Policy last updated
16 January 2023
- School councils
This policy sets out requirements for schools to prepare for and support families experiencing financial hardship in order to facilitate student participation in the full school program.
- Schools must develop arrangements that support families experiencing financial hardship.
- Schools must communicate arrangements so that all families are well informed.
- Schools should put in place strategies to identify families experiencing hardship, while promoting their dignity, exercising sensitivity and confidentiality of their circumstances.
Schools must prepare for and support families who are experiencing financial hardship in order to facilitate student participation in the full school program.
This includes developing financial help for families arrangements that:
- support families on a case-by-case basis and provide an appropriate, achievable and family-centred response that promotes the dignity and confidentiality of family circumstances and assures families that students will continue to be supported to access the Curriculum
- nominate a suitable parent payments contact person who will be responsible for working with families to determine, negotiate and maintain appropriate responses.
All students in Victorian government schools must have free access to instruction that is offered by a school to fulfil the standard curriculum requirements for the Victorian Curriculum F–10, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), and the Victorian Pathways Certificate.
Schools can request that parents pay for items and activities beyond what the school provides for free in order to deliver the Curriculum.
Parents may experience difficulties:
- paying for extra-curricular items and activities that are suitable for their child
- purchasing educational items for their child to own, rather than use what is provided for free by the school.
Financial help arrangements
If a family is experiencing financial hardship and cannot afford to participate in the full school program, schools should consider school-based support such as:
- reminding families that curriculum contributions and other contributions are voluntary
- establishing flexible payment plans for extra curricular items and activities, or waiving, reducing or extending payment
- exercising discretion prior to generating reminder notices for unpaid items for families experiencing hardship
- referring families to government or community support programs that may help them to purchase uniforms and other educational items to own
- establishing strategies for the exchange of second-hand items to own such as textbooks, uniforms and stationery
- maintaining supportive contact with families and revisiting agreed arrangements when requested.
Schools should be aware of support programs provided by the Department and external providers, referring families to these services where appropriate or applying to programs on their behalf.
Schools can develop partnerships with local services and welfare groups which can provide specialist support and assistance to students and families in financial crisis.
A number of available programs are listed on the Resources tab. Government funded support programs include:
- State Schools' Relief’s Affordable School Uniform Program
- Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund
- student scholarships
- Marrung Education Scholarships.
Financial help arrangements must be:
- readily available through platforms such as on the school website, in enrolment packs, newsletters, within excursion permission forms and published parent payment arrangements
- communicated in language that is inclusive and non-judgmental
- communicated in language that is easy to understand, is culturally appropriate and if required, translated into multiple languages – schools can use funded Interpreting and Translating Services for key school communications
- consistent with the Parent Payments Policy.
Schools must include financial help for families arrangements whenever requesting payments for items and activities over and above what the school provides for free to deliver the Curriculum. However, schools should not include financial help arrangements when only requesting voluntary contributions, to avoid the implication that payment is expected.
The Curriculum is the Victorian Curriculum F–10, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), and the Victorian Pathways Certificate.
- Camps, Sport and Excursions Fund
- Interpreting and Translation Services
- Marrung education
- Parent Payments
- Personal Devices — Parent Payments and Access
- State Schools' Relief
Schools may continue to seek support with parent payments questions by contacting their region’s community liaison officers . CLOs can respond to both parent payment queries or requests to review parent payment arrangements.
For general queries about financial help for families you can contact the Department’s general enquiries line on 1800 338 663 or email email@example.com
If you have any queries in regards to your school’s financial help arrangements please speak with your school first.
Recognising financial hardship
Schools must be proactive in sensitively identifying families who may be reluctant to access arrangements and refer them to their nominated parent payments contact to determine if support is needed.
While hardship is usually identified when families request assistance from the parent payment contact person, some families may be reluctant to access support from the school.
Teachers are often the first to see indicators of financial hardship. Staff that have reason to believe that a student’s family may be experiencing hardship can then bring this to the attention of the school’s parent payment contact person, to sensitively engage with the family and determine if support is needed.
Schools are encouraged to provide training and resources to teaching and administration staff so that they can identify signs of financial hardship.
Common indicators of financial hardship can include:
- students not owning the same materials as other class members (such as bags, stationary or equipment)
- recurring decisions to not purchase, or participate in, extra-curricular items and activities
- uniforms that are incomplete or in poor condition
- students disclosing hardship or contributing factors to staff and welfare officers – these can include, but are not limited to:
- sudden changes such as loss of employment or illness in the family
- disruption such as family breakdown or transitional housing
- crisis events such as family violence or natural disasters
- families who sought support for other department programs, such as the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund
- carers or Health Care Card holders
- refugee status, for example families seeking asylum who are on a Bridging or Temporary Protection Visa.
Victorian Government assistance programs
- The Camps, Sports and Excursions applications are submitted by schools. The program provides capped payments for eligible students to attend camps, sports and excursions.
- State Schools’ applications are submitted by schools. The program covers costs such as new school uniforms, shoes, books and more for disadvantaged students.
- Student – the Department of Education and Training manages over 25 student scholarships programs, that are awarded for a range of reasons including academic achievement, participation in the school and local community or financial need.
Commonwealth family assistance
The Australian Government provides a range of payments and services to help families look after their children’s health, education and other family issues.
- Centrelink’s Parent Payment takes families through what payments and service they can be eligible for. Some of these payments and services include:
- Child Care which provides help for eligible families with the cost of outside school hours care, vacation care and registered care.
- Family Tax Benefits, A or B, or Parenting Payments.
- Youth , Newstart or which provide help for young people between 15 and 24 years of age. These payments provide financial support while young people are looking for work, studying, training or undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship.
- Health Care which provides help with the with the cost of prescription medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Commonwealth-funded medical services, and access to state, territory and local government concessions.
- Good Shepherd provides affordable financial programs, including the No Interest Loans scheme , for people on low or limited incomes that may assist families to afford educational costs and other expenses.
- Saver is an initiative of Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ that assists families on lower incomes. The program matches family savings up to $500 for education-related costs.
- St Vincent de offers a range of assistance including food or food vouchers, clothing, furniture, budget support, back to school costs, information and advocacy.
- The Smith Family’s Learning for Life provides financial support, guidance and mentoring for disadvantaged students. The Smith Family works with a select number of schools and may require referral from the school principal.
- Travellers Aid Australia’s Pathways to Education provides student travel passes to eligible secondary school students experiencing financial difficulties, enabling them to travel to school or other forms of training and education.
Websites with Victorian community services information
- The Ardoch School Costs lists support options that provide financial assistance to families and reduce school costs.
- Crisis Referral Information System (CRIS) Online provides information for people seeking welfare assistance, advice and general referral and support. The online directory contains comprehensive information on services and organisations such as those providing support in respect to accommodation, domestic violence, drug and alcohol treatment, health, material aid and mental health.
- Community Information and Support Victoria is a peak body representing local community information and support services that assist people experiencing personal and financial difficulties.
- Infoxchange Service is a search site for community support services.
Reviewed 27 May 2020