The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is appalled by the proposed changes to Newstart and Youth Allowance payments in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017.
The proposed changes include a number of elements that will disproportionately and negatively impact students, including:
- Upon being found eligible for Youth Allowance, individuals will still have to wait four to five weeks before receiving payment
- Youth Allowance eligibility would depend upon the completion of mandatory activities, such as looking for work through ‘RapidConnectPlus’
- Individuals aged 22 to 24 would no longer be eligible for Newstart payments ($528.70 per fortnight), and would have to transition on to Youth Allowance ($437.50 per fortnight). This is a cut of over 17%; that is, $2400 less per year
To put this in context: the Australian Council of Social Service defines “poverty” for a single adult at an income of less than $426.30 per week.
The proposed changes depict a unacceptable lack of awareness by the government for the concerns and needs of students. It is shameful that the Coalition have deprioritised student welfare to an extent that will cause serious ongoing financial stress to a significant segment of the student community.
UMSU condemns these changes, and will continue to advocate and fight for an equitable Centrelink system that puts the wellbeing of students above the drive for profit.
UMSU is further disappointed by the Department of Social Services’ statement that the proposed changes will “provide incentives to young unemployed people to obtain the relevant education and training to increase employability”. This implies that Centrelink benefits exist to provide incentives to find jobs. UMSU contends that it is the lack of jobs that necessitates these payments, and that it is the role of payments to ensure young people are able to maintain a reasonable standard of living when they are looking for work or studying full-time.
UMSU would also like to take this opportunity to remind University of Melbourne students that the Welfare department provides a free foodbank and breakfast bar, housing services and referrals to relevant support organisations.