Why I have a problem with Centrelink’s Youth Allowance criteria

May 08, 2017
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Move out of home, they said. It will be fun, they said. It sure is fun guzzling wine from a bag every week because you spend all your dollars on rent and can’t afford nice things. Then we wake up with cheap alcohol hangovers and cry in the shower about the fact that we aren’t eligible for Centrelink payments.

It seems to get more and more impossible for young, full-time students wishing to be independent to get support from the organisation. Those that do get payments are forever frustrated with long holds on the phone and endless paperwork submissions. For some of us, Centrelink isn’t an option at all, even though we’ve moved out of home and are financially supporting ourselves while studying a full load. Despite calling it “Youth Allowance”, is Centrelink actually keeping young students from their independence?

Raising the age

The only bodies that are making a deal about being 22 are Tay Tay and Centrelink; where did this age come from? If Australia’s age of adulthood is 18, why is an Australian organisation with a funding programme for young Australian students not deeming us proper adults for another four years?

Even with America’s coming-of-age benchmark, it still adds on another year. The Youth Allowance information page states that this help is available of you between the ages of 16 and 24, so once you are finally allowed to be classified as independent by Centrelink, you only have an oh-so generous two years of support.

The only bodies that are making a deal about being 22 are Tay Tay and Centrelink.

Placing financial burden on our parents

If you decide to embark on the long, arduous task of applying for Youth Allowance, you’ll find yourself opening all the tabs on the Centrelink website detailing criteria that makes you eligible for assistance before the age of 22. Your independence is attached to your parents as they require you to fill out a form of their income and assets.

Basically, you will not get anything from Centrelink if you have two middle-class working parents or above. Too bad if you want to try and make your own way in the world, learn how to manage your own finances and own your own big ticket items. Centrelink immediately assumes all working parents have the means and the wish to pay for their children through their young adulthood instead of enjoying their own financial independence from their children.

Discouraging independence

Even though I moved away from home for uni, Centrelink refused to classify me as independent because technically I didn’t have to move away for study. But this is teaching the wrong values to young adults today. More and more are staying at home because they simply can’t afford to move out and their parents can’t afford to initially assist them, leaving no other option.

It has taken two years of me living out of home to break fully away from my parents and cover all my costs. Not only is it discouraging students from the amazing opportunities and character building of moving out of home, it’s also teaching us not to work. Centrelink makes up the money that you don’t get from work during a certain week, but as I earn above their threshold at my part-time job in order to pay my rent, Centrelink does not deem me as needing their help. Centrelink is almost encouraging young people to sit at home and receive payments instead of joining the workforce and learning lifelong skills.

Too bad if you want to try and make your own way in the world, learn how to manage your own finances and own your own big ticket items.

All or nothing

Youth Allowance, Rent Assistance, Newstart… there seem to be so many options, but when you actually read the fine print you’ll find that you can only get them if you’re accepted for Youth Allowance. If you’ve got the one, you can get them all. If not, it’s nothing, which is what is leaving so many students behind.

You may actually be eligible for Rent Assistance, but if you’re not eligible for the overarching Youth Allowance then you can forget it. There’s a real need for a system that doesn’t keep letting Australian students fall through the gaps.

Grace Potter

Grace studies Communications & Media at the University of Wollongong and is an avid fan of Harry Potter and coffee.