Back-to-school costs see record demand for help during cost-of-living crisis
The rising cost of living is putting significant pressure on Queensland families preparing for the new school year, with Vinnies Queensland receiving a record number of requests for back-to-school support.
Moreton Bay mother Sarah* said it cost her more than $700 to buy shoes and just some of the stationary needed for her three children to return to school– and that’s not including uniforms.
“It’s always been tough financially, but it’s never been as difficult as it is right now,” she said.
“I used to be able to save a little bit at the end of each week, now I barely have enough to cover groceries and fuel.
“It’s a real concern – if I can barely afford fuel and groceries, how will I afford school uniforms for three kids?”
Sarah received support from Vinnies’ Children’s Education Fund, a program running since 1988 to help struggling Queensland families with uniforms and essential school supplies.
Vinnies Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said the Fund received a record number of applications for the 2023 school year – 1,775 applications state-wide totalling nearly 4,000 students.
“The demand for back-to-school support is now more than double what it was in 2019,” he said.
“Of the requests we received, 40 per cent were for help with uniforms and 20 per cent was for books and stationery.
“Throughout 2022, we saw a perfect storm of Queensland families dealing with rising rent and housing costs while the cost of groceries, fuel and utility bills skyrocketed.”
Mr Mercer said the rising cost of living was felt across the state, as the charity saw general requests for help increase by nearly 20 per cent in the 2021 to 2022 financial year.
“Vinnies has been hearing more and more from families that have never had to reach out for help before, he said.
“Many Queenslanders are finding there’s little to nothing left over once they’ve paid for rent, food and utilities.
“We’re doing what we can to help – but with the average cost of school supplies estimated at more than $500 for primary and $700 for secondary school students, it can be a significant expense for many.”
Mr Mercer said Vinnies Queensland had several partnerships across the state, including Operation Backpack and the School Savvy program with Centacare, which encourages donations of school supplies and uniforms to pass onto families in need.
If you’re struggling with rising costs of living, you can reach Vinnies Queensland by calling 1800 846 643 during business hours.
If you’d like to help support struggling families, you can donate to Vinnies Queensland at vinnies.org.au/donate
*Name withheld for privacy