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Eligibility policy comment

Eligibility policy comment

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said today that whenever government changes eligibility thresholds for accessing benefits, or for accessing pensions, spending moves up and down according to how many people are actually eligible and apply.

"Spending is not restricted to the amount set aside, that is based on forecasts made at the time of the policy change, of how many people might benefit.

"If the actual number of people who are forecast to be eligible exceeds forecasts, then of course those extra people are not denied access to that income assistance. Spending goes up.

"And of course the reverse applies if numbers are lower than forecasts.

"I am sure students would have been annoyed if I had decided to cut access to allowances if it had turned out that more people were eligible than we had forecast. If numbers had exceeded forecasts, of course, the government would have increased its spend accordingly.

"Students can not have it both ways. Eligibility to students was widened as a result of changes to the parental income threshold last year, with the genuine intention that more students would benefit.

"As I have said previously I have asked the Ministry of Education to report to me with a more in depth analysis on the issue, once student enrolment data is finalised," Trevor Mallard said.

"A preliminary analysis indicates there are several reasons why fewer students have not accessed allowances in line with forecasts including A decline in enrolments because, among other things, students are staying at school longer, NCEA literacy and numeracy requirements mean students now need to be able to read and count, and record low unemployment has made it more attractive for some students to go directly into the workforce rather than undertake further study, A move towards more students studying part-time rather than full-time, More students are finding they can earn much more through part-time work than through taking an allowance, and Parents incomes have increased more than expected driven by a drop in unemployment. For example unemployment amongst 45-49 year olds fell from 2.1 per cent to 1.2 per cent.

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