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Youth and Student Support
Youth and student support policy is aimed at promoting a family orientation in developing youth policy. It is formulated to help low- to middle-income families by providing income support for young people undertaking education or training or seeking work. The policy is also trying to develop new partnership arrangements within and across levels of government and with community organisations to support innovations in youth and family support arrangements around young people’s transitions to independence and adulthood.
Youth Allowance is the main income support payment for people aged 16-20 years actively seeking employment and for full-time students 16-24 years old. It is subject to an individual income and assets test and a parental income and assets test. A person may be exempt from the parental test if they meet the Youth Allowance independence criteria. In addition a person must undertake approved activities that may include full-time study or a combination of activities such as job search, work for the dole, literacy and numeracy courses, part-time education, part-time employment and voluntary work. People on Youth Allowance may be required to undertake Mutual Obligation activities.
The rate of Youth Allowance is determined on whether the person is single, partnered, if they have children, if they live at home or need to live away from home.
Austudy payment is paid to students 25 years and over whose financial circumstances are such that without financial help, full-time study would not be possible. The rate of Austudy is dependent on whether the person is single or partnered, whether they have children and whether the person is a ‘long-term income support student’.
There is also a Student Financial Supplement Scheme that gives students the option of increasing their income while studying. Students surrender one dollar of income support for two dollars of fully refundable repayable loan that is repaid on an income contingent basis. The scheme helps remove barriers to participation in education.
Eligible students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or Pensioner Education Supplement, who usually live away from home will receive a Fares Allowance which contributes to travel costs.
Table 7.10 shows the number of Youth and Student Support recipients and expenditure by payment type.
Child Care Support
Child Care Support policies have been developed to help families to participate in the economic and social life of the community through providing support for child care.
Child Care Benefit (CCB), which replaced Childcare Assistance and the Childcare rebate from 1 July 2000, helps families with the cost of child care, with financial assistance proportionally higher for lower income families. Eligible families can have the benefit paid directly to the child care service to reduce their ongoing fees. Alternatively they can receive the benefit as a lump sum refund at the end of the financial year. Families using registered carers (i.e. informal care provided by a friend or neighbour), rather than formal care in an approved service, are eligible for the minimum rate of CCB. This is paid for up to 50 hours per week of work-related child care.
The Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Program helps some people on particular payments from Centrelink (including parents, widows, carers) gain new skills or update existing skills, and improve their chances of gaining employment. JET Child Care provides extra assistance to eligible customers who need help finding suitable affordable child care. Assistance is provided through the JET child care network and is called Child Care for Eligible Parents Undergoing Training.
Table 7.11 shows the number of Child Care Support recipients and expenditure by payment type.
Labour Market Assistance
Labour Market Assistance policies are designed to help support people of working age through providing income support to those seeking work or undertaking other activities such as training or community work or caring for children. Most income support payments are subject to a means test, which assesses family income and assets.
There are two main income support payments for Labour Market Assistance: Newstart Allowance (NSA) and Parenting Payment.
NSA is paid to people aged 21-64 years who are unemployed and actively searching for work. They must be willing to undertake suitable paid work, which includes full-time, part-time or casual employment. They may also qualify if undertaking a vocational training course, participating in a labour market program or undertaking other agreed activities.
NSA jobseekers may be asked to undertake Mutual Obligation activities, in addition to their job search, after six months of unemployment and annually thereafter. Mutual Obligation requires people to take part in activities to improve their skills and work habits. It aims to enhance the person’s job prospects and competitiveness in the labour market, promotes involvement in community work and facilitates transition from welfare to employment. From 1 July 2002, Mutual Obligation requirements apply to all job seekers up to 49 years of age.
Parenting Payment is paid to single and partnered low-income parents who are primary carers for children under 16. The policy recognises the important contribution made by parents caring for children at home and aims to avoid parents future choices being limited by long periods out of the workforce.
Other payments for Labour Market Assistance include: Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Bereavement Allowance and Special Benefit. Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance and Widow Allowance all recognise the labour market difficulties faced by some older unemployed people who have no recent workforce experience. Bereavement Allowance is a short-term payment for recently widowed people without dependent children, payable for up to 14 weeks. Special Benefit provides assistance to people in severe financial need and for whom no other pension, allowance or other support is available.
Pensioner Education Supplement, Education Entry Payment and Employment Entry Payment provide supplementary financial assistance to help with the costs of taking up study and entering the work force.
Table 7.12 shows the number of Labour Market Assistance recipients by expenditure and payment type.
Support for people with a disability
The policy to support people with disabilities is designed to promote independence and self-reliance through the provision of rehabilitation services, specialist employment services and other services for people with a disability. It also aims to help support people with a disability with limited means through the provision of income support.
Disability Support Pension (DSP) is the main form of income support for people with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment resulting in an inability to work for at least 30 hours per week at award wages, or be retrained for work, for at least two years. DSP is income and assets tested. However, the permanently blind are exempt from the income test. DSP for people aged 21 years and over is paid at the same rate as Age Pension. Youth rates apply to those aged under 21 years. These are largely tied to Youth Allowance rates, but include a supplement of $85.30 per fortnight. Youth rates are not subject to parental income or assets tests.
From September 2002, the Better Assessment and Early Intervention Australians Working Together measure provides for an increased focus on the assessment of work capacity for people who are ill, injured or have a disability and on the early identification of interventions, such as rehabilitation and employment assistance, to help people maximise their economic and social participation.
Other support for people with a disability includes Mobility Allowance and Sickness Allowance. Mobility Allowance is intended to help those who are involved in paid work, vocational training or voluntary work or a combination of some of these, who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance. Sickness Allowance may be paid to people between 21 and Age Pension age, who are temporarily unable to work or continue with their full-time study due to illness or injury but who have a job or study to return to.
Wife Pension (DSP) provides an income for a woman who is a partner of a DSP recipient, is aged below Age Pension age and is not receiving any other payment in her own right. This payment is gradually being phased out, with new grants of Wife Pension ceasing after 30 June 1995.
Table 7.13 shows the number of recipients of support for people with a disability, and expenditure by payment type.
Support for carers
There are two forms of Commonwealth financial assistance that may be available in a caring situation - Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.
Carer Payment provides income support to people who, due to the demands of their caring role, are unable to support themselves through substantial workforce participation. Carer Payment is subject to income and assets tests and is paid at the same rate as other social security pensions.
Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment that is available to people who provide daily care and attention at home for an adult or child with a disability or severe medical condition. Carer Allowance is not income or assets tested. It can be paid in addition to a social security income support payment.
Table 7.14 shows the number of support for carer recipients and expenditure by payment type.
Support for the aged
Policies relating to support for the aged are designed to help retirees make best use of their own financial resources to maintain their standard of living, and to support the aged with limited means through providing income support. They are also intended to provide information and foster opportunities for older people to participate in the community.
The principal form of support is the Age Pension. Age Pension age for men is 65 and for women is being progressively raised to 65 by 2014. The qualifying age for women depends on their date of birth, with the minimum age increasing by six months at two year intervals until it reaches 65 for those born on or after 1 January 1949.
Other payments available for older Australians include Wife Pension and Widow B Pension. These payments were designed to provide financial assistance to women below the pension age who are either the partner of an age pensioner or who have lost the financial support of a male partner through death, separation or divorce. The concepts behind these payments have been updated to reflect a more modern society and consequently these payments have been closed to new entrants. From 1 July 1995 for Wife Pension, and from 21 March 1997 for Widow B Pension, payments have been confined to women already receiving the payment on those dates.
The ageing of the Australian population will increase the financial commitment of the Australian economy to support the aged. It is expected that Age Pension expenditure will increase from 3.0% of gross domestic product to 4.6% by 2050.
Table 7.15 shows the number of recipients and expenditure by payment type for support for the aged.