Charity warns poverty is forcing families to send children to work instead of schools

A charity is warning that a growing number of families living in poverty are set to send their children to work instead of school.

KidsCan says the cost of living crisis is making it harder than ever to put food on the table, which is affecting the education of kids.

It's the last day of freedom for a while as many kids head back to school this week.

But a new school year can be costly, with uniforms costing hundreds of dollars, along with stationary, plus maybe a laptop.

"The cost, the price, has been increasing," one person admitted to Newshub.

"It can be quite expensive, especially if there are school uniforms as well," another added.

All those unavoidable expenses are hitting Kiwis hard.

"This year is probably going to be the toughest ever because of the cost of living for parents trying to pay for those back-to-school things," KidsCan CEO Julie Chapman said.

KidsCan has 77 schools waiting for support and it's the largest waitlist since 2018.

Its latest survey found students are skipping school to work and support their families instead - jobs such as night shifts in restaurants and manual labour on farms.

"Kids are going out to work, sometimes they're turning up to school the next day and falling asleep, or not coming at all some days," Chapman said.

KidsCan said it's also aware of some students who are missing school to stay home and look after younger siblings, so their parents can go out and work longer hours just to put food on the table.

It's something that's becoming harder in a cost-of-living crisis.

"The reality is that mum and dad are working huge hours just to keep their head above water," Chapman said.

One in six Kiwi kids are living in hardship - which is why some schools are trying to keep uniform and stationary costs down.

"We're talking about shorts for $22 with our logo on them and made sure there were ways to finance them," Edgecumbe School Board parent Ashlee Sturme said.

"Our kids don't need any more barriers to coming to school," Sturme stressed.