by Holly Walker
I have already shared two stories from psychology students about how the postgraduate allowance cuts have affected them. These stories demonstrate the widespread impact the changes are having. Here is yet another story I have received, this one giving the perspective of someone who is a single parent as well as a postgraduate student.
I’m a DClinPsych student at post-intern level (in the dreaded thesis Part D phase which involves drudging up enthusiasm for a thesis I haven’t looked at since pre-internship!). Thankfully I have managed to drudge up said enthusiasm and things are well underway, in fact I will be submitting for examination in the next 1-2 months. I wanted to write because I am in a very unique situation (well I think I am) and have faced some rather stressful financial barriers to completing my thesis and embarking on full-time employment as a soon-to-be clinical psych. I do have a full-time job lined up from early May at the hospital where I did my internship and so this situation will be ending for me soon, however I wanted to alert you to these in case they are issues for other students in the future.
I am required to pay full-time attention to thesis to complete this as under my university I am not allowed to work more than .2 (or.4 in special circumstances) as an intern psych.
There is no financial support for me from Studylink. I have 2 children, a mortgage, and am sole-breadwinner for my family (me and the kids). The only available support at Studylink is $170 a week (borrowed and paid back later) which would pay approximately half my mortgage per week.
I had put aside money to get me through 1-2 months without any financial support and without this I would have been significantly affected by hardship as it took WINZ around 6 weeks to make a decision to give me a benefit – initially this was an 8-week emergency benefit but 2 weeks ago this expired and they switched me to a sole parent benefit.
WINZ do not understand my situation and are not equipped for someone in my position. As my children are over a certain age I am required to do 15-20 hours of work per week and as I am not doing this (due to thesis and psych board limiting my work hours to .2) I am expected to instead be meeting regularly with them to look at my work-readiness, engage in preparation for work training courses, go on job interviews, and accept any jobs that I am offered. WINZ acknowledge how ridiculous this is given that A) I already have a job lined up as well as that B) engaging in such work is going to delay progress on my thesis, however they say that I simply have to comply as it’s their policy. What a waste of everyone’s time!
I’ve spent countless hours on the phone to WINZ, several appointments with people who do not understand my situation and consider my thesis to be “optional” and that I could be working fulltime. I have had to run around requesting letters from work and Massey, have been suggested by a WINZ worker to look for work doing something other than as a psych and do my thesis part-time. It’s been very stressful, invalidating, discouraging, and above all not conducive to me finishing this qualification and getting into the work force. Next week I have an appointment to take my CV in to look over that with a worker there to ensure I am “work-ready”! I am actually looking forward to this because I suspect it will be a very quick meeting once they see my CV!
(Update to this: After the appointment my benefit was put on hold as I did not agree to look for 15 hours of work. I requested to speak to a manager who eventually agreed, on citing proof of my fulltime employment in May, that I could be exempt from work preparation requirements. The same week I got this news I won a scholarship the same week and will be no longer requiring financial assistance.)