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Savings Scheme Helps Families Go Back to School in Digital Age

17 January 2017 at 4:07 pm
Wendy Williams
A national education savings program developed by ANZ and Brotherhood of St Laurence is helping lower-income families go digital as technology becomes a classroom essential.

Wendy Williams | 17 January 2017 at 4:07 pm


Savings Scheme Helps Families Go Back to School in Digital Age
17 January 2017 at 4:07 pm

A national education savings program developed by ANZ and Brotherhood of St Laurence is helping lower-income families go digital as technology becomes a classroom essential.

Since 2012, Saver Plus has seen a marked rise in participants using their savings on technology, rather than school books, with more than half now spending on digital devices such as a laptops or tablets.

In the five years from 2012 to 2016 the number of claims for digital devices increased from 37 per cent to 52 per cent, eclipsing the next most popular categories of uniforms and shoes (22 per cent), lesson fees and equipment (16 per cent) and books (9 per cent).

Brotherhood executive director Tony Nicholson said it was now common to see laptops and tablets on the stationery list as schools adapt to the digital age.

“This can put pressure on lower-income families, who before school even starts find themselves spending hundreds of dollars so their children have the technology needed for their studies,” Nicholson said.

“Saver Plus helps families save for those costs and reduce the pressure on household budgets.”

The program sees participants set a savings goal for school costs, make regular deposits into a savings account over 10 months, and attend financial education workshops. At the end of the program their savings are matched by ANZ, dollar for dollar, up to $500.

ANZ group executive Australia Fred Ohlsson said ANZ was proud to be assisting thousands of lower-income Australians to achieve long-term financial stability.

“Saver Plus helps participants develop financial literacy skills, establish a savings habit and strengthen confidence to access mainstream affordable financial services,” Ohlsson said.

“This contributes to financial stability for their families, an asset with benefits that go well beyond back-to-school time.”

Since 2003 more than 32,000 people have saved with Saver Plus, which is funded by ANZ and the Australian government and is delivered in 60 communities across Australia.

Independent research by RMIT University found that three years after completing Saver Plus 87 per cent of participants continued to save, with participants also reporting having more control over their finances and improved wellbeing.

Krystle McKinley, who began the Saver Plus program in March 2016, said she joined to save for a laptop for her eldest daughter Hayley, 11, who will start high school this year.

“Hayley’s high school has a ‘bring your own device’ system,” McKinley said.

“Without a laptop she wouldn’t be able to complete assignments or sit exams.

“Even my younger children need access to a computer and the internet to do homework.”

After completing the program in December McKinley is set to receive $500 in matched savings from ANZ to purchase the laptop.

But she said the real benefit of the scheme had been learning to budget and save.

“I’d be really stuck if I didn’t have the money skills I learnt through Saver Plus,” she said.

“Budgeting and changing little things, like buying groceries on sale and buying in bulk, has all added up.”

In August 2016 McKinley, who lives with her husband and four children in Queensland, was diagnosed with a rare health condition, that means she can no longer work.

But she said Saver Plus savings helped her cover her medical expenses and the program had given her hope.

She called on others, even those who don’t think they can save, to join the scheme.

“Now I want to keep saving, so I can start living. I want to take my kids travelling, go places we’ve never been before, and make memories, just in case I’m not here one day,” she said.

“As little as $12.50 a week adds up really quick, and you don’t even notice it’s missing.”

To take part participants must have a Centrelink healthcare or pensioner concession card, a child at school or be attending vocational education themselves, and regular household income from paid employment.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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