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Fed: Young people could turn to crime and prostitution

01 May 2009 1:38 PM

CANBERRA, May 1 AAP - Under the federal government's "earn or learn" compact, young people could turn to crime and prostitution to make ends meet, one of the nation's largest welfare organisations warns.

The federal government is tightening eligibility requirements for the youth allowance and family tax benefit, forcing young people under 20 to either work or train.

"What we're saying to young Australians is sitting around isn't an option," Employment Minister Julia Gillard said on Friday.

That stance is fair enough for most young people without a job, but not every one of them, the Salvation Army says.

"It is simply not possible to attend training courses or obtain employment when you don't know where you will be sleeping each night," Captain Paul Moulds, coordinator of the army's Oasis Youth Network said.

The 2006 Census revealed that 32,444 young people were homeless in Australia, and there was a danger they would be further disadvantaged by the policy.

Homeless young people would still require income assistance while they addressed their personal circumstances, Captain Moulds said.

"Some could turn to crime or prostitution."

The Salvation Army is looking for an assurance of a continued safety net for homeless young people, saying the compact with young Australians should be guaranteed access to safe and decent housing.

Ms Gillard accepted there were young people living in difficult circumstances, such as homelessness.

"But with creative provision of education, they can be back, back learning, back gaining self esteem and self respect and back gaining opportunities that are going to make a difference for the rest of their lives."