Payment change hits parents hard

THE Federal Government’s decision to move about 100,000 single parents in Australia from the parenting payment to the Newstart allowance this year has hit Latrobe Valley’s single parents hard and evoked an emotional response from many.

When The Express asked its Facebook readers last week how the changes had affected them, and whether or not they thought they were fair, it was inundated with responses indicating a level of debate existed about the measure’s fairness, but also that many women’s situations had been harshly affected by a drop in income support.

Many respondents detailed the struggle they faced as they attempted to provide for children with reduced government support while either working, seeking to improve their work-readiness, searching for work flexible enough to allow them to care for their children or juggling the demands of children with special needs on a diminished budget.

From 1 January this year parents were no longer eligible for ‘parenting payment single’ once their child turned eight, or ‘parenting payment partnered’ once their child turned six, and were instead moved to the Newstart allowance, leaving most worse off monetarily.

The Federal Government justified the move on the grounds it would boost employment and address welfare dependency but it has been accused by welfare groups of contributing to more children being raised in poverty.

The change has the greatest impact on parents who work part-time as parenting payment recipients can earn more than those on Newstart before it begins to affect their payments.

The Greens claimed the change meant single parents with no employment income would be $115 per fortnight worse off, while those earning $400 per week would take a $223 hit to their fortnightly budget.

A report in The Australian also claimed other government changes to the Job Services Australia system, which came into effect last July, meant many single parents moving to Newstart would have to wait 26 weeks before they could access the “intensive employment help they need”, where previously it was 13 weeks. It said the hours of assistance available under the system had also been reduced from 40 to 25.

While some Express Facebook readers insisted the changes were “more than fair” and that all parents should have to study or look for work once their child was in school, others pointed out many of of the income support recipients were working but would now receive less support after declaring their earnings than they did on the parenting payment.

The difficulty of securing work flexible enough to allow those parenting alone to care for children in school holidays, within school hours and when they were ill, was raised by numerous respondents and others claimed if the “gap” between parenting payment and Newstart was less, the “transition would be a lot easier to manage”.

Several mothers protested the “generalisations” and “condescending judgements” about single parents vocalised by some pockets of the community.

While a number of respondents maintained the changes would encourage single parents to “get off the couch” and one former single parents said working full-time with young children was “bloody hard, but not impossible”, others pointed out the complex set of circumstances facing many of those parents, with one saying “until you have lived it, don’t judge it”.

“People do die, they leave, they cheat,” another said, adding “child support from a father who is also unemployed is $30 a month… if he pays”.