The National Union of Students (NUS) is campaigning for Youth Allowance payments to be increased above the poverty line and for age restrictions for eligibility to be lowered. This is based on a recent NUS report which surveyed 673 students aged 18 to 21 on poverty impacts due to being ineligible to access Youth Allowance.
For students to be eligible for Youth Allowance payments they must prove that they are “permanently independent” from their families, which is difficult for those under the age of 22, Centrelink’s set age of independence.
Youth allowance is a financial help scheme launched by the Australian Government under Centrelink to support students under 24 years old and apprentices to finish their studies and help cover daily living costs and rent.
Students who receive Youth Allowance are paid less than $26 a day and cannot afford rentals, textbooks or even food. The report references an analysis of 45,000 rental properties shows that 0% of students on Youth Allowance can afford Australian rental rates.
Adult students under 22 are not eligible to access the Youth Allowance. 86% of those students said it had negatively impacted their financial well-being; 38% said it impacted their housing stability due to unaffordable rents.
Almost 2/3rds of students surveyed said being barred from the government allowance due to their age impacted their educational experience and mental health.
“It would have been a lot easier to focus on university and study,” said Tara (21) in the report. “It is hard to balance with the full-time university at 40 hours per week while trying to have a social life and just being a person.”
Compared to other allowances, such as the disability and age pension, Youth Allowances are indexed at a lower rate and have less frequent payments. The NUS suggests adjusting the payment twice a year in line with inflation, and updating rental assistance regularly according to the housing market.
“Students are paying taxes and are held accountable under the law as adults,” said Georgie Beatty, the President of the National Union of Students, in the report. “At the same time, they are not being paid the same rate or can access social security payments until they turn 22.”
The NUS also suggests introducing new policies targeting rental and housing affordability in Australia and reviewing the Disability Support Pension to ensure students with a disability can access financial support while studying.