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Centrelink slammed for ‘locking out’ 450,000 Aussies

Australian currency and the Centrelink logo on the exterior of a building.
Centrelink Youth Allowance rules have been slammed by students. (Source: Getty)

Centrelink Youth Allowance rules have been slammed in a new report, which claims nearly half a million Aussies have been “locked out” from financial support.

Research from the National Union of Students (NUS) found students were being forced into poverty.

The report said the majority of students aged between 18 and 21 were excluded from accessing Youth Allowance payments because the age of independence was set at 22.

This means that only those over the age of 22 are able to access the payment, assuming that those younger can rely on family.

The report found that the small number of students aged 18-22 who could access Youth Allowance were paid less than $182 a week - just $26 a day.

Even those paid at a higher Youth Allowance rate - because they were considered independent - were still paid $273 per week below the poverty line.

“We believe that the Australian Government has a responsibility to address student poverty by lowering Centrelink's Age of Independence from 22 to 18, to support approximately 450,000 18-21 year-old students to study without living in poverty,” the report said.

“By lowering Centrelink’s Age of Independence to 18, students will be able to focus on their studies, finish their degrees quicker, be less likely to drop out, will be happier and less likely to experience mental health problems, and will experience financial security instead of poverty.”

The report pointed out that Youth Allowance payments were indexed at a lower rate, and less frequently, than other social security payments, which had created a significant disparity in payment rates based on age.

Not only that, but the report found that Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments didn’t match the reality of high rent prices in Australia.

“Analysis of 45,000 rental properties in 2022 found that 0 per cent were affordable for people on Youth Allowance,” the report said.

“There need to be new policies introduced to ensure that students can access affordable rental properties, and have the hope of one day owning a home.

“These policies need to ensure that pricing of rental and home ownership is not outpacing wage growth at such extreme levels.”

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