Stop StudyLink's discrimination towards mature students!

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Hi I'm Liz.  I'm a 43 year old single mum of 2 young children.  I am currently enrolled in a 4 year Social Work degree.  After I enrolled I found out that I would not be able to receive a student allowance in my final year of study, because I am over 40.  That's it.  No other reason. This will mean that in my final year of study, I will have to borrow living costs against my already mounting student loan, which will not be equal to the current amount I am receiving.  Due to the nature my study commitments and the age of my children, paid work is unmanageable. 

Under the New Zealand National government, changes were created to the Student Allowance Policy. These changes based around budget cuts, allowed students studying after first January 2014 to be entitled to 200 weeks (approximately 5 years, based on a 40 week academic year) of student allowance. However, this period was reduced to 120 weeks (approximately 3 years, based on a 40 week academic year) if the student enrolled is over the age of 40 years. This clearly disadvantages and discriminates individuals due to their age.
 
If the student who is over 40 years is enrolled in a degree or programme which is more than the allocated 120 weeks, they can use the student loan scheme to borrow their living costs.  However, this amount available to borrow is less than the student has been allocated previously under the student allowance.  Also, if the enrolled student is over 55 years, a student loan facility is not available for them to utilise in this instance. Again, this clearly disadvantages and discriminates individuals due to their age.
 
The student allowance policy is a direct contradiction to the current Labour government’s education manifesto. It does not promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; it does not support the participation in higher education; It does not give all New Zealanders the opportunity to achieve their full potential; it does not provide barrier free access to education.
 
The student allowance policy as it is currently, creates barriers for those over 40 years looking at returning to the workforce.  It does not provide equal access to tertiary study; resulting in people requiring beneficiary support, when tertiary study is not an option for them – as recognised by the National government prior to the introduction of the policy amendment in 2013.
 
The current policy clearly discriminates against people, who out of necessity have chosen to pursue higher education at a later stage in life. The current policy actively discriminates against women, men, Māori, and Pasifika.
 
The current policy is discriminatory on the basis of age and access to education, under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 – “freedom from discrimination”, as well as the Human Rights Act 1993 – “unlawful to discriminate on grounds of age.”

Thank you for taking the time to support me and others in challenging this discriminatory policy!  I intend to present the government with the results of this petition with the aim of creating equal education opportunities and financial support for all students, regardless of age.

If this affects you directly please feel free to contact me at lizv4students@gmail.com