School program helps vulnerable families meet schooling costs
- 25 March 2021 2:30PM
Children of vulnerable families are engaging with their education, thanks to a unique initiative by Australian Community Safety and Research Organisation Incorporated (ACRO).
The School Assist Program provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness with up to $1,000 for essential education-related costs.
Fiona Begg, Program Manager, said they had recognised the growing need for assistance for those struggling to meet education costs.
“As a specialist homelessness service, we provide housing support to families in crisis, and meeting schooling costs can simply be out of reach for people who are struggling to make ends meet,” Ms Begg said.
“We knew there wasn’t any financial support for these families, so decided to apply for Dignity First Funding to create a program.”
The $2.5 million funding program backs Queensland community organisations that support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
“St Vincent De Paul Resettlement Service supported us in our application and helped us secure $30,000 in Round 3 in 2018,” Ms Begg said.
“Our original program was targeted at CALD families and we helped 43 families access essential items like laptops, Ipads, uniforms, books, stationery and pay school fees.
“It made such a difference to these children - to have simple things like a new uniform or a crisp workbook, but also took some financial pressure off families and helped them to sustain their tenancies.”
Ms Begg said she received positive feedback from clients and referral agencies who indicated the program was meeting a previously unmet and growing need in the community.
“We heard that families had been struggling with education costs for some time and there was clearly an ongoing demand for support.
“We decided to apply again for Round 4 funding in 2019, and again received $30,000.
“We included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, with CALD families, and were able to support 53 families.
“This was a particularly important outcome, given families were faced with the challenges of home schooling due to COVID-19 and being able to access online lessons.
“Many of our families said they wouldn’t have been able to provide the required technology to support their children’s ongoing education without the program.”
Ms Begg said the program provided families with flexibility to access support for the things they really need.
“Families have been able to collect their new computer two days after applying and they tell us how important these things are in helping their children do their school work,” Ms Begg said.
“While many people struggle with their living situations, educating their children is a priority so this program will hopefully help the next generation end the cycle of homelessness.”
Naomi Westerman, Housing Support Worker with YHP, said the program had also made a difference to the vulnerable youth she works with.
“Those studying at TAFE or university have found it hard to gather the funds for new laptops and resources to use for their studies,” Ms Westerman said.
“This program has provided them with the essential tools they need to study and create positive futures for themselves.”
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