According to a report recently released by the Maytree Foundation, almost 900,000 kids in low-income families are missing out on free education grants – in part because community organizations aren’t getting the information out to parents. Six years after the launch of the Canada Learning Bond, only 212,000 children, or 19 per cent of those eligible, have taken advantage of the program.

The report, called More than Money: Mining the human and financial potential of Canada’s education savings program for low-income families identifies several barriers that low-income families face in accessing Canada Learning Bonds – an RESP program in which the federal government will contribute up to $2000 for low-income children. The key barrier, the researchers found, was that many front-line community service providers were unaware or misinformed about the program, and not able to give families accurate information about it.

The report’s authors discovered that although “community service providers, schools to settlement organizations, are an important and trusted part of families’ networks, and, especially for newcomers, a primary source of information on government and financial programs” they lacked essential information about RESP programs. The researchers also found that many low-income families placed a high value on education and would be likely to take advantage of the program if aware of it.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  1. Service providers, including hospitals, daycares, schools, benefits administrators, and settlement workers, should inform themselves about basic RESP facts, including where to find unbiased product information, in order to better act as an information resource for families.
  2. Service providers should inform themselves about the Canada Learning Bond and encourage low-income families to secure it for their eligible children.
  3. Find out more about RESPS and Canada Learning Bonds at: www.canlearn.ca (English and French) and www.smartsaver.org (information in 14 languages, including Cantonese, Punjabi, Spanish, Farsi).

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Article courtesy Glenn Hope
Executive Director, BC Council for Families

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