The New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday that “hundreds of sole parents expecting to become teachers, nurses and other professionals have had their dreams dashed after the Government axed an allowance for sole parent beneficiaries going to university.”
Previously, domestic purposes beneficiaries, as well as those on invalids and widow’s benefits and emergency maintenance allowances, had been eligible for the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) to help pay for some employment-related training costs, such as those covering course fees and materials, travel, and childcare.
According to the Herald, some of the disenfranchised parents had already passed pre-entry courses or been accepted into specific degrees. Several had moved their children to new schools so they could study for courses they now can no longer attend.
Social development minister Paula Bennett announced in May’s budget that the TIA – a key stepping stone off welfare for DPB and invalid beneficiaries since the late 1980s – would apply only to high school level or lower courses. But according to the Herald, universities and polytechnics knew nothing of the changes until students tried to enrol in the past few days.
Department of Work and Income figures show that at least 4500 beneficiaries a year are likely be affected. The change denies the allowance to anyone enrolled in courses at level 4 or above after May 28.
The Herald highlighted the irony that Ms Bennett, who gained a social work degree while on the DPB in the 1990s, was the minster to make the cuts.
A review of the TIA by the minister’s own department previously found that the programme had been very successful in enabling disadvantaged people to participate in education, training and employment. It helped people overcome financial barriers, allowed for flexible participation in a wide range of training and education programmes, and facilitated access to flexible high-quality childcare.