Low-income families considering turning to high-rate lenders to afford tablets and devices for their kids returning to school may have another option this year.
Parents struggling to find the money for electronic devices so their children aren't disadvantaged at the start of the school year can apply to the Salvation Army for financial help and a no-interest loan.
The Salvation Army, which teams up with Warehouse Stationery every year to help parents with back-to-school supplies, is now running a programme to give no-interest loans to people buying devices for their kids.
Eligible families will be given vouchers toward the cost, and the loan will cover the rest.
"We keep the loan as minimal as possible," said the Salvation Army's territorial social services secretary, Major Pam Waugh.
"The families are assessed, so it's not just random 'here, take a loan'. They're assessed by 'can they afford it' and 'are we doing the best thing by offering them a loan'.
"We're not in the business of putting people in debt."
Some parents resorted to using high-end lenders to get the money for a tablet for their kids, which more often than not would keep them "crippled in debt", and it was important to keep that from happening if possible.
"We don't want to see families struggling with a lot more debt."
Waugh said the initiative was "taking the pressure and stress off families at this time of year, making sure that kids get a good start back to school".
"The most important thing is that these children get back to school ready to start the year and they're not disadvantaged. They're not going to go without, they're up with their class peers."
It was the first year they were offering assistance in getting devices, though about 200 families had asked about it last year.
Waugh hoped they'd be able to assist about 500 families to get devices this year.
"Let's see what happens."
The vouchers they provide are made possible by in-store fundraising at Warehouse Stationery.
They and the Salvation Army help about 17,000 families each year get back-to-school stationery for kids.
Waugh said they were "grateful to the community and Warehouse Stationery".
"Without them we couldn't do it."
To be eligible for one of the loans, applicants must have a Community Services Card.