One group not feeling all that stimulated by the latest twists of federal welfare policy are the young: the youth allowance for both students and the young unemployed has just been rolled into one allowance for those under 25 years of age.

Living at Home Youth Allowance (single) is $300.10 a fortnight. The “independent” allowance is $451.00: to be eligible for the Independent Youth Allowance young people have to work for two years for more than 30 hours a week. The previous requirement was for 18 months work of 30 hours per week. These changes will trap students who have deferred courses but will now find themselves unable to take up full time study with even the paltry youth allowance and having to defer courses yet again — if possible.

For young people in rural areas it is hard enough to get 30 hours per week for 18 months — but to change the eligibility criteria and jeopardise their chances of enrolling in courses borders on the uncaring and cruel. Parental income at which there would be no discount from Youth Allowance is proposed to be changed from $35,000 pa to $42,000 a year and the “tail” — the income at which some small payments could be made — was increased.

There was lively talkback on the topic on regional Victorian ABC radio yesterday, and callers pointed out time and again that the cost of sending a child away for study at university is no less than $20,000 per year, costs that parents on $42,000 per year could not hope to meet for one child let alone two or more.

So, how does someone survive on $451.00 per fortnight?

Rent: Rooms in the crappiest shared houses start from $120 per week (a decent place $200 per week) and then you have to raise four times that for bond. (There is rent assistance.)

Utilities: Water, gas and electricity, at least $20 per week but the cost comes as a share of quarterly or monthly bills that need regular “lump sum” payments.

Phone: $20 per week pay-as-you-go mobile, or $30 per month line rental — not including any calls — for a share of a little used landline.

Food: $60 per week with some skip surfing (getting food from dumpsters) or missing the occasional meal.

At this point your budget is blown — so you need to earn more income, cutting into study time.

Then there is:

Public Transport: illegal travel only risking fines.

Drinking, eating out, movies: forget it.

Car: forget it. If you already have a car you risk speeding camera fines ($100-250), parking tickets ($60-150), lump sum bills of $500 (for, say, four tyres) plus more money for maintenance and fuel, then you need to find $450 a year for registration, even with a concession.

You can get part time work — but this is difficult without a car — and your earnings will be taxed at 50-60c in the dollar after you earn more than $50 or $150 per week depending on whether you are an apprentice, unemployed, on Austudy etc.

This might be hard too if you are on NewStart and are then shoveled off to a Work for the Dole scheme.

For young people in the bush the advantage of lower rent is more than lost by the necessity of having a car.

And for the poorest — made unemployed by bad banks, bad companies and bad management — the penalties for failing to understand or comply with this complex nightmare are financial. Cuts of 25%, 50% and 100% of their already meager income.

If someone punished their pets by reducing their food they would be reported to the RSPCA. Apparently unemployed people, students and single mothers stuck in this miserable system are worth less than pets.