Pic source: uwa.edu.au
BY Andrew Trounson
Access to Youth Allowance student support payments will be widened by new legislation dropping two asset tests at a cost to the budget of $263 million over four years.
The measure will particularly benefit regional families who often face higher costs from having to move to attend university. It was recommended by a preliminary interdepartmental committee review on boosting access for regional students that is expected to finalise its report by the end of the month.
The changes, which passed parliament yesterday, are effective from next year and will drop the family assets test and the family actual means test for Youth Allowance that applies to students dependent on their families. The income test will still apply but will now take into account all of a family’s dependent children aged under-16, reducing a family’s income liability.
Nationals MP Bridget McKenzie, who has led the push for the review, welcomed the change but cautioned it was only a small step toward addressing regional disadvantage.
“We are wanting recommendations that are creative and innovative, not just tinkering around the edges of Youth Allowance,” Senator McKenzie said.
Social Services minister Christian Porter said the changes would benefit about 33,000 families.
“These changes mean families will no longer have their farm assets counted toward the means test,” Mr Porter said.
“Removing the assets test will allow thousands more people to qualify for an average annual youth payment of more than $7000 a year,” Mr Porter said.
“Thousands more students will benefit from the removal of the means test — they will either receive Youth Allowance for the first time or, if they’re already receiving it, receive $2,000 more each year.”
The government said 13,700 families will receive an increase in payments of about $1120 a year and 5800 families will become eligible for the first time for payments of about $1,300 a year.
The removal of child support payments from the parental income test will benefit 3800 families to the tune of $900 a year.
A student is deemed to be dependent if aged under-22, unless they otherwise qualify as independent through supporting themselves by meeting minimum work criteria. The maximum youth allowance rate for a student aged 18 or over and required to live away from home is $426.80 a fortnight.
University participation at university significantly lags metropolitan areas. While the proportion of 24-35 year olds with at least a bachelor degree qualification is now 42 per cent in the cities, it is just 20 per cent in regional areas.