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Students write open letter to PM over EUB

Students write open letter to Prime Minister over EUB

Decisions are being made in the coming weeks by government ministers on the 2001/2002 budget allocation, and the New Zealand University Students Association has written an open letter to Helen Clark on behalf of students.

The open letter urges the Prime Minister to reinstate eligibility to the Emergency Unemployment Benefit (EUB) for all students over the summer period, if they are unable to find work.

"Students around the country are calling on the Prime Minister to respond to this pressing issue. We hope this open letter will initiate top level debate on the EUB," said Andrew Campbell, NZUSA Co President.

Open letter to the Prime Minister follows

AN OPEN LETTER TO HELEN CLARK

Rt Hon Helen Clark

Prime Minister

Parliament Buildings

WELLINGTON

March 21 2001

Dear Prime Minister

On behalf of the students of New Zealand we call on your Government to reinstate the Emergency Unemployment Benefit (EUB) for all students in the upcoming government budget.

As you will be aware the previous National Government cut the EUB in 1998. At the time the Labour Party criticised the move, labeled it "a mean spirited attack on students" and vowed to reinstate the EUB if elected. However, since Labour has come to power it has shown no interest in the issue, and has voted against reinstating the EUB when the Greens moved a private members bill last year.

Since becoming Prime Minister you have shown your compassion to other vulnerable groups society and we urge you not to ignore the plight of students who can't find summer jobs.

Making tertiary education more affordable was a key pledge for your party at the last election and we put it to you that unless the EUB is restored, you will have failed to fully deliver on that pledge.

NZUSA supports the Government's move to focus on job creation for students over summer. Students would much rather work and earn a decent income so they can save for their fees and living costs, rather than live off a small benefit. However the Government should also be aware that there is not full employment, that many students do not have the financial means to travel widely for summer work, and that like other sectors of society there will invariably be those who fall between the gaps.

We understand that some Government leaders are reluctant to restore the EUB due to concerns that students will choose unemployment over work. The fact is that students didn't use the EUB as a holiday meal ticket in the past and they won't in the future.

When all students were eligible for the EUB, only 30% used it. The remaining 70% supported themselves over the summer.

Less than 10% of all students received the EUB for the full summer period in 1997/98 (the last summer all students were eligible). This is roughly the same number that accessed the EUB for the entire period of 2000/01. When it was freely available, 90% of students either didn't access the EUB at all or did so for shorter periods during the summer. This demonstrates that the majority of students who received the EUB did so as a temporary stop-gap measure between, before or after finding employment.

Our request is simple and affordable. The government should provide those students who cannot find summer work with some form of financial assistance. This principle is currently applied by the Government to all other New Zealanders who cannot find work and it is a glaring inconsistency in government policy to exclude students. Student associations should not have to run foodbanks under a centre-left government.

We would be happy to discuss the issues raised in our letter with you at any time. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Campbell Sam Huggard Dayna Berghan

NZUSA Co-President NZUSA Co-President National Women's Rights Officer

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