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Estimates mount pressure on Govt to re-think proposed Youth Allowance changes

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 4 Jun 2009

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says pressure is mounting on the Federal Government to re-think their proposed changes to the Youth Allowance Independence Test.

Senator Hanson-Young, the Greens’ spokesperson for Education, has been questioning the Education Department about the controversial proposed changes to Youth Allowance contained in Budget measures, as part of Senate Estimates this week.

“It is increasingly clear from the Government’s responses in Estimates that the removal of workforce participation eligibility criteria from the Youth Allowance Independence Test has not been thought through properly,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“Students have taken in good faith the advice given to them in their classrooms by Centrelink representatives, as to how to qualify for income support while at uni.

“Thousands have taken a gap year to work hard towards Independent status in the eyes of the Government, only to discover in the Budget fallout that that option will no longer be valid from January 1 next year, making the changes effectively retrospective.

“The reassurances from the Government that it has consulted with rural and regional communities over the Youth Allowance changes ring hollow when the Education Department cannot provide the information you would expect to glean from that consultation.

“Despite sustained questioning, the Government has failed to articulate the impact the removal of the workforce participation eligibility criteria will have on the 30,700 people it estimates will be affected.

“What we are being told is that some of those people will still benefit under the changes, some will receive less money, and some will not benefit at all – but the Government cannot tell us how many people fall into each of those categories.

“For some people, we are talking about the difference between pursuing a study career and throwing away a university dream here – this information must be made available.”

Senator Hanson-Young said the Government was being challenged from all directions on the proposed changes to Youth Allowance.

“From the city to the bush, and from students, parents and educators alike, what the Greens are hearing is that people are not happy with these changes,” she said.

“The Government should face up to the unfair ramifications of this policy, cut its losses, and amend its own legislation before it reaches the Parliament.”

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