Families living below the poverty line are hiding in plain sight as school bills begin rolling in.
With less than two weeks until classes officially start many parents in Bendigo are quietly going without to provide for their children, according to Bendigo Family Financial Services’s managing director Jenny Elvey.
Yet a new Smith Family survey has found two-thirds of Australians underestimate the rate of child poverty.
Some people might say Australia does not really have a child poverty problem, but nothing could be further from the truth, according to The Smith Family’s Victorian general manager Anton Leschen.
“The latest figures show there are 1.1 million young Australians under the age of 24 who are living below the poverty line,” he said.
“People don’t see the ‘hidden’ poverty that exists behind closed doors and in our classrooms, which can see children and families dealing with extraordinary challenges just to get through each day.”
Ms Elvey said that as Bendigo parents recovered from Christmas they were juggling school costs, rent and increased costs of living.
“It’s a continual juggling act to keep things at bay when really they are slowly going backwards,” Ms she said.
Sometimes, Ms Elvey said, even friends and family did not know the hardships they faced.
“They are struggling and they mask it very well,” she said.
“They just try and manage for as long as they can until everything crumbles down on them.
“They might get quick loans to pay debts, then need to pay loans back. It might be they just don’t pay certain debts to keep rent up to date or cut back on healthier food.”
The hardest thing for many, Ms Elvey said, was asking for help after battling for so long to keep their heads above water.
“We all like to succeed in life. We want to manage our finances to supply our children with what they need,” she said.
BFFS’s no interest loans were in high demand as parents tried to find the cash to pay for books, uniforms and school fees.
It was also the busiest time of year for The Smith Family, Mr Leschen said.
The Smith Family was calling for people to sponsor an Australian child, with 4000 families urgently in need.
For more information on the BFFS no interest loan scheme and sponsoring a Smith Family Child, visit the group’s websites.
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