No safety net for young people

The federal budget announced last night hits young people the hardest, with draconian changes to Centrelink support for under 30 year olds:

  • Newstart (an extra $45 per week) will only be available for those 25 years or older
  • A 6 month waiting period for Youth Allowance and Newstart
  • A 6 months on / 6 months off social security scheme that will leave young jobseekers without any form of income for 6 months every year
  • Financial penalties for young people who do not accept a job offered
  • Tightened eligibility for the Disability Support Pension that will effectively exclude young people experiencing mental health issues

These budget announcements will result in more young people living in poverty and homelessness.

From our experience, young people are keen to study and work, but there are not enough opportunities available for young people experiencing disadvantage to “earn and learn”.

Education and training more expensive

An alarming number of Victorian teenagers are dropping out of school each year. A further 6,000 are dropping out within 12 months of transferring to the state’s vocational education and training system.

These figures confirm what youth services on the ground have been observing – young people as young as 10 seeking help having dropped out of school and left home.

There is a growing and significant number of young Victorians disengaging from school and faring badly. Most have not come to the attention of child protection and are now homeless or living in unstable and/or abusive homes. They are largely invisible to the public and government, and reliant on youth and government services.

Despite these concerns, education funding has been slashed with the highly anticipated Gonski reforms to improve education outcomes for our future leaders being cut.

Following the budget, it will be harder for young people to study with higher course fees for students going to university and requiring young people to repay university debts on lower incomes with higher interest.

Youth unemployment crisis

Young Victorians are struggling to find work. The youth unemployment rate in Victoria has jumped to 12.5% – more than double the national figure. In some areas youth unemployment has risen more than 50% in the past two years.

With such high youth unemployment, young people experiencing disadvantage and struggling to find work will soon be without any income. They will face eviction, poverty and homelessness.

Funding cuts to Youthlaw

Last night, the federal Attorney-General notified community legal centres of how funding cuts of $43.1 million will occur over 2 years.

These cuts will significantly reduce essential legal help for vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians.  Youthlaw was notified that the $150,000 granted by the former Attorney-General to fund Youthlaw Online for 3 years – a free Skype legal advice service to young people without help and struggling in country Victoria – will be cut by $100,000.

The budget has also defunded a number of core community services, including Youth Connections (a program to help young Australians remain engaged with education and training).

We are concerned that young people will become increasingly desperate to fund their basic survival needs when their social security payments are taken away from them. We anticipate an increase in criminal offending and mounting debt for young people experiencing homelessness, at a time when community legal centres and legal aid face crippling funding cuts.