5 Oct 2018

Financial stress for low income families during school holidays

10:04 am on 5 October 2018

It is that time of year again when thousands of school children are signed up to holiday programmes.

Amie Van't hof, Kaya Davis and Amy McKerras.

Amie Van't hof, Kaya Davis and Amy McKerras. Photo: RNZ/Anneke Smith.

However, the programmes on offer don't come without a price, some costing as much as $150 a day.

Youthtown, a national not-for-profit organisation, runs school holiday programmes for hundreds of children throughout the country from Auckland to Oamaru.

This Wednesday about 40 kids gathered at the Youthtown base on Auckland's North shore for a space-themed day of activities.

Youthtown co-ordinator Rachel Wynn explained the cost of their school holiday programme varied to help parents manage the cost.

The school holiday programme starts at $30 a day and extra for day trips and specialist workshops.

"We offer a wide variety of activities and pricing structures for those parents that do need childcare but are on a tight budget.

"They still have a choice to do a day where the kids can have a real fun time and they're safe and happy without it being too expensive."

Over at The Mind Lab at The Museum of Transport and Technology, another holiday programme is being run for $150 a day.

The programme offers classes for seven to 12-year-olds on robotics, coding and even electronic engineering.

The Mind Lab's national technologist, Damon Kahi, said while some may balk at the cost it was money well-spent.

The Mind Lab Workshops

The Mind Lab Workshops Photo: RNZ/Anneke Smith.

"A lot of people will come along and say $150 is quite a lot of money but I'm a parent myself and if I was to say 'Is this worth it?' I'd say 'Yes it is.'

"Our point of difference is basically how we go through and teach the children."

Mr Kahi said the programme's teachers were all full-time staff and passionate about opening young people's minds and catering to different learning styles.

On Wednesday, The Mind Lab had 40 children from Ngāti Whātua Orākei whose programme was funded by the Museum of Transport and Technology.

Wesley Teua, a hapū navigator at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia, said the holiday programme he ran cost just $60 a week.

He said the kids slept on the marae, got out for activities during the day and connected with their culture.

Jeni Cartwright, from the Child Poverty Action Group, said many families could not afford even the cheapest childcare.

No caption

Photo: RNZ/Anneke Smith.

The Ministry of Social Development offers subsidy payments for school holiday programmes but Ms Cartwright said the income caps were too low.

"It is good for many people but it does cut out for the families at a relatively low income level.

"When a couple with two children both work full-time for $20 an hour they don't get any subsidy and they may have to pay upwards of $500 a week for school holiday care. So it's an enormous chunk out of their income."

Adrienne Gallie, from the Pakuranga and Howick Budgeting Service, said the expense of school holiday programmes was too much for low income families.

"I don't know where they would get that extra money from because if the parents are working in the school week the children are being cared for through their attendance at school."

Ms Gallie said school holidays were particularly tough for families already struggling with high debt.

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