The starting of a new school year is a stressful and anxious time for low-income families experiencing financial hardship. With children starting back at school, and young people trying to stay engaged in education and training, the costs really add up quickly and come all at once. No parent wants their child to miss out, and many young people who are forced to live independently want to stay in education and complete their studies.
However, the reality is that one in six Australian children are living in poverty, which is equivalent to 1.1 million young Australians under the age of 24 who are living below the poverty line. Poverty results in a significant number of young Australians finding it difficult to engage with formal education; leaving school early and contributing to intergenerational poverty.
Increasing numbers of Australian families are seeking help from a range of services, particularly domestic and family violence, and mental health. And with the number of school children living with employment stress in the family more than doubling nationally, more and more kids are facing compounding factors that make it challenging to start the school year confident and prepared.
Recent shifts to online learning have placed 46% of young Australians at risk of adverse educational effects and posed significant long-term impacts upon school engagement and employment outcomes for youth. Students whose families can’t afford the technology they need for school are experiencing a deepening ‘digital divide’ that is causing increasing rates of disengagement. This makes January and February a surprisingly busy time of year for many of the organisations we work with, as parents, carers and staff seek help to support children and young people back into education.
During January we spoke to a number of community organisations about current community needs…
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impact on the women we are working with in terms of increased family violence, loss of work and income. Women also played a primary role supporting children with home learning in often temporary housing where they had limited access to tools to support remote learning. For example, one family we supported had one laptop that was shared between three children. This remote learning environment has created significant additional barriers for the education futures of the kids we support.” Jade Blakkarly, CEO, Juno
“As our families are homeless they struggle to financially meet the requirements of the new school year, i.e books, uniforms and additional levies for camps etc. During COVID last year our children in refuge missed many days of school due to COVID shutdowns. We would like them to start this year feeling like they have everything ready to go and do not have to be seen as ‘different’ on their first day. Purchasing the new items required for each school year is also a difficulty for our families as some of them are not even receiving the basic Centrelink payments. We would like to assist them to be fully kitted out, ready to start the new school year.” Paula Westhead, Emerge women and children’s support network
“Our young clients are homeless or at risk of homelessness and during the pandemic many of our clients have also been unable to work. All of our clients experience financial difficulties which presents a barrier to participation in education. Many of our clients have also faced additional isolation and mental health challenges during the pandemic. Last year our Community Fundraising decreased by approx 60% and what we did get was directed to crisis response work, so support at this time of year is very useful indeed.” Michelle Thompson, Family Access Network
‘Back to School’ Community Grants 2022
During January and February, working closely with a philanthropic organisation, StreetSmart has already delivered 16 Community Grants to grassroots front line services who are directly supporting children and young people back to school and education.
|ORGANISATION NAME||GRANT AMOUNT|
|CIS Yarra Glen||$ 5,000.00|
|Family Access Network||$ 5,000.00|
|Foyer Foundation||$ 5,000.00|
|Georgina Martina||$ 5,000.00|
|Hope Street Youth and Family Services||$ 5,000.00|
|Merri Outreach Bright Futures||$ 5,000.00|
|Mirabel Foundation||$ 5,000.00|
|Prison Network||$ 5,000.00|
|Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre||$ 5,000.00|
|Twentieth Man Fund Inc||$ 5,000.00|
|Victorian Aboriginal Community Services||$ 5,000.00|
|Western Port Community Support||$ 5,000.00|
|Women’s Liberation Halfway House||$ 5,000.00|
“These funds will enable us to provide necessary school supplies such as uniforms, textbooks, stationery and laptops and in doing so will empower children to fully engage in their education and learning, which is a key factor in breaking the cycle of homelessness. This funding will have an immediate and meaningful impact for the children and families we work with for whom the return to school is often a time of high stress due to the many associated expenses. We are incredibly grateful, thank you.”
Talia Barrett, Bright Futures
Support our work in the community
We want to do more and this is where you partner with us. During February all donations made online through our website ‘Donate’ page will be directed to support ‘Back to School’ grants. Help us provide uniforms and shoes, text books, computers, stationary, online homework groups, tutoring etc for families and young people struggling to get the right start in 2022.
You can donate to assist young people stay in education here – Thank you!