Rising back-to-school costs put pressure on local relief agencies

Lisa Chesters MP today joined staff at the Uniting Care Emergency Relief Centre on Forest Street as they prepare to help a growing number of local families who are struggling to cope with increasing costs of sending children back to school.

“Every year, Uniting Care in Bendigo helps hundreds of our local families who are struggling to pay for school books, uniforms and other back-to-school expenses. 

“This is a really hard time of year for low-income families with school-age children. With Christmas just behind them, they are now faced with the rising costs of getting their kids ready to go back to school,” said the Federal Member for Bendigo. 

“Local emergency food relief agencies have reported more families requested help in 2015 than in previous years with some saying requests for assistance had increased by over 30%. With the costs of basics like rent, utility bills and transport continuing to skyrocket, it's likely even more local families will need help this year. 

“Education has never been more expensive with some local school book lists costing more than $1000. Further, every school - public, catholic and independent - now have school fees and again some families will simply not have the cash to pay them. 

“Unfortunately the pain will only worsen next year as the Liberal Government has axed the School Kids bonus from 2017. This is therefore the last year eligible families will receive $430 for every primary school child and $856 for every secondary school child. 

“The scrapped scheme means a typical Australian family — with two kids in school — will lose up to $15,000 over the course of their children’s schooling. 

“I fear it will only get worse as local schools look to families to help bridge the funding gap created by the Federal Government who also last week confirmed they would not continue to fund the needs-based Gonski school funding model from 2017. 

“This cut will cost schools in the Bendigo electorate about $200 million. That's a lot of sausage sizzles and other fundraising activities needed if schools are to make up the difference because their families cannot afford to pay increased education expenses. 

“Local families simply can't afford to pay any extra, leaving our schools and children worse off. 

“This should be an election issue. We need a Federal Government whose education policy ensures every child, regardless of their parents’ wealth or postcode, will receive a great education that doesn't force families into poverty.”