A sense of deja vu – welfare reform in Australia, young people amongst its victims

ta to guardian.au
ta to guardian.au

In the pre-election circus here in the UK Cameron pledges to slash benefits cap to £23,000 and remove housing benefits for under 21s within first week of a general election win. Meanwhile the Australian government seems to be inspired by Ian Duncan-Smith’s failed attempt to revolutionise welfare by means of ‘universal credit’. The commissioned McClure report places its faith in Information Technology. Perhaps no one has noticed that it is estimated that a full roll out of the scheme in the UK will take more than 1,500 years. The latest Audit Office update stated the net cost to government would be £138m  over 10 years. Meanwhile the usual victims of welfare rationalisation – the unemployed, the disabled and young people are ignored.

Our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland have issued the following statement of anger and concern

25th February 2015

New welfare model fails young Australians

State and national youth peak bodies have expressed their strong concern about the Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister for Social Service (the McClure Report), released earlier today. The McClure report proposes a simplification of the income support system, including changes to the Youth Allowance payment.

Mr Siyavash Doostkhah, Director of Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ) slammed the report as shallow and divisive. “The McClure report considers all young people under 22 years to be engaged in some form of education or employment. This is based on a false assumption that the current education and training systems are working adequately and that we are not facing very high youth unemployment rates across Australia” he said.

“In recent times we have lost some great youth employment programs which the Federal Government must reinstate if it is to be taken seriously. For example the Youth Connections program helped around 30,000 young Australians back into study and training each year, and showed a much higher success rate than Work for the Dole” said the YANQ Director.

At present, young people under 22 years who are studying, doing an apprenticeship or looking for work may still be eligible for some Youth Allowance, depending on their parents’ income. Under the proposed model, unless a young person under 22 was deemed fully independent, any income support would go to their parents. The report proposes this ‘Age of Independence’ as 22 years, on the grounds that young people are living at home longer.

The youth peaks from across Australia reject this arbitrary “age of independence”. The peaks also call for recognition of the reasons why young people are living at home longer: because they can’t access the housing market or can’t find enough secure employment. “Young people are trapped into depending on their families because there aren’t enough jobs for them to earn in their own right,” said Australian Youth Affairs Coalition’s National Director, Leo Fieldgrass. “We also need to do more to address the severe shortage of affordable housing, which is holding many young adults back” said Mr Fieldgrass.

CONTACT: Siyavash Doostkhah, Director, Youth Affairs Network of Queensland
Phone: 0407 655 785
Email: director@yanq.org.au

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