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Urgent support needed for gap year students.

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Urgent support needed for gap year students

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Source: Darren Chester MP

The Federal Government has been asked to urgently review its support for students currently undertaking a ‘gap’ year who had been working toward receiving the independent rate of Youth Allowance.

The Rudd Government has proposed retrospective changes which will see those students unable to achieve independent status to attend university next year, despite having met all the eligibility rules as they currently stand.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the changes would significantly disadvantage regional students who needed to relocate to attend university.

Mr Chester has called on the Government to urgently extend a much-needed olive-branch to those students who have already deferred their studies and are working to meet the eligibility criteria as it currently stands.

“These students acted in good faith, on the advice of Centrelink and careers teachers, to achieve their dream of attending university,” Mr Chester said.

“Many have until July 31 to contact their university and confirm whether they will take up their place next year.

“They have been left in limbo by the Rudd Labor Government, unsure of whether they will receive any support to assist them with the costs of university.

The Government must guarantee that no student undertaking a ‘gap’ year will be worse off under the changes to the independent Youth Allowance which are planned to come into effect on January 1, 2010.

Mr Chester said he had written 60 separate letters to the Minister for Education to highlight the disadvantage facing Gippslanders and all regional students.

He has also presented more than 5,000 signatures in Federal Parliament from petitioners who believe that the Youth Allowance changes places another barrier to university participation and unfairly discriminates against students currently undertaking a ‘gap’ year.

Mr Chester said in a small win, the Coalition has initiated a Senate inquiry which will investigate the level of support for regional students.

However, the situation was more urgent for those students who are currently undertaking a

‘gap’ year.

“The changes should be deferred so that students who have acted in good faith, on the advice of Centrelink and careers teachers, and have already deferred their studies and begun working to meet the current eligibility rules, can still achieve an independent rate of Youth Allowance,” Mr Chester said.

“I have met with many students across Gippsland who feel cheated - they have followed the rules and now they are stranded in the middle of a gap year which doesn’t help them achieve their university dreams.

“Many students have deferred their studies for a year so they can qualify for independent Youth Allowance and afford to move to Melbourne to study - but removal of the current independence criteria is retrospective.

“These students don’t have the option of working for another year to meet the new rules as most tertiary institutions allow a deferral of only one year.

“For many, it is not possible to attend university without Government support as Gippsland families not only have the expenses of supporting their children through university - they also have to pay a second set of household bills, including rent, water, gas, electricity and so forth.

“It is imperative that the Government urgently address the immediate problems facing students who have already embarked on their ‘gap’ year and are now stranded - unable to attend university next year and unable to further defer their studies.”

Mr Chester said he had contacted Minister Gillard directly calling for an urgent review to support students currently undertaking their gap year.