ACT charities prepare for influx as families struggle with back to school costs

Kids can be nasty. That’s why Belconnen woman Sarah likes to ensure her five daughters head back to school with clean uniforms, shiny shoes and, when possible, new backpacks.

But it doesn’t come cheap. Sarah said she spent more than $1000 getting each of her children through the gates of their public schools – and dropping so much money straight after Christmas isn’t easy for the single mum, who works two jobs and studies part-time.

“All school kids deserve to be able to have new shoes … it’s not like they’re getting given a holiday,” she said.

In previous years, Sarah has taken out a loan to help with back to school expenses. Life has been made a little easier thanks to support from The Smith Family.

The charity’s sponsorship program provides financial support for education essentials, access to learning programs and the ongoing support of a Smith Family worker to help students succeed at school.

About 1000 ACT families are supported through the program – and The Smith Family hopes to add an extra 200 students over the next 18 months.

“We need to get our kids engaged in their learning, we need to get them to year 12 and the ACT community can help by sponsoring a child.”

As new figures released this year claim even parents using the public system can expect to be slugged more than $50,000 over a child’s 13 years at school , other Canberra charities are also busy helping parents grapple with back to school costs.

As new figures released this year claim even parents using the public system can expect to be slugged more than $50,000 over a child’s 13 years at school

St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn special works director Chris Shortis said the organisation was working with about 70 families in transitional accommodation as they prepared to send their children back to school.

The charity has partnered with online donation platform GIVIT to source supplies for those doing it tough. So far, St Vincent de Paul has been able to pass on about 10 packs containing uniforms, shoes, books and other essentials.

While urging Canberrans to donate, Ms Shortis also called for empathy, kindness and understanding for those less fortunate.

“Canberra might look like a really successful city, which it is, but there’s people in here who also need our help,” she said.

“You don’t know what these kids are going home to and what they’re coming from. You don’t know what sort of trauma they’ve already been suffering from home.

“The most important thing for people is not to judge because they do now know what these guys are going through.”

Sarah – who said The Smith Family’s support had motivated her children to attend and succeed at school – echoed Ms Shortis’s call for care.

“Kids can get picked on for their clothes being daggy or holes in their shoes or getting teased. It’s not nice and it makes it harder for them to go to school and enjoy going to school,” she said.

“The kids today are the adults of our future, and there are kids out there who are from families that are not so well-off.

To support Canberra children through GIVIT, visit givit.org.au . To sponsor a disadvantaged child visit thesmithfamily.com.au .