1 NEWS Maori Affairs Reporter
The Ministry of Social Development is urgently reviewing a decision not to grant an extension of a student allowance to a man who says he's been told by StudyLink he must quit a free night class or face a benefit cut.
The unemployed man who has depression and asked to remain anonymous, was the subject of an RNZ story which was also carried by 1 NEWS NOW on Thursday.
The man and his partner, who are parents to an eight-year-old, are taking business classes at Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Otara, South Auckland.
Work and Income had told his Auckland Action Against Poverty advocate that he was not entitled to the student allowance because, at 55, he was too old and had studied in the past.
StudyLink had said that if he and his partner both want to access full benefits, one of them will have to give up their studies.
The man has chosen to stay on the course but isn't getting any support from the government, meaning his family is surviving off his partner's student allowance and the families tax credit - around $340 a week.
Ministry of Social Development Auckland Regional Commissioner Mark Goldsmith says they understand the man's situation and the difficulty he is facing.
"We are doing all we can to support him and his family as we know he is feeling stressed by the situation. This is a complex case, it is the first example of its type that we have seen and so it will take some time to resolve it," Mr Goldsmith said in a statement to 1 NEWS NOW this afternoon.
He said it has been a policy for some time that someone cannot receive a student allowance and Work and Income support at the same time and this makes it difficult to assist the man.
The man has asked the ministry to review its decision not to grant him an extension of his student allowance, Mr Goldsmith said. He has used his 120-week entitlement on previous study.
"We are treating his request with urgency. We need to deal with (the man's) request before we can resolve his case," Mr Goldsmith said.
He said the ministry cares about the man's wellbeing and has contacted him today "to let him know we are actively looking at options for him".
The man said if the couple were allowed to retain their benefits while studying they would have an extra couple of hundred dollars a week.
The implementation of compulsory Te Reo Maori in schools has been hotly debated, with Budget 2018 delivering a nudge in the direction of te reo Maori education.
Yesterday, Budget 2018 delivered a $12.5 million bump to Te Ahu o Te Reo Maori, "to lift capability across the system for delivering quality Te Reo Maori education".
"Te Ahu o Te Reo Maori will support teachers to deliver te reo in the classroom," said Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis. "It will support all teachers. those already teaching te reo, and those who have the potential but may not yet have the confidence. This is the start of our plan to better integrate te reo into early learning, primary and intermediate schools."
Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta had openly supported compulsory Te Reo Maori, just last week saying it was "only a matter of time".
Ms Mahuta said in order to deliver on compulsory Te Reo Maori, there must be enough teachers, "both within mainstream and Maori education".
"I think it's only a matter of time, it's not if, it's going to be when."
The lack of te reo teachers has been used by the Labour Party when asked about its support for compulsory Te Reo Maori in schools.
The government may face issues with the Green Party and NZ First having differing stances.
The Green Party's election pledge was to create a taskforce to work towards making Te Reo Maori a core curriculum subject, "beginning with Year 1 in 2020 and each successive school year through to 2030 when all school levels from Year 1 to Year 10 will be included".
Last week, NZ First's Shane Jones told Stuff: "Read my lips: Our party has no ambition to make Te Reo Maori compulsory in Invercargill or in any other schooling committee."
Education Central reported during the 2017 election that NZ First wanted to provide scholarships to Te Reo Maori teachers to address the shortage.