Many families are feeling the strain of back-to-school costs with the new school year beginning next Tuesday.

Whangarei woman Ashaa Joyce is a 22-year-old who did not expect to be facing the financial burden of sending teenagers to school for many years to come.

But her two teenage brothers came into her care unexpectedly a week before Christmas, and they are due to start at secondary school this term.

She said it had been "really, really tough" trying to adjust to the situation.


Along with the new additions to the family, Miss Joyce and her partner have two young children.

"Teenage boys eat a lot," Miss Joyce said, and she has been trying for more than a month to secure financial support from Work and Income New Zealand.

She said she found the process of applying for assistance from Work and Income draining and "like we are running round in circles".

Miss Joyce's partner works full-time and she will be looking for part-time work once daycare for the young ones reopens, which limits the support they can get from Work and Income.

Carl Crafar, national commissioner Work and Income, said assistance for school costs is available to those on low incomes regardless of whether they're receiving a benefit or not, provided they meet the right income and asset tests.

"Clients could be entitled to an advance payment of benefit for school uniforms and stationery costs. People in need of assistance could also be eligible for support with a Recoverable Assistance Payment."

Miss Joyce said her young family was getting by.

"It's a case of just doing the best with what we have," she said. "They both need a whole new uniform, and then there's books and stuff."


Miss Joyce is hoping second-hand uniforms will become available and will help to lower the cost a bit.

The boys are attending a kura school 15 minutes across town from home.

Miss Joyce said she was very thankful there was a free bus that they could catch to save her driving them each way.