Encouraging sole parents into higher studyTertiary Education, Skills and Employment Social Development
Budget 2014 will make it much easier for sole parents to move off benefit and into full time study announced Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development.
The Government is investing between $18 and $24 million over four years to implement three policy changes that will align the student support system for sole parents with the benefit system.
It is estimated the changes will see around 3,000 more sole parents move into fulltime study over the next four years, adding to the 2,400 currently accessing mainstream student support.
From July 2015, sole parents taking up full-time study will receive at least the same level of accommodation support from the student support system as they do with the benefit system. Currently they may receive up to $165 less per week.
The Government will also be amending the rules around child support and voluntary arrangements which can be affected if sole parent students need a benefit during academic breaks.
Changes to legislation will be introduced to allow sole parent students’ child support arrangements to continue while they temporarily claim a benefit.
In addition, the stand down period for sole parents needing a benefit over summer will also be abolished.
“It makes sense to invest in education for more sole parents. We know that a sole parent with no qualifications spends on average around 17 years on a benefit at a cost of $230,000 over their lifetime. That’s compared to a sole parent with a tertiary qualification spending seven and a half years less on benefit, costing $88,000 less over a lifetime,” says Mrs Bennett.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce says the initiatives will have big benefits for those who take advantage of them.
“We know that people with qualifications have better life outcomes – they are more likely to be employed and earn more, to live longer, and to be happier and healthier. That’s why making it easier for sole parents to make that choice to study and move off benefit is such a priority for this Government,” says Mr Joyce.
Research shows that sole parent beneficiaries who completed level 1-3 qualifications were five per cent more likely to be employed within five years of starting their study.
Those completing level 4 qualifications or above were between 9-19 per cent more likely to get work within the same period.
“Some of these changes require legislation. We will introduce the higher rates of payment for accommodation support by July 2015. All other changes should be in place by the end of 2016, ensuring that sole parents in the student support system receive a consistent level of assistance over their summer break,” says Mr Joyce.