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AASW urges Senate to reject removal of Pensioner Education Supplement

Published: 19 January 2016

In a submission to the Senate, the Australian Association of Social Workers rejects the Government’s proposal to remove the Pensioner Education Supplement (PES) that is worth up to $36.20 per week for approved students who receive the Disability Support Pension.

If the Senate passes the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015 that is currently before them, the supplement that helps with education costs will be removed, says AASW National Vice President, Christine Craik.

"Students with a disability who have proven that they can attend tertiary education deserve and require more support, not less.”

“The proposed legislative change flies in the face of all the reforms under the NDIS which is all about assisting people with disability to continue to play a productive part in our society and economy."

Ms Craik said there are now more students with a disability accessing tertiary education. However they still face some major obstacles.

“Recent research by the AASW and James Cook University has revealed that over 2 per cent of social work degree students nationally were on a disability support pension and many often struggle financially to survive,” said Ms Craik.

“Over half of these students reported regularly going without food or other necessities, only a quarter had savings in the event of a financial difficulty and just 16 per cent had financial support from parents, partners or other family members.”

The AASW, which represents over 9,000 professional social workers from around Australia, many of whom work on the front line of poverty prevention, understands students who currently receive the PES will lose up to $1800 a year under the proposed budget saving initiative.

Ms Craik said the Government has claimed there are more appropriate channels of government-funded study and training assistance but the AASW strongly disputes this.

“The Government intends saving $252.4 million with this measure which will remove much needed benefits,” Ms Craik said.

“We are calling on the Senate to reject this element of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill and increase both the Pensioner Education Supplement and Education Entry Payment rather than remove them.”

To organise an interview with the AASW Spokesperson please contact Emma Pegrum, Media and Marketing Manager, on 02 6199 5011 or 0408 200 191.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers