Pensioner education supplement slashing 'kills chance to retrain'

Oliver Franklin of Candelo questions the Federal Government’s decision to axe the Pensioner Education Supplement in the Budget after previously calling for older workers, disability pensioners and single parents to retrain and participate in the workforce.

Oliver Franklin of Candelo questions the Federal Government’s decision to axe the Pensioner Education Supplement in the Budget after previously calling for older workers, disability pensioners and single parents to retrain and participate in the workforce.

THE cessation of the Pensioner Education Supplement will have far-reaching effects on the Bega Valley according to Candelo's Oliver Franklin.

Mr Franklin has decided not to re-enrol in the university course he was using to retrain and move off the disability pension following the axing for the PES, which paid for textbooks, academic resources and the internet connection he needed to complete his course online.

Budget deregulation of university fees and changes to HECS-HELP interest rates have also contributed to his decision.

Mr Franklin said he is not only concerned for his own future, but that of the many single parents on Newstart who use the PES to gain qualifications to join the workforce.

“To the government it’s a line item, a savings measure to them of $281million over five years plus another $60million from killing the Education Entry Payment.

“But to people like me and others on the pension and single parents it is killing a chance to retrain and get work.

“I question why they slash an essential training measure like this, but can somehow find $245million over five years to fund a chaplaincy program.

“The government wants to promote training for older workers with or without income support to retrain and participate.

"However, it be very unlikely that pensioners of any type would have $2000 a year to spend on books and fees, not even taking into account HECS.

“By axing the PES it makes a mockery of the government’s motto that we must ‘earn or learn’ - it’s a lie.

“It’s more like ‘study or starve’ and clearly any parent is going to choose feeding their children over buying a university textbook that would ultimately aid them in getting a job,” he said.

Mr Oliver has previously worked in telecommunications, hospitality and has owned a business, but a deterioration in his neurological condition has left him unable to drive and subject to memory loss.

“I have temporal lobe epilepsy, so re-skilling to work or run a business at home is my only realistic non-pension option," Mr Oliver said.

“Recently I started a degree through Open Universities Australia at Curtin University and I wanted to become financially self-reliant again as I have numerous times before.

“By cutting the PES, I have now had to give that degree up.”

Mr Franklin has contacted members of the Senate to ask them to support his call for keeping the PES and received positive feedback from members of the Greens and Labor parties.

Open Universities Australia CEO Paul Wappett said, “the government’s 2014 budget has forced both education providers and students to look at price and value”.

“We are reviewing our approach to ensure that we offer really great value and quality; and ultimately remain open and inclusive of as many students as possible.

“We’ll make sure we communicate any changes to students because we know this is a stressful time for many people,” he said.

The BDN contacted Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy, but he was unavailable for comment.

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