Government blocks youth training allowance

Issue 

By Sean Malloy

The federal government has amended the Social Security Act to stop unemployed people under the age of 21 from receiving a training allowance while attending CES courses.

Michael Raper, coordinator of the Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney, said denying the training allowance "compounds the discrimination between under- and over-21s in the income security system.

"There ought not be junior rates, in our view, in the common youth scale that the government is trying to set up. It means that for 16 and 17 year olds there are much lower rates than for 18, 19 and 20 year olds, and those rates are lower than 21 year olds."

The allowance covers travel and other expenses for people who undertake CES courses. Up to $87.90 can be claimed on this allowance.

In December the Social Security Appeals Tribunal ruled that the training allowance should be paid to people under 21 after a 17 year old required by the CES to do a course which involved long distance travel was denied the allowance because of her age.

The decision to deny the payment to under-21s stems directly from the government's 1991-92 budget, which says that "Payments to young unemployed are aligned with AUSTUDY in order to reduce the financial incentive for young people to leave the education system".

Michael Raper disagrees with this approach, "AUSTUDY is for long-term education courses. A person undertakes a course of six months at least, generally for a year or two. That is a choice that most people who take on education are able to make. Unemployment is not a choice.

"There are not enough courses around for people to get into anyway. A lot of unemployed people might prefer to do full-time education if courses were available, but there aren't anywhere near enough places in either universities or technical colleges", he argues.

More than 50,000 people missed out on university places this year, and at least 100,000 people are still waiting to get into TAFE. School retention rates have leapt from 60.3% in 1989 to %71.3 in 1991.

Those not able to get into TAFE or university are forced to look for work and take CES courses to comply with Job Search and New Start regulations.

People aged 16 or 17 who are on AUSTUDY receive $64.15 per week, subject to an assets test, if they live at home or $105.40 per week if they are independent. Students aged between 18 and 21 receive $77.10 per week if they are at home and $117.10 per week if they are independent.

Unemployed people aged 16 or 17 receive $62.05 per week, subject to an assets test, if they are at home or $102.40 per week if they are ar olds receive $113.25 per week. AUSTUDY payments and unemployment benefits for young people are both well below the poverty line, estimated by the Brotherhood of St Laurence as $186.16 per week.

Raper points out that "the rates of Job Search allowance are already pathetically low, especially for under 21 year olds.

"Out of the training supplement, which is a maximum of $87.90 a fortnight, the actual component paid to people in the city would be about $30 a week."

"That would just cover getting to and from the course every day of the week and the additional expense associated with it. You have to do the course, because if you don't, you will get cut off the Job Search allowance", he said.

"Youth unemployment is already around the 30% mark, and it seems to us there ought to be every incentive and encouragement for people to at least be able to undertake some training course."

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