Media Release by The Hon Paul Fletcher MP

Changes to welfare measures for the New Year

A number of changes introduced by the Liberal-National Government taking effect from tomorrow will make the welfare system more effective, sustainable and stronger.

Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, said measures to help students stay at university and refugees to find work are among important changes.

“Regional students who must relocate for their tertiary studies now have improved access to Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Living Allowance,” Mr Fletcher said.

“The parental income cut-off for the self-supporting independence criterion will increase from $150,000 to $160,000.

“The new $160,000 cut-off will be further increased by $10,000 for each additional child in the family, recognising the extra costs of raising larger families.”

Regional students will also be provided with additional certainty about whether they will meet this parental income cut-off. This measure gives them the option to make the year in which the parental income is assessed the financial year before the beginning of their self-supporting period.

“This means that students will know before they decide to take a gap year, whether their parental income will be under the cut-off,” Mr Fletcher said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who need to travel away from home to study will benefit from improvements to ABSTUDY, as will their schools.

These include safer, fairer and more flexible travel arrangements, consistent Living Allowance rates, simplified criteria and guidelines for approval of scholarships and payments to boarding schools.

From tomorrow, all recipients of student payments will automatically be issued a Health Care Card. This simplifies concession card arrangements for students and provides a much more efficient process, as they no longer need to apply for a Low Income Health Care Card.

Newly arrived migrants granted permanent residency will have to wait up to four years before accessing some payments and concession cards.

“These changes ensure Australia’s welfare system is effective, sustainable and better targeted to those in the greatest genuine need of support,” Mr Fletcher said.

“There will be exemptions in cases where a person’s circumstances have suddenly changed.

 “The changes align with community expectations that people who can work should get off welfare and into employment, wherever possible.”