Lower-income families across Brimbank have been taking advantage of a new Smith Family program that helps with back-to-school expenses.

The savings program, Saver Plus, provides participants with up to $500 for education expenses.

Developed by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ, it has assisted 1084 Brimbank families since 2010.

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

St Albans father of four Jacinto Dos Santos said the benefits were huge.

“Saver Plus has been great to help relieve some of the stress involved with school costs,” he said.

“I found the savings tips very useful and with four children, I have found the extra funds very helpful to pay for the things my children need.”

Brimbank Saver Plus co-ordinator Vicky Millan says the program is helping families reduce stress at the most expensive time of year.

“As kids head back to school, families can find themselves spending hundreds of dollars on school costs,” she said. “Many participants begin the program feeling like they’ll never stop living pay cheque to pay cheque. Building a savings habit breaks that cycle.”

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.

Details: saverplus.org.au or 1300 610 355