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Source: New Zealand Labour Party

Supporting people into study

The Training Incentive Allowance is an investment in a family’s future. It provides extra support towards the cost of study for sole parents, carers, and people with disabilities on eligible benefits, making it easier to study and take the next steps into careers. Students can get up to $114.19 a week, with a maximum of $4,567.60 a year, to go towards costs like fees, books, transport, and childcare.  

The allowance was scaled back a decade ago, when the previous National Government took away access to this form of financial assistance for higher-level courses. Ahead of the last election, we promised to put this ladder of support back in place – and we’ve delivered on this promise.

As of 1 July this year, the Training Incentive Allowance is once again available for higher-level courses, and is expected to support around 16,000 people into study and training.

We know the Training Incentive Allowance can change lives – because it’s done so before. Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni was supported by the allowance for a time when she was studying as a sole parent.

“It made a big difference having that little bit of extra financial support when I was trying to get ahead and build a future for my family,” the Minister recalls – and she’s not alone.

Making a new career possible

Ann Mullenger was a solo parent of six, without a high school diploma, when she realised she could access the Training Incentive Allowance to retrain as a nurse. She started a three-year course at NorthTec, and went straight into practice nursing – and she’s been at it ever since.

“I’m 66 years old now and I haven’t looked back,” Ann says. She’s still in Northland, working in a rural practice on the Tutukaka Coast. “It’s just lovely to be able to treat the babies that come in at six weeks, and see them grow to their teenage years, to look after all the old folks around the community.”

Ann credits the Training Incentive Allowance with making the career she loves possible.

“I left school at 14 and a half. I had the ability but I didn’t have the qualifications to get into nursing,” she says. “It’s just really important to get that message out to people to retrain – not to give up, you know. You’re never too late.”

Opening up new opportunities

In the mid-90s, Yvette was 30 and caring for her son on her own in Christchurch. Her marriage had broken up and she was working four part-time jobs. It was “pretty hard going,” she recalls. “My friend said, ‘You need to go back and study and get one job.’”

The allowance enabled Yvette to complete her university study and graduate with a double major in psychology and education. She was the first person in her family to complete tertiary-level study, and went on to earn a postgraduate diploma in primary teaching and learning.

She then worked as an educator at Te Whare Hauora, a safe place for victims of domestic violence. Now a social worker at Oranga Tamariki, she’s also worked in kaupapa Māori mental health support – a career trajectory “that was all opened up because of the start that I got with the Training Incentive Allowance.”

“I’m so happy to hear about the Training Incentive Allowance coming back for higher education,” she says. “I think the benefits of lifting children out of poverty are just huge.”

’A huge blessing’

Our changes to the Training Incentive Allowance have only been in place since 1 July, but Jan-Marie Dephoff has already applied for the assistance, and received funding to help her through her social work degree.

At 31, Jan-Marie has fought hard to get to this point. For 10 years, she was in an abusive relationship, with no job or schooling beyond NCEA Level 2. She and her four kids had to run from their home while her partner was at work. They went into a refuge and through various systems and supports to ensure she could keep her babies and set up a new home.

“The social workers that we worked with just really inspired me to be like, ‘Hey, it’s amazing how much they can transform other people’s lives,’” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Well, I can give back now that I’m in a better situation.’”

Jan-Marie’s courses at NorthTec have just restarted, and she’s receiving assistance with her internet bills and textbook costs. “Beforehand it was always, you know, trying to look for somebody to borrow textbooks or asking if they could take screenshots or photos of their textbooks and asking if they could send me those, because I couldn’t afford hundred-dollar books.”

She’s also been able to buy a laptop – the older computer she had been borrowing wasn’t compatible with the apps her instructors have recommended.

“Financially, it’s just a huge blessing,” she says. “It means I can carry on my studies. Having that financial burden lifted off means that I’m able to carry on with more confidence.”

A recovery that leaves no one behind

The Training Incentive Allowance is just one way we’re tackling long-term challenges like inequality and ensuring we have the skilled workforce we need to secure our recovery from COVID-19. It sits alongside a raft of other initiatives to create pathways to study, training and employment, such as an expanded Flexi-wage, free trades training and apprenticeships, and our Mana in Mahi programme.

To learn more about how we’re making sure that our recovery leaves nobody behind, read more about how we’re getting Kiwis into work here.


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Photo: First year nursing students outside Northland DHB, courtesy of Ann Mullenger

MIL OSI