Urgent overhaul of Youth Allowance urged

The Southern Tasmanian Youth Transitions Task Force has urged the Federal Government to undertake an urgent overhaul of the Youth Allowance so that it better supports young Australians undertaking post-school study.

The Task Force, established under the State Government’s Guaranteeing Futures initiative, and auspiced by the Southern Tasmanian Councils Authority, claims that the current structure of the Youth Allowance often acts as a disincentive for young people in their efforts to remain in further education.

The Task Force, which comprises young people, and representatives of the community, local government, business and the youth sector, works to enhance transition options and opportunities for young people moving from compulsory education, to further education, training and work.

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It commissioned a study into the Youth Allowance, including a focus group of young Tasmanians, after it became clear that major barriers were being created in the way in which the Allowance was applied.

The Task Force today presented its report to the Federal Member for Denison, Hon Duncan Kerr MHR, to pass on to the Federal Minister for Education, Hon Julia Gillard. The paper will also be presented to Federal Liberal and Green MPs, and to the State Government to be raised at national education forums.

“Major changes are needed in the structure of the Youth Allowance so that it focuses on providing educational incentives for young people to develop their potential skills for the future, the Chair of the Task Force, Kim Boyer, said.

“This will benefit both young people themselves, and the community as a whole.

“Currently the Youth Allowance is treated like a welfare benefit, with rigid tests of ‘independence’ which assume young people are dependent on their parents for education until they are 25.

“This means young people have to take time away from their education to earn enough money to be deemed independent. After that break, many just don’t go back to education, which represents a loss of skills which we as the so-called clever country can’t afford.

“Having an accessible and economically robust Youth Allowance is particularly critical in a state like Tasmania, where we know that more than 40% of young people currently in our State secondary colleges need state departmental student assistance for books and levies, she said.

One of the young members of the Task Force, Clare Rutherford, said that the process of proving ‘independence’ was frustrating.

“If you can drive, vote and go to war for your country at 18, surely you can be considered independent from your parents for education purposes, she said.

“Lots of parents can’t afford to support us anyway, even though they might scrape through the Parental Income Test. And some won’t support us, because they think study is a luxury and we should just go out and get a job.

“And if you are from a rural community, or if you have to move to a particular campus to study away from your home town, the challenges to balance finding accommodation, work and study are even harder—a real nightmare!

“Payment levels are also very low—less that 60% of the poverty line even with accommodation allowance.

“The accommodation allowance, too, is far too low, and needs to recognise the really huge difficulty in finding suitable affordable accommodation at a time when there is huge pressure in the rental market for low cost housing.”

The Task Force recommends a number of initiatives for the Government to improve the Youth Allowance (YA) system, including:-

  • Young people satisfying the criteria for independence at age 18, rather than 25, for YA
  • Separating YA from general welfare payments system so that it better addresses educational incentives and outcomes
  • Increasing the rate of YA so that it is above the poverty line
  • Providing a one-off small payment to assist young people with start-up expenses when they first begin tertiary education
  • Provision of cost reimbursements for rural students, and other students who need to move to another urban community to study
  • Increasing rent allowance and adjusting it to market rates, rather than the CPI

For further information contact:

Kim Boyer, Chair, Southern Tasmanian Youth Transitions Taskforce –
M: 0418 124 110 or,
Gerry White, Project Manager, Southern Tasmanian Youth Transitions Taskforce – M: 0438 059 237