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New loans for single mums a ‘token gesture’

2 December 2009
Media Statement

New loans for single mums a ‘token gesture’

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett’s announcement today of a new loan of $500 available to single mums studying for certain careers is nothing more than a token gesture, Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni says.

“Lending women trying to get off the benefit by training for new careers $500 is a token gesture. Just what is the $500 for? It won’t pay for childcare or transport or realistically provide enough financial assistance to aid people off a benefit and into training.

"The loan of $500 available to single mums studying for certain careers is just a fraction of the amount claimed by the Minister herself when she was claiming the DPB and studying.

“The new loan announced by Paula Bennett is only for one year, it won’t give people any form of ongoing support while they study, nor does it provide any form of assurance for people undertaking three year degree qualifications.

“The new loan is a poor substitute for the Training Incentive Allowance, which made a meaningful contribution to the study costs of single parents and is what helped Paula Bennett off a benefit and into a career.

“The Training Incentive Allowance scheme was a tried and tested way of making tertiary education accessible to single mums on the benefit. The new loan of $500 will make little difference to easing the costs of higher education, and it will essentially limit single mums to the fields of education and health.

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“While there are skill shortages in those areas, why is the Minister not encouraging study in areas where there is a shortage of women, such as science, technology, and business? Why is she not encouraging study in areas such as law, accountancy, arts, psychology or social work?

“Studies have proven that it takes women longer to pay back debts accrued over the course of study, because of the comparatively lower incomes they receive once they have graduated. The debt burden is even greater for single mothers, who are some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“While the Minister has said: ‘I will back these women into meaningful employment every time’, Paula Bennett has shown little interest in increasing the educational and subsequent employment opportunities for single mums.

“First she took away the Training Incentive Allowance that she used to gain an education and skills for employment. Now she has replaced that grant of up to $3800, which did make a difference for these women, with a $500 loan, which will make none.

“This is simply a token gesture, Paula Bennett should drop the rhetoric around getting single parents off benefits and actually get on with the job,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

ENDS

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