A self-made millionaire has fundraised more than £12,700 to buy hundreds of school uniforms for low-income households as the cost-of-living crisis is “crippling families”.
Liverpudlian Kate Stewart, 41, said she had the “most amazing morning” as she distributed non-branded uniforms to struggling families at the Sandon Pub in Anfield, which she owns, on Saturday.
The businesswoman was inspired to help low-income families by her past struggle as a young mother to buy a school uniform for her child.
Hundreds of children received two shirts and jumpers, two skirts or trousers, and a pair of shoes over the weekend, bought from shops such as Sainsburys, Asda, Argos and Shoezone.
She said the remaining items will be sent to churches in the Liverpool area to give out at food banks.
She told the PA news agency her fundraising efforts are “not just about throwing money at something, it’s also about calling for change”.
The business owner wants to see school uniform policies amended so students all wear generic clothing items that parents can iron or sew the school crest onto.
She said: “I work (in Liverpool) in a very deprived area, and children are returning to school and the parents just cannot afford new uniforms.
“The school’s policies are saying that everything’s got to be branded – branded jumpers, branded coats, branded bags, branded PE kits – and it’s making it inaccessible for low-income families.”
She said shops are charging “extortionate prices” for branded school uniforms and the cost of the items puts financial pressure on low-income families.
She said: “If your child loses a jumper, and you paid £3 to £5 for it, you could afford to replace it. When you pay £30 or £40 for a jumper, you can’t afford to replace it.”
Ms Stewart was inspired to purchase the uniforms after previously struggling to afford her daughter’s uniform as a young mother.
She said: “I had a baby at 17 and when she was four I didn’t have the money for her uniform and at the time, I had to go to my boss and swallow my pride and ask them for the sub out of my wages.”
Her boss helped her and the experience prompted her to vow ‘when I make enough money, I’m going to do exactly the same and help people’.
Ms Stewart, who is based in Southport, made her first million aged 23 with a string of tanning shops and beauty salons, before becoming owner of Liverpool’s Heritage Market and The Sandon pub.
She also founded Vitality Homes, which aims to help integrate people previously addicted to drugs and alcohol back into society.
Ms Stewart helped low-income families by personally purchasing 250 uniforms for local children last year, facilitating a Christmas Market-themed free shopping day, sponsoring five local grassroots football teams, and other endeavours.
She said the cost-of-living crisis is “absolutely crippling” some families and that this “has to be factored into what the uniform policy is”.
She added: “Stop making it so difficult on families across the nation and stop making children feel inadequate to their peers, because some children in school might come from a higher-income family and they might come in splashed in logos of the school.
“I’m trying to help these kinds of people who need it because it must be so hard. The pressure on these families is just not fair.
“I’m asking entrepreneurs and people who hold a high social responsibility to do the same in their cities.
“Let’s all come together and let’s help people in need of it and in financial difficulty.”