Changes to youth allowance ‘step in the right direction’
Since my election I’ve been campaigning for changes to Youth Allowance to allow for greater fairness for rural and regional students.
Recently, Minister for Social Services Hon Scott Morrison announced welcome changes that will greatly benefit Great Southern families.
From 1 July 2016, the Family Asset Test and Family Actual Means Test will be removed from the Youth Allowance Parental Income Test. The changes will mean farming families will not have farm assets counted toward the test for their children accessing Youth Allowance.
While a farming family might have significant assets on paper, this does not translate to their bank balance. Treating the family farm as income is completely unreasonable.
Also a part of the changes is all Family Tax Benefit children in the family pool will be included in the income testing arrangements. The current test only includes children over 16. Counting all children will soften reductions in Youth Allowance as the family’s income increases.
These changes are great for rural and regional families and specifically students aiming for dependent Youth Allowance. As more students achieve dependent Youth Allowance status, they won’t have to take a gap year which will lower University deferral rates.
While 27% of the population live in regional and rural communities, they only make 21% of our university population. There are many reasons for this discrepancy and one is the burden on regional students and their families in the cost of living away from home.
While these changes are a step in the right direction, there is still a gap between access to higher education between city and country students.
The next change I’d like to see is the reduction in the Youth Allowance waiting period from 18 months to 14 months. This will give rural and regional students the chance to only be one year behind their city counterparts instead of two.
When students are required to wait 18 months to be eligible for Youth Allowance they end up behind the eight-ball from the beginning - they graduate two years later, take two years more to pursue their chosen careers and pay back their debts two years later.
I will continue to work hard to reduce the Youth Allowance waiting period to make sure our children aren’t disadvantaged trying to further their education.
Rick Wilson MP
Federal Member for O’Connor