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Report slams student income support measures.



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Australian Democrats Press Releases

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Democrats Senator for South Australia Australian Democrats spokesperson for Higher Education

Dated: 23 June 2005

Press Release Number: 05/341 Portfolio: Higher Education

Report slams student income support measures

A Democrat-initiated Senate inquiry into student income support measures has slammed the Government for being 'missing in action' for over a decade on relevant policy reform. The report of the inquiry, tabled in the Senate today, found that policy neglect and poor service delivery of student income support by the Government has become an important factor in the financial hardship faced by thousands of students. "I initiated this important inquiry the first Senate inquiry to look solely at student income support issues to discover exactly why so many students are struggling financially during their time at university, and how their struggles are impacting on their study and lives in general," Australian Democrats' Higher Education Spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said. "Fresh reports of students entering the sex industry to pay their way through university have added to the mountain of evidence about the inadequacy of our student income support system. The Committee overseeing the inquiry heard evidence of students being forced to become human guinea pigs by undergoing medical tests, to support themselves while they study. "It is unacceptable for any young Australian to be forced to resort to such desperate measures in order to pursue tertiary education. "The inquiry heard numerous reports of anomalies in the income support system which are driving students further into poverty and forcing many to give up study altogether. Anomalies include the absurdity of the Government refusing to pay Rent Assistance to students on Austudy, and the differences in the treatment of Commonwealth and university scholarships. "The Australian Council of Social Services' submission stated that in 1998, more than 60 percent of income support recipients were in poverty compared to only 20 percent in 1972-73," Senator Stott Despoja said. "It was pleasing that the Government, Labor and Democrats could reach a consensus on half of the recommendations in the report. "In particular, the Government's support for an independent review of the performance and effectiveness of the student income support system is a significant step towards improving the student income support system. "I urge the Government to end their neglect of students who are fundamental to Australia's future prosperity, beginning with acting on the recommendations of this inquiry as a matter of urgency," Senator Stott Despoja said.