INDEPENDENT NEWS

Axing of Training Incentive Allowance unfair move

Published: Mon 22 Jun 2009 09:30 AM
Alliance Party says axing of Training Incentive Allowance unfair move
Alliance Party Media Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday 19 June 2009
The Alliance Party has condemned the National Government's complete withdrawal of Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) coverage for undergraduate tertiary students who are on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB), Widow's Benefit and Emergency Maintenance Allowance.
Alliance Disabilities Spokesperson Chris Ford, who has been a TIA recipient in the past, says that this is an assault on the right of vulnerable groups such as low-income women and disabled people to access undergraduate tertiary education in a user-pays environment.
"The TIA has acted as an important stepping stone in helping disabled people like me and thousands of other vulnerable New Zealanders, in particular women, to gain qualifications and jobs."
The previous National Government scaled back TIA access to cover undergraduate courses only and now its successor has served to further restrict eligibility to only those undertaking secondary school level studies, he says.
Mr Ford says that Paula Bennett, in her roles as Minister for Social Development, Disability Issues and Youth Development, respectively, should take responsibility for this decision and acknowledge that she had access to the TIA when she was at university herself.
"Ms Bennett should realise that she had the right to take up the TIA and probably did so, but now she is denying this supplementary assistance to others who are in the situation she was once in as a single parent wanting to provide a better life for herself and her daughter. Many women, disabled people and those living on emergency assistance will now not get the chance to do what Ms Bennett did," he says.
Mr Ford himself was granted a TIA to attend the University of Otago as an undergraduate student in the 1990s and was appreciative of the assistance granted, especially at a time when both National and Labour Governments of the time were imposing user pays on the tertiary system.
"I can say personally that I positively benefitted from that scheme and have probably repaid the assistance given in terms of taxes paid through running my own business and being employed in various roles. My student loan would have been a great deal higher too had it not been for the TIA and with the interest free repayment policy, I was able to make headway on it while working. For a disabled person like me and for thousands of others who live with disability and undertake tertiary study, the TIA has been a lifeline to help cover study related costs and fees," says Mr Ford.
However, Mr Ford believes that all New Zealanders should have the right to access a universally free tertiary education system.
The Alliance Party says free education can be paid for out of progressive taxation where all people, regardless of socioeconomic background or status can engage in learning that benefits both themselves and society as a whole.
If such a system were in place with no fees, loans and a student allowance set at the level of the Unemployment Benefit as well as benefits set at liveable rates, then the TIA and other supplementary assistance would not be needed and all would benefit.
ENDS

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