At the end of 2006, the Labour Government is planning on introducing legislation to fundamentally change the welfare system in New Zealand. They are creating a ‘Single Core Benefit’ to replace the current benefit programme. NZUSA is watching these changes closely, as it will potentially impact thousands of predominantly female students. This is for a number of reasons – firstly that the application process for the DPB will be harder and designed to discourage applicants. Secondly, the work-test for the DPB will be made stricter, and thirdly those students that are on the DPB (90% of which are female) may also receive the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) about which no mention has been made in any of the consultation so far. It is this last fact that concerns NZUSA the most. The TIA is an important allowance for single parents studying, as it helps them address barriers to entering employment and provide financial help with the additional costs of studying and raising children. NZUSA believes that no news is bad news, and is actively seeking more information on the fate of the TIA.
The TIA was introduced in 1983 to enable recipients of the emergency maintenance allowance, the domestic purposes benefit, the widow’s benefit, and the invalid’s benefit to undergo employment related training. It helps people dependent upon benefits for their income to move back into paid employment. Central to this aim is the need to enhance recipients’ self confidence and their work skills. It therefore has an important place within the benefit system. It does however have some flaws.
Since the 80s the TIA has undergone a number of changes. Initially ‘employment related training’ was defined to include postgraduate courses. In 1995, however, Honours, Masters, and Doctoral degrees through a tertiary institution or any other course (including a diploma course) that has as a pre-requisite any undergraduate degree or diploma or a period of relevant work experience were excluded from the courses covered by the TIA. This is still the case today. In addition, from January 2000, the 40% learner co-payment requirement was removed, which places the responsibility wholly on the government as opposed to sharing the costs between the institution and the government. On the positive side, in 2000 eligibility to apply for the TIA was restored to those with a recent degree, and an annual inflation adjustment was introduced.
Change isn’t always a bad thing. However, changes without consultation are. Any modification to the TIA as part of the single core benefit plan will significantly impact a large number of students, mainly women. 85% of TIA recipients in the last three years were on the DPB, and over the last three years over 90% of TIA recipients were women. The financial investment provided to these women by the TIA is a maximum of $81.98 per week – with the average paid per year being $1,850 (this was a stable figure for last three years). In 2004 there were 24,411 recipients of the TIA, and those students rely on it to somewhat help with textbooks, childcare and transport costs. The amount provided could certainly be higher, as it doesn’t represent the true costs they face, but at least it exists at present.
Students that receive the TIA are still in the dark as to what will come of it when the Single Core Benefit is introduced. In 2004 and 2005 the government put $36 million into the scheme which was a decrease from previous years. In this year’s budget slightly more money was allocated to the scheme which could be a positive sign for its future. The government seriously needs to step up its consultation with TIA recipients, and supporters need to put pressure on the government to provide information about their actual plans for this necessary allowance. In a perfect world they will increase the allowance, and make it available for postgraduate study. Realistically though, numbers will probably drop and access to the allowance will be more heavily monitored (judging by the other core benefit plans available). Now is the time to lobby for more information and more consultation on this highly important issue.
SEND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TRAINING INCENTIVE ALLOWANCE TO THE MINISTER FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, DAVID BENSON POPE, OR TO THE MINISTER OF WOMEN’S AFFAIRS LIANNE DALZIEL. TELL THEM TO ENSURE THE TIA REMAINS, AND TO EXTEND IT TO COVER THE TRUE COSTS OF CHILD-RAISING WHILST STUDYING.