'Earning or learning' for Australia teens

May 1, 2009 at 1:36 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, May 1 (UPI) -- Australian teenagers will have to be either "earning or learning" if they and their parents want to collect government benefits, officials said Thursday.

The new policy was agreed to at a meeting of federal and state officials, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday.

"We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past whereby young people who lose their job today become the long-term unemployed of tomorrow," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

Under the policy, those under 20 who have not completed the 12th year of school must be in an education or training program to get youth benefit payments. Their parents can also lose family allowances.

Rudd said government training programs will be available for everyone who wants a place.

Clare Martin, head of the Australian Council of Social Service, said the program will help many young people. But she warned that some may be hurt.

"Highly disadvantaged young people, for example those who are homeless, suffering family breakdown or chronic illness, need a lot of support and mentoring to move them into work -- not just training," she said.

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