THE FINANCIAL burden of clothing school children is being eased by a Petersfield shop where no money changes hands. 

There has been a huge surge of interest in the uniform bank at Free Shop Petersfield according to its volunteers.

Visitor numbers have trebled with the increase being partly attributed to the cost of living crisis, as the annual cost of kitting out a child can be around £450.

The shop based in Petersfield Station helped out around 18 parents a session when it began stocking school uniforms last year but they are now attracting closer to 60.

Even the lure of the Women’s World Cup Final didn’t stop parents from visiting on Sunday morning with queues out the door from 10am. 

Lucy Lomax and her team stopped tallying up numbers half-way through the session but estimated they had given 150 clothing items to 60 parents by 11.30am.

She said: “One parent came in who had absolutely nothing and came out with everything she needed for her child.

“We’ve got stuff with labels on. It’s not like it’s all tatty and old, it’s all good quality and everything we put out quality checked.”

The uniform bank is part of the Free Shop’s ‘Reuse and Recycle’ ethos as the store consistently offers free produce and food that would otherwise be thrown away. 

But while it’s reducing landfill and satisfies the beliefs of eco-minded families, the fact can’t be denied that some parents are using the bank through circumstances rather than choice.

“It does feel bittersweet,” said volunteer Jennifer Steventon.

“We’ve had a lot of families this time who have come here first to get their uniforms.” 

Visitors will find uniforms from every local school from TPS and Bohunt to all the Petersfield-area juniors and primaries. 

Shelley Brill had a shopping list for her granddaughter when she popped into the shop on Sunday morning and left with a full bag.

She said: “They’re doing an amazing and wonderful service, not only because it’s recycling everything but it’s also helping parents save so much money.”

She added: “We’re just so grateful.”

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