25 Jan 2017

Families go without food to cover school costs

2:17 pm on 25 January 2017

Many families are struggling to pay for back-to-school costs that can run to thousands of dollars, a Palmerston North charity says.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Palmy Revolution spokesperson Jenny Hall said people had been asking the organisation for help with expenses including stationery, uniforms and school camps.

The organisation had distributed hundreds of second-hand uniforms.

She told Nine to Noon some families had to do without so they could meet the costs of getting children back to school.

"What is the worst part for them is having to prioritise whether they can feed their families or whether they are feeding themselves because they know they've got these costs coming up," she said.

"A lot of parents are sacrificing their own food, their own needs, not being able to run their car - just to cover the costs of getting back to school."

Some families were facing bills of several thousand dollars for uniforms, fees and school camps, Ms Hall said.

Sports uniforms were another expense that caused problems for parents and their children, she said.

"If you want to do rugby you pay for the rugby uniform, and then if you want to do basketball you've got to pay for the basketball uniform separately. Parents are just having to say no to their children.

"Some of them are excellent sportsmen and women, but they can't follow their sporting path because they can't afford the equipment."

Schools also put a lot of pressure on parents to pay their annual donations, even though they were technically voluntary, Ms Hall said.

"They do say they're voluntary, but I know throughout the country there is definitely pressure on parents to pay those donations and they just keep sending invoices throughout the year and that puts continued pressure on these families who are struggling."

Ms Hall said the service provided by Palmy Revolution aimed to fill the gap where it could.

"We're not giving them their whole uniform or their whole stationery, but we give what we can so they've got a book and a pen, and they've got the T-shirt and the shorts to go to school in their uniform so that they're not starting the school year on a back foot.

"We might not be able to get everything, but we get them a good start."

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