the most disadvantaged families benefit from the Uniform Exchange, it is a much needed service.

The combination of reusing uniform, providing financial relief to disadvantaged families, and supporting them with the listening and signposting service is what makes the Uniform Exchange special. A visit is often a stress-relieving and even joyful experience. For families in complicated circumstances, it’s non-judgemental and doesn’t carry the threat of social work involvement – a very real and constant fear.

With 16,000 children in Luton growing up in poverty, there are a lot of families who need our support.

Funding for the Uniform Exchange will mean that:
1. We can open more often.
We need to open during the weekend so that far more working families can visit. Current evidence shows that the majority of child poverty occurs in working families. We need to do more to reach them. To do this, we need to be able to pay a member of staff for an extra half day on weekends.
2. We can run more smoothly.
We don’t have enough room to process the stock we already have, which is just core uniform. We need to process additional items like PE kits and school bags. Funding will enable us to run a larger stockroom, with space and facilities to carry out repairs and alterations, stock more uniform, and process our own laundry. This will further reduce waste, mean we can get uniform out sooner, and save families even more money.

Having the uniform they need makes children feel happier, more included, more confident and more likely to attend school. Removing their barriers to education - something as simple as not having the right tie or blazer - adds up to a brighter future for both them and their communities.

The huge difference that our support makes to families is best summed up in their own words, such as those of David, who heard about the Uniform Exchange through his school family worker. “The night before the family worker told me about the Uniform Excahnge I was going to keep the kids off school. Their trousers were too small. We’d been saying to the teachers every week 'we’ll get them next week' but we couldn’t. We were lying. The problems started when I got diagnosed with bi-polar. I’d just been dropped to zero hours. I went from working 12-14 hours a day to nothing. It got me depressed. One week I was up, the next week I was down. My wife had to quit her job to look after me and what we had in the bank disappeared in a month. Then, in the matter of a day, being able to get free uniform through the Uniform Exchange took a weight off my shoulders. The kids look smart now. I love it! It meant we could get the rent sorted after being in arrears. It was the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s restored the kids’ confidence – and ours.”

We are driven by values of generosity, dignity for all, and fun for all children. A vote for us will give more children the chance to fulfil their amazing potential.

Project Video

Level Trust

Moment of Pride

We are most proud of the fact that the Uniform Exchange is open to everyone. Because it's friendly, colourful, and looks like a boutique shop there's no stigma to coming in. It turns a visit into a normal shopping experience, which encourages families from all backgrounds to come in.

Location: Luton Mall, George Street, Luton, UK