Cost of living: School kids missing lunches, school supplies cause parents can’t afford them

More students are going to school without lunches and parents are unable to afford stationery, laptops and textbooks for their children this year, a parliamentary committee has heard.

A Senate committee scrutinising the impact of high inflation on consumers and the government’s response on Thursday heard about the on pressure families, schools and charity organisations are facing to cover education expenses.

Donagh Freestun, chair of Parents and Citizens Queensland, the peak body for school councils and associations, said schooling costs had ballooned in recent years, demanding additional contributions from parents.

“It used to be a uniform and a stationery pack — now it’s a computer, it’s an iPad, it’s all of these other things,” Ms Freestun said.

“You can find that in high school if a child, for example, does an outdoor recreation program, it’s an additional $300.”

Witnesses appearing before the committee said school camps and excursions had become prohibitively expensive for many families.

“They’re the things that parents can’t afford, and they’re the ones that get students to start dropping out,” Queensland Association of State School Principals president Patrick Murphy said.

“We get to such a point where it actually becomes not viable for a school to offer those because we’re seeing 60 per cent of kids not going on camps and excursions.”

Les Twentyman Foundation chief executive, Paul Burke, said he was seeing more working families on multiple incomes seeking help.

He said requests for support to assist with stationery, textbooks, laptops and other supplies was “going through the roof” – with almost a 50 per cent increase in demand this year.

An annual survey, conducted by children’s charity The Smith Family which supports young people living in poverty, revealed an increased number of parents were struggling to cover schooling costs amid the higher cost of living.

Of those who received support from the charity, almost nine out of 10 respondents were worried about their ability to afford all the items their child needed to return to school in 2024.

More than half of the survey’s respondents said their children were likely to miss out on notebooks, iPads or other digital devices for their school work as they could not afford them.

The committee also heard charitable organisations were grappling with homelessness among their own staff.

Committee chair Jane Hume said Australian families were suffering.

“More working families, some on dual incomes, have been forced to turn to charities for assistance in getting their kids back to school and feeding them once they’re at school,” she said.

“Families have been forced to make difficult decisions, like keeping the kids home from school camps, because they have a mountain of living costs they need to cover.”

The Coalition-led probe has also called on Treasury and Reserve Bank officials to detail the effects of the stage 3 tax cuts on Australia’s inflationary outlook which the government and economists have widely claimed is negligible.

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