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Women and older students most affected by HELP repayment proposal

Published: 30 March 2016

Lowering the threshold for starting HELP payments to $42,000 as recommended by the latest Grattan Institute Report would affect women and older students studying health, welfare and education courses and could lead to a downturn in enrolments in these courses, says the Australian Association of Social Workers.

National Vice-President, Christine Craik, says more women and older students are attracted to such courses, citing the findings of a joint AASW and James Cook University study of 2300 social work students conducted late last year.

“In social work courses, 87 per cent of students are women and 35 per cent of all students are aged over 35,” said Ms Craik.

“While there is an argument that supports lowering the income threshold for HECS payments for former students able to pay, it is important the Government makes sure any changes to the scheme and the HELP system as a whole do not unfairly disadvantage the less well-off, including women, or jeopardise other policy initiatives that support better education and employment opportunities.”

“Do we want to add to the already great pressure on students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who rely on allowances that are already indexed well below the aged pension?” Ms Craik asked.

Of the Grattan report’s benchmarking against other income support programs such as Newstart Allowance, which show the new levels where repayments of HELP would begin as quite generous, Ms Craik said:

“These benchmarks could be acceptable only if the levels of Newstart and the even lower student allowances were paid at reasonable rates. Currently, Newstart, Youth Allowance and Austudy leave many unemployed people and students in poverty for long periods and this is socially unjust.”

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

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers