I am a single mum to Hannah and I was previously on the Domestic Purposes Benefit; from 2004 when my daughter was born to the start of 2008 I relied on money from the government to fund my lifestyle. I fell pregnant while I was in the midst of my degree and continued to study while I was pregnant, extramurally from Massey University. At the start of 2006, I moved to Wellington to finish my degree. The move increased my living costs significantly but I felt it necessary to achieve the goals I had in mind, namely, to get good grades in my degree, gain independence, and move into the workforce.
Before I moved from Rotorua, I researched my options as far as funding my study went (I had a 3 semesters left to finish my Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies) and discovered I was eligible for the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA). The TIA in no way covered my fees for those papers. I still had to get a student loan for that but I did manage to keep my student loan as low as possible so that when I finally did graduate, I wasn’t loaded with a giant debt (well… it’s still around $30,000 so is a pretty damn giant debt… but less than some others came out with). This was important as I have to make a few concessions with my work, I need flexible hours and a child friendly workplace as I can’t just magic the kid away when I need to go out and earn money. I’d like to say that flexible hours and a child friendly workplace wouldn’t affect my income, but in reality, it probably has.
So, when I moved to Wellington and was applying for the TIA, my case manager talked to me about how I could split up the TIA to cover the extra costs associated with studying such as travel and childcare and the fact that my damn childcare centre only used disposables [Please don’t get me started on the fact that WINZ doesn’t regard modern cloth nappies as an item that is eligible under their grant scheme]. I used some of the TIA grant to go on my fees (as mentioned above) and some to cover my childcare costs (I think it was around $70 per week) and also some toward travel ($20 per week? I lived close enough to walk to Uni but it was up a bit f’off hill and when it was raining it wasn’t exactly pleasant to trek the kid up and so I had a car which I had to pay around $30 per week for parking at my hall).
It felt like a lot of money at the time. Especially coming from the measly amount you get for living costs from a student loan. So yeah, I was getting enough to live on for sure. But then my car died. And I bought a new [old] one. So I got an overdraft… which was fine as it was interest free because I was a student. I knew that I’d get a job at some point (because I’d have a degree!) and that I’d be able to pay it back. That has just happened recently. If I hadn’t got a decent job then errrrr… I probably would have been quite screwed to be honest.
So I finished my degree with the aid of the TIA. And then I completed two more years of study to do my honours degree without the aid of the TIA, but that was of less impact to my situation as by then the 20 free hours for 3 and 4 year olds had come in so my childcare costs lessened significantly. I also moved out of the student hall I was living in (again necessary for creating a support network in Wellington and interesting regarding my latest study in human development which says it was incredibly important for Hannah) and out to a place where I didn’t have to pay for parking. Essentially my travel costs increased but I was able to handle that as I also took up a job working 8 hours per week. I guess my point is that I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree without the TIA. Or I could have, but I would have REALLY struggled and that would have affected my grades which in turn would have affected my ability to get a job or even could have resulted in a longer stay at university which would have cost the state even more!
So yeah, I am grateful, so grateful, that I was able to access this support in having Hannah. It wasn’t an ideal situation, and I know that is my problem and mine only, but I feel strongly about social support for those in need. And I was very much in need.
Now, while still receiving some government support (thanks WFF!), I feel awesome being able to earn and look after my kidlet myself. I really don’t think I would be in this position without the assistance of the government and probably the Training Incentive Allowance. I really feel for the people who will no longer be eligible for the TIA and who are in a position similar to mine. (Not that my situation is more deserving than others but I am trying to give a situation which I’m sure policy advisors wouldn’t be able to comprehend [no offence to policy peeps]). It will undoubtedly have a massive impact on them. If you hadn’t picked up already, I disagree strongly with changing the conditions around eligibility for the TIA.
Kind regards, Nikki
P.S. I think you are a real wench for publishing those women’s details and I do not in any way shape or form imply consent for you to reveal mine. K Thx.