This started with a change to the way the Centrelink assistance system works for remote students at boarding school meaning that when they hit age 16 their family became ineligible for the family tax benefit (FTB) for that child. Abstudy still pays the boarding school fees. For some boarding schools Abstudy does not cover all their boarding fees and the family must pay this gap also.
This leaves financially struggling families in a difficult situation. If they wish their children to continue their senior certificate they need to adjust for the FTB they just lost and find the money to help their child with all associated schooling and living costs.
The kids’ families are often in very difficult circumstances themselves, struggling to make ends meet in remote communities where living expenses are high. Sometimes the families cannot send money and sometimes they are dysfunctional and will not send money - but these kids who are trying to break the cycle and lift themselves out, need an education to do this - and it will be very sad if they have to drop out of boarding school because of lack of money. Quite a few families are already suggesting this may be the case.
It can be really tough for a kid who has so much else to adjust to and then has no money for toiletries, new underwear or simply joining their mates at the movies...
Most students would be prepared to have a part time job but most boarding schools do not allow this (there is often not the transport available). Besides which it would be very difficult for a remote student to find a part time job that would not greatly interfere with their study and would be happy for them to leave every school holidays to return home to their community. As for holiday jobs, there is hardly a McDonald’s in their remote community to work at.
OtK with the generous support of an anonymous health professional donor and Queensland X-Ray have developed a rewards based scholarship system. Special thanks must go to AMAQ Foundation Qld for sourcing these generous donations. These generous donations will not provide everything the kid needs and it may still be a struggle - but it will help to alleviate the crisis and should enable these kids to stay in school at least. The money will provide their textbooks and uniforms for the year and a small amount of spending money per week for school term only. (2019 update - through careful management of these funds and reduced costs at some schools for uniforms etc we have been able to extend the time and number of students we can support with this finite pool of money).
OtK through liaison with the boarding schools, transition officers, community support officers and families identifies the best qualified families and children. The conditions of the money are made clear to the family and child. The spending money is only provided each week if the child has met certain standards of effort and behaviour, set and monitored by the boarding school themselves.
This could well mean the difference between a meaningful job and future or dropping out and never meeting their full potential.