Many Year 12 students and their parents will – towards the end of the year – haunt the Human Services (Centrelink / Youth Allowance) website: trying to figure out if University is clearly on the agenda (notwithstanding results) for the following year, or if a ‘Working Gap Year‘ is in order.
If you aren’t haunting the site, then I recommend that you begin the process!
Fees for Uni/TAFE courses can be taken care of via HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP—and payment is deferred until you start earning a wage (currently $54,126). However, you still have to live, eat and #sleep-somewhere during Uni years, and that is where Youth Allowance comes in handy.
The main question is: are you a dependent or independent? (Or an OLDS-dependent?)
The following is generalised information only. Full and accurate Youth Allowance information is here.
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If you are dependent on your parents for support (which is a little anomalous as most 18-year-olds ARE), then your parents income* becomes the basis for whether you are eligible for full Youth Allowance.
If your parents earn under $50,151 pa* then you have a clear cut chance of being called a ‘dependent’ by Centrelink for the purposes of attaining full Youth Allowance (currently $426.80 per fortnight). Dependents can also tap into a $4000 relocation payment, to assist with the move away from home.
If your parents earn a little over $50,151 pa*, you may still be eligible for SOME assistance (there is a scale they use to determine how much assistance you get). That is why it is important, when your exams are over, to visit Centrelink. A letter from your school stating that you have completed Secondary Schooling is handy to take along with you.
Victorian towns are not considered ‘rural or regional’ by Centrelink, for Youth Allowance, so I am not discussing this option. Universities however, determine that many Victorian towns are 'rural or regional' for the purposes of applying for their courses. Confusing huh?
* Based upon Parental Means Test
If you aren’t a ‘dependent’ or an ‘independent’, you are an OLDS-dependent. (I made this word up). OLDS-dependent’s will rely solely on their parents for financial help, and have the following options to assist them with the cost of living at Uni.
Scholarships—Securing scholarship money is one way to make your life easier, and I encourage all students’ and parents to stalk my scholarship page for ideas. The trouble with these awards is that you apply, then you have to wait. You can’t make set plans or organise your future until you find out if you have secured a scholarship. The only productive thing you can do is cross your fingers!
Part Time Work—Securing part-time work while at Uni can subsidise living expenses, as can working during major uni breaks. Student Services at respective universities can often assist you with finding work, or guide you to employers known to take on university students, or to websites that cater for this type of workforce.
You could increase your chances of finding work by doing short courses during the holidays (food handling, Barista, first aid, lifeguard, security, etc.)
If you aren’t eligible for any Youth Allowance (your parents earn well above $50,151 pa*) and you WANT to get Youth Allowance—then you need to be an Independent.
For the purposes of Youth Allowance, Centrelink will consider you independent if you participate in a:
Working Gap Year
A Working Gap Year consists of earning $22,908 (current rate) in a period of 18 months—by working an average of 30 hours per week.
'Earning' means your wages are paid legitimately through the tax system, with pay slips, so you have proof of income. (In other words, cash from parents or babysitting does not count!)
Sounds strange to say, but last time I checked, there were 12 months in a Year!! There ARE however 15 months between when you complete Year 12 (Nov) and start Uni (Feb/Mar) in the following year. Essentially this means that you have 15 months in which to earn the $22,908.
(I don’t know about you, but the maths in this equation does my head in!?).
If you opt for a Working Gap Year, you may be deemed ‘independent’ by Centrelink for the purposes of full (or part) Youth Allowance. Unlike ‘dependents’ however, you will not be eligible for the $4000 relocation fee. NOR will your Youth Allowance payments kick in until April/May of your first year at University/TAFE (this is when your official 18 months conclude.)
NOTE: Not ALL courses allow a Gap Year—so you need to know the Gap Year policy for each of your course applications.
What to do?
Regardless of your financial circumstance, you should understand where you stand on the Youth Allowance scale. Here is a 3 point check-list.
- Check the Youth Allowance page/s—are you eligible? If yes, then:
- Get a letter from your school stating the date you ended Year 12.
- Make an appointment with Centrelink (in November, after you have finished school).
Trap: One trap of NOT going to Uni straight away is that earning money and building independence can become addictive. So addictive, you will drop your Tertiary dreams. You should take this into consideration NOW as you are making plans.
Current Centrelink Recipients: If you (student or parent) – receive a text message from Centrelink about updating your details—you MUST do it. If you ignore their advice, you WILL put Youth Allowance at risk.
Remember, this is generalised information only. To get the full Youth Allowance story, you should start stalking Centrelink Youth Allowance Pages TODAY!