Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP used the new constituency question time in Parliament this week to question the Minister for Social Services Christian Porter on the progress the government is making towards fair and equitable access to Youth Allowance for rural and regional students.
Mr Wilson has been campaigning for fairer access to Youth Allowance for regional students since his election.
“What I hear a lot from my rural constituents is that farm assets are counted towards an income test and therefore students are ineligible for Youth Allowance,” Mr Wilson said.
“The question is timely as this week the Social Services Legislation Amendment (More Generous Means Testing for Youth Payments) Bill 2015 was debated in Parliament.”
The proposed changes will simplify rules by closely aligning the parental means test assessment for youth payments with the family tax benefit A assessment.
Minister Porter said in his response that the family tax benefit part A has no family assets test or family actual means test requirement.
“What that will mean, across Australia, is about 1,200 families from regional and remote areas will become eligible for an increase in payment from the removal of the family actual means test,” Minister Porter said.
“They are also expected to benefit from the removal of the family assets test.
“What you will see is farming families who will not have farm assets counted towards the test for their children accessing youth allowance, and for all of the families that we have looked at you will see a benefit of an increase in their rate of youth allowance of about $7,000 per year.”
Earlier this year Mr Wilson held a higher education forum in Albany attended by over 65 people. The forum in Albany was one of 14 regional education forums held across Australia.
One parent described spending up to 80 hours trying to help their child fill out the necessary documentation regarding the issue of asset testing.
Mr Wilson said this is clearly an untenable situation and it leaves these families at great disadvantage.
There is currently an interdepartmental committee between the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education and Training looking at access to higher education for regional and remote students.
The information gained at the forum will be included in a final report to be presented to Minister Porter and Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham.