Building on the success of the inaugural Canada Learning Bond Open House event earlier this year, a North End Winnipeg school played host once again to help local families gain access to post-secondary education funding for their children.
On October 11, the Winnipeg School Division ID Clinic and Canada Learning Bond Sign-up Event was held at David Livingstone Community School. This community event aimed to break down barriers and help families gain access to a valuable federal program that can help low-income families save for their children’s university, college or other post-secondary education through a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).
The full-day event was organized by Winnipeg Promise, an initiative led by Mayor Brian Bowman, in an effort to find ways of overcoming barriers that prevent low and modest-income families from accessing the Canada Learning Bond (CLB).
With over 300 families attending the event, there was plenty of activity throughout the day. Attendees were able to access three government services under one roof: Service Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and the province’s Employment and Income Assistance Program (EIA).
Complimentary childcare and volunteers from the community and ACU were on hand to assist families, as well as organizations such as SEED Winnipeg, a non-profit agency that fights poverty and works to renew Winnipeg’s inner city.
A successful event including:
- Families in attendance: 306
- Birth certificates issued: 215
- SIN numbers issues: 102
- Canada Learning Bond beneficiaries: 236
Overcoming the challenge of getting documentation
The lack of necessary identification has been the key roadblock to enrolment in the CLB program. This event helped families eliminate that problem.
As a one-stop shop event, attendees were able to apply in one location for Social Insurance Numbers and birth certificates, plus open accounts and RESPs with participating financial institutions, including Assiniboine Credit Union.
According to Amy Black, CLB Network Coordinator with Winnipeg Promise, approximately 17,000 letters were sent out to homes around Livingstone School notifying parents about their children who are eligible for, but not receiving CLB benefits.
This area has 40 per cent of the children in Winnipeg who are eligible but not receiving the benefit,” Black said.
Manitoba has been well below the national average for access to the CLB program. Black said letters mailed our for this event also specified how much funding a family’s children were entitled to under the benefit, which is retroactive.
“Now we can say to families that when they open this account the federal government has already essentially approved this amount of money and it will be deposited,” Black said.
Money for children’s future education
Once enrolled in the CLB program through an RESP, participants receive an initial $500. After that, every child could also be eligible to receive another $100 per year into the RESP up to the age of 15 — in total up to $2,000.
Funds in an RESP can be put toward expenses related to full or part-time studies after high school.
For a lot of our families, the number one barrier to having their children access post-secondary education — whether it’s university, college or looking at a profession or trade — is going to be financial,” said Tim Cox, Principal at David Livingstone School.
“This is about giving them the opportunity to say ‘there’s a nest egg available for me, I can start thinking about what I want to do, what I want to be from the time I’m younger to when I’m actually ready to make those choices.’ ”
The event is a natural fit for the school, which is focused on community involvement.
“It’s one of our mandates as a community school,” Cox said. “We’re not just about having kids come into the building. It’s about connecting them and their parents with community organizations and offering these types of supports. It makes a big difference.”
“This is a real opportunity to do some outreach and a real opportunity for a lot of families who wouldn’t necessarily have this type of support or access. Access to banking and identification documents can be challenging for families in our neighbourhoods. We try to make it a really accessible event — a supportive atmosphere and having somebody kind of walk them through each process.”
Making saving easier
Financial institutions, including a team of ACU volunteers, were on-site at the open house to help families open memberships, RESP accounts and apply for the CLB program.
It’s about bringing it directly to families because it’s not as easy as just going to the bank or credit union,” Black said. “Getting your birth certificate, jumping barriers and having somebody to help you through it is a major benefit. We see a lot of families in the evening because they can’t get to Service Canada during the day and you have to do it in person.”
Both WSD Community Service Workers (CSWs) and Intercultural Service Workers (ISWs) took part in the event, welcoming and directing attendees and helping in the process of acquiring birth certificates. The ISWs also offered some vital communication assistance.
“They’ve been able to provide translation services in five different languages,” Black said. “That’s brand new for this event.”
“The WSD really stepped up,” said Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot, ACU’s Manager, Financial Access Programs.
Winnipeg School Division CSWs covered the cost of birth certificates for attendees and SEED Winnipeg provided support for the school division’s CSWs who worked with representatives from the EIA to provide the documents. Service Canada representatives also handled requests for SINs.
An account to continue your education
Brendan Reimer, ACU’s Strategic Partner, Values-Based Banking, was also part of the event team. Reimer said ACU’s commitment to the event and similar initiatives comes back to the credit union’s vision statement: A world where financial services in local communities contribute to a sustainable future for all.
When you make a commitment to being here for all, you’re always asking the question, who is still left out and why? And is there something we can do to change that?”
“We know when it comes to access to financial services, basic things like ID are reasons people can be left out,” Reimer explained, noting that CLB events are about much more than RESPs.
“This is one piece of the puzzle to provide resources for families, but it’s also about changing the conversation,” he said. “Families are at home talking about the possibility of moving into post-secondary education. That conversation is one of the greatest impacts of what happens here — parents saying to their kids, ‘We have an account for you to continue your education.’ ”
A follow-up Canada Learning Bond Open House was held on October 19 at Lavallee School in the Louis Riel School Division with about 5,600 letters sent out in surrounding areas.