- Politics and Social Issues
Aussie Single Parents To be Put On The Dole.
Gillard Government Short Changes Single Parents
While Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard argues with opposition leader Tony Abbot about sexism and treatment of women, she is delivering her own blow to around 100,000 single parents, 90% of which are women.
On Tuesday October 9, 2012, the Australian Senate passed a legislation to move single parents onto the Newstart Payment (the Dole) once their youngest child turns 8 years old. The changes come into effect 1st January 2013.
The bill was passed with very little media coverage, especially in the television news. Various print news articles have stated that the change will affect around 100,000 single parents. Two Senate committees had called on the Government to delay the change until there was more evidence about the impact of the cut. The government is currently waiting on the results of an inquiry into Newstart and it's impact on people who are on or below the poverty line, but the bill was passed despite many Senators and backbenchers calling to delay the legislation until the inquiry was complete.
Many of the print media articles claim single parents will be worse off to the tune of $65 - $73 a week if they have one child. I have worked out that a sole parent with two children will lose about $100 - $140 per week. Sole parents who already have part-time or casual work will be subject to tighter income test under Newstart, so it will even cut the income of those who are trying to earn some money and still have time to be a parent.
The dole is not enough money to pay rent each week for an average two bedroom house, even in a regional town. There are a few extra payments for school kids if you receive the Family Payment, replacing the school expenses tax rebate.
The change will affect partnered parents who receive payments and parents who want to study next year, as they will not be able to get any supplements for education unless they are already in a course when the change takes place. Parents with four or more children and people in remote areas who children are home schooled or have to do distance education will not be affected.
"Importantly, given this proposal has been promoted as a ‘welfare to work’ initiative, there is no change in the activity requirements of the vast majority of the parents affected by the policy: they are already required to seek part time employment. The only exception is a small group whose youngest child is 6 years old, who we understand will face part-time employment requirements for the first time." http://www.acoss.org.au/images/uploads/Formatted%20briefing%20note%20sole%20parents%2021%20May%202012.pdf
Human Rights Violation
The issue was put before the Joint Parlimentary Commitee on Human Rights.
These are thier findings.
This is from the Australian Council of Social Service website http://www.acoss.org.au
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights found that:
• If Newstart combined with other benefits is not sufficient to provide an adequate standard of living for affected individuals, the measures risk being a violation of human rights under article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
• The Committee was not yet convinced that the affected single parents would be able to maintain access to appropriate levels of social security support if placed onto Newstart.
• As a result, it would be premature for the government to introduce these measures prior to the completion of the Newstart Inquiry.
• It recommended that the Bill be delayed.
This is an historic finding in Australia, which recognises the human right to social security and an adequate standard of living. It was also the Human Rights Committee's first ever recommendation.
This feels like a bit of a betrayal coming from the Labor Government.
The report has been rejected by the Government. The Government says it will save $700 million. They are hoping to return to surplus on the backs of the poor and struggling.
The idea is, of course, to get parents to return to work, however there are no plans to increase options or availability of work to these parents. I know from experience that single mums are not the first choice for most employers because they know that the sole parent employee is more likely to need time off or flexibility to care for their children. Parents of high needs children or children with a disability will most likely suffer the most.
"The official evaluation of the 2006 Welfare to Work changes found no evidence that dropping parents to lower payments increased their employment prospects. We believe it only makes them poorer – and the tougher income test discourages part time employment." http://www.acoss.org.au
The parent on Newstart will be able to earn more money than a single Newstart recipient before the payment is cut.
What Will The Labor Government Do To Help Parents Find Work?
The answer - nothing more than they already do, and from my experience, that's not much.
"MYTH: The Budget improves employment supports for sole parents
FACTS: The only increase in employment supports for these sole parents ACOSS can find in the Budget is $3 million to extend a telephone career counselling service. We understand that the increased allocation for ‘Jet Child Care Assistance’ reflects higher demand for an existing child care subsidy, not an extension of access to that program (indeed, the guidelines are being tightened to reduce demand). Also, in this Budget Job Services Australia funding is being cut by about $50 million a year despite the low level of assistance offered to most unemployed people: for example, people in their second year of unemployment generally only get an interview every 2 months and investments in training and other assistance averaging $500. Unlike last year’s Budget, there is no increase in vocational training places for sole parents affected by the proposed changes." http://www.acoss.org.au (Bold and italics mine).
These are some sites you can access to find out more.
Australian Council of Social Sevice - http://acoss.org.au
Welfare Rights Centre Inc - http://www.wrcqld.org.au
Single Mum.com.au - http://singlemum.com.au/