Reducing barriers to remote learning
“If it had not been for Saver Plus, my kids would have gone months without school." Cassie, Saver Plus participant.
When times get tough, it’s helpful to have savings to fall back on. This has been realised by many Australians as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life and our economy.
It has highlighted the importance of developing a long-term savings habit -one of the major objectives of ANZ’s Saver Plus program which was developed in partnership with The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) in 2003 and is co-funded by ANZ and the Australian Government.
Like other organisations, the pandemic has created some real challenges for the community organisations responsible for delivering the program, which assists individuals and families on lower incomes to build assets and improve financial capability.
Thinking about the priorities in the current environment, the program quickly shifted focus to support participants preparing for remote schooling, enabling digital access for more than 1,100 families and individuals.
Building digital capability
The program increased digital inclusion by providing access to devices, as well as supporting participant’s digital competency.
Saver Plus Coordinators assisted participants with registering for email accounts, downloading banking apps, setting up payment transfers and completing online forms.
Since March 2020, more than 1,500 participants opened new online bank accounts with support of the program.
ANZ Deputy CEO Alexis George says financial literacy and digital competency are intertwined.
“The digital competency of our Saver Plus participants has been key to ensuring they are able to continue in the program and reach their savings goals during the pandemic.”
Choosing financial resilience
Between March and September 2020, the program matched more than $520,000 towards laptops and tablets, making up 62 per cent of all matched savings claims – a 13 per cent increase from the same time last year.
During a once in a lifetime pandemic it’s easy to lose focus, but pleasingly this has not been the case for Saver Plus participants. Those who no longer had the capacity to save were given the opportunity to withdraw from Saver Plus, and access their ANZ matched funds to date (up to $500) despite not meeting all program requirements. Participants were encouraged to re-start the program in the future when their circumstances improved.
Of the 2,000 participants contacted, only 57 withdrew from the program. In a demonstration of resilience and recognition of the importance of saving, a huge 97 per cent of participants elected to remain on the program.
Enabling access to remote education so children didn’t miss out
Tasmanian program participant and single mother of five children, Cassie, who is currently in her second year of a law degree, is one of the many Saver Plus participants who have used their savings and matched savings to purchase a laptop to enable their children’s remote schooling.
Cassie was originally saving for school uniforms and shoes but had to change her goals due to COVID-19 and the demands of remote schooling.
“If it had not been for Saver Plus, my kids would have gone months without school. We had to drop back to isolating at home because I have an auto immune disease and my youngest is asthmatic, so we had to stop going to school about three and half weeks before schools closed.”
Cassie adds, “I only have my computer for university, so the kids had nothing to learn on. This would have resulted in three months without a device on which to learn. Thanks to Saver Plus, I had savings and was able to withdraw the money straight away.”
“Because I had the money and skills from Saver Plus, I could maintain our living standard and not let the kids realise there was anything really going on. I purchased two laptops and one tablet and still had $200 left for food.”
Doubling of eligible Saver Plus participants
ANZ and its community partners expect more demand for the program in coming months. Demographic analysis conducted by Roy Morgan in July 2020 estimate eligible population for Saver Plus doubled compared to the 12 months’ prior, showing more people could benefit from the program.
Conny Lenneberg, Executive Director of The Brotherhood of St. Laurence says the Saver Plus program has played an important role in helping people cope during the pandemic, and will continue to do so in the future.
“Through the program, more than 1,100 households were able to save for, and purchase digital devices to support children’s remote learning. Through COVID-19 we have learned a lot about reducing barriers to participation in the program through virtual engagement with participants, and we hope to extend these lessons into 2021 helping us reach more people than ever.”
Aid for vulnerable people in a time of crisis