Preparing for the new school year can be an expensive task for parents.

With books, pens bags and shoes, the cost of school uniforms can set families back a considerable amount.

But parents and guardians of school kids might be able to access a publicly-funded grant to help towards the costs of clothing children through education years.

Schools have been called upon to add value for money criteria to their uniform policies under a recent School Uniform Bill, which has prompted a change in law.

As a result of the bill, school uniforms will be made more affordable for families - but what other help is out there for parents or guardians of children in state education?

Can I get help with school uniform costs?

Parents and guardians of school kids can access a support grant up to £150 to help pay towards uniform costs, if they are struggling financially.

It's a grant which all local councils have the power to offer its constituents under the Education Act 1980 but not every authority does due to differing budgets.

It is not a statutory duty in England, but the system works differently in neighbouring Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where councils are required to help with costs.

In Wales, all councils provide a £125 grant towards uniform and sports kit costs. Councils in Scotland are required to provide grants of at least £100 to cover uniform costs.

While in Northern Ireland, the country's government administers the grant of £35.75 for primary pupils, £73 for secondary school kids under-15s and £78 for kids over the age of 15.

Can I apply for a school uniform grant?

The grant is typically accessible to low income households who might also get free school meals, though the criteria varies from council to council depending on where you live.

To give you an idea of who might be eligible, in order to qualify for school meals, parents or guardians typically need to be claiming benefits such as Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit.

And this is if your local authority offers this grant option.

To find out if your local authority offers the school uniform grant visit the UK government website and enter your postcode before following a link to your local council.

From the link you should be able to find out if your local council offers this support, the specific criteria needed to access the grant, how much you might get and what to do to apply.

When do school uniform grants get paid?

When the grant is paid is down to the individual councils across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and can differ depending on where you live in each country.

If you are successful in your application then the grants are usually issued during the summer months in preparation for the new school year, though this may vary depending on date of application.

To get an idea of how much school uniforms cost, parents spend on average £337 on uniforms for each child in secondary school and £315 for a child at primary school, according to The Children’s Society.