Backroom girl has been vigorously contesting my view on who should be counted as ‘independent’ of their parents for welfare purposes.
I’d say that the following are normally signs of independence:
* receiving no or trivial financial support from parents
* moving out
* starting own family, marriage and especially own children
Under the current independence test, only children will get you straight onto the welfare roll, though if you have been married or [corrected; comment 1] in a de facto relatationship for 12 months you can also get YA in your own right.
Moving out doesn’t make you independent, unless your parents are a threat to you. However, even if your parents help with the bills I’d say living away from your parents does require self-sufficiency in many other respects.
However working 30 hours a week for 18 months or 15 hours a week for two years does make you independent, though the latter does not in my view meet any reasonable test of what ‘independence’ means. A low-skill worker could not earn enough to live independently on 15 hours a week, even in a shared expense household. As the AVCC student finances report found, that’s routine hours for undergraduates and means that many of them would qualify as ‘independent’ for YA after 2 years at uni, despite their actual circumstances not changing at all.
So in my view the current independence critera are too lax on the work test, and too strict on moving out.
From my perspective, what policy should be achieving here is minimising the cost of Youth Allowance to the taxpayer while trying to encourage university attendance by people with genuine financial hardship issues.
That’s why I am inclined to give kids from rural areas easier access to YA when they have to move to study. It is why I am inclined to make it easier for kids from homes in the $35,000 to $60,000 a year range to get more assistance. It is why I am inclined to increase the amount that can be earned personally before benefits are cut.
And if all this has to be done without blowing the YA budget (about $1 billion a year now) I’d suggest that ‘independent’ at home is the most obvious place to start. Perhaps a compromise between bg’s position and mine would be to tighten the work test to 30 hours a week for 2 years, so that very few people would do it just to get YA.