Federal budget outcomes for single mothers and their children

From Jenny Davidson: Council of Single Mothers and their Children Vic

The 2017 Federal budget includes a requirement for new and existing single parents who receive government benefits to prove they are not in a relationship by having a third party verify their relationship status.

This ramping up of the verification process includes the threat of up to 12 months imprisonment for individuals and their guarantors if they provide false information.

Information released after the budget is that all single parents receiving Parenting Payment Single and Newstart will have to go through this process.

The projected savings is $93.7 million over 5 years, which amounts to point 01 percent (0.01%) of the total welfare bill, and the cost of making every single parent go through this process is not provided.

It harks back to the 70’s, when single mothers would be subjected to visits by DSS officers who would check their closets for men’s clothing to see if they were in a relationship.

Why is an adult’s signed statement not enough – it is for many other aspects of life?

Why is it being assumed that starting a new relationship means the new partner will take on the cost of raising the woman’s children? Women have a right to date without it jeopardizing their government benefits!

If the government is concerned about the cost of supporting single mothers and their children, why not chase the $1.5 BILLION in unpaid child support through the Child Support Agency?

Single mothers are struggling to make ends meet, living on insufficient government benefits, with unpaid, part-paid and late child support payments that often are not enough to cover the cost of living. A third of single parent families are living in poverty and the vast majority of those are headed by women.

Children are missing out on basic necessities, school supplies, and participating in activities that all kids should get to do, like weekend sports. There is no new federal money to assist with the rising costs of education which families are struggling with after the School Kids Bonus ended last year. In fact, there is little that will change the fact that 40% of children in single parent families are in poverty, compared with only 12% of families with two parents.

There are other worrying budget measures.

The expansion of the Parents Next program is intended to support single mothers with future work and study options. It might be helpful for some single mums, but it also equates to forcing parents into activities before mutual obligations kick in when their youngest child turns 6. This then increases the risk of losing their income through the punitive demerit points system if they cannot attend.

The revamping of the demerit points system to ‘three strikes and you’re out’ will potentially leave families hungry, with no income for up to 4 weeks. Failing to attend an appointment without a ‘reasonable excuse’, which will trigger the system, is open to interpretation of what’s ‘reasonable’ by Job Provider staff who are often young and have no idea of the realities of parenting, what it means to have a sick child, or how hard it can be to get out the door on time some days.

The streamlining of seven different payments into the “job seeker payment’ also has worrying ramifications for those who start receiving benefits after the changes come through.

There is no real assistance in the Budget to overcome the greatest challenges for single mother families: the cost of renting or buying housing and the lack of permanent part-time jobs that accommodate the family responsibilities that single mothers simply cannot default on. Single mothers have to put their children first, so if they can’t find work that fits into the hours available, what are they supposed to do?

Not all of these measures will go ahead, and we will wait to see how Labor and the Independents respond. But overall the Federal budget continues to punish hard-working single mothers who should have the respect of our society for the work they do in raising their children and providing the best future they can from their kids and themselves.

What these women need is:

  • Sufficient income to support their families
  • Secure, family friendly jobs
  • Support to study in order to improve their work options
  • Affordable housing
  • Equitable Family Law legislation and processes
  • Investment in their well-being
  • Opportunities for their children to thrive.

 

 

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