Ministry reviews decision not to extend student allowance for unemployed man told he has to quit night class or face benefit cut

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.

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