There has been a small handout to struggling young Australians in the 2023 federal budget, with an increase in the Youth Allowance.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced on Tuesday that those on the Youth Allowance will receive an extra fortnightly payment of $40.
“We have designed a budget that takes some of the sting out of cost-of-living pressures without blowing the budget, and without adding substantially to these inflationary pressures in the economy,” he said.
“I think it’s important to increase the base rate of the Youth Allowance in the budget as people are under the pump.”
The $40 works out to be an extra $2.85 a day, which the National Union of Students (NUS) Education Officer Xavier Dupe said is not nearly enough to deal with the rising cost of living expenses.
“What good is $2.85 a day when rents are going up by hundreds of dollars a week,” he said.
The Youth Allowance was introduced as a single payment for students under the age of 25 years-old in 1998 by the Howard Government.
This payment is currently available to students aged 16-24, working full-time or those undertaking a 75 per cent workload.
The NUS estimates that there are 173,945 students on Youth Allowance payments.
A key requirement of eligibility for the payment monitors if students are meeting Centrelink’s age of independence rule.
Centrelink only recognises those above the age of 22 as independent, a factor that angers some students.
Full-time university student Sienna Wallace said that the age should be lowered as it does not accommodate many students’ living situations.
“It’s really frustrating because despite living away from home, I still can’t qualify for payments because it goes back to what my mum earns,” she said.
The age of independence has wavered over time, however despite being 10 years since the most recent change, there has been no announcement from the government regarding a drop in the age limit.
For all 173,945 students on Youth Allowance payments, the rate of Government financial support they receive is well below the poverty line.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) report on people living in poverty, shows that those living on the Youth Allowance payment experienced a level of deep poverty.
The report found that following the boost to welfare payments during Covid-19, poverty levels had fallen to a 17-year low.
Data Sourced from Data.gov.au
Despite the aim to help Australian students with the cost of living, students are still struggling to make ends meet and are often skipping meals to save money, the NUS said. In the first semester of 2023, the Student Guild Food Bank has already provided meals to 1000 students over eight weeks .
The NUS believes the Youth Allowance supports an unattainable way of living for students dealing with massive cost increases in tertiary education.
The Mission Australia Youth Survey is the largest annual survey of young people aged 15–19 years in Australia.
Amongst the 18,800 young people who completed the survey, schooling and study problems were listed in the top four issues of personal concern.
71.9 per cent stated that their plan after graduating was to attend university and 10.1 per cent said they hoped to attend TAFE.
The increasing cost of education is a potential barrier to students wanting to go to university, particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
With limited assistance through government payments such as Youth Allowance, it seems uncertain how students will continue with their education if they can’t afford it.
Contributors, Sienna Wallace.