Government policies ignore children in poverty: ACOSS

Thursday 25 February, 2016

The Australian Council of Social Service today called for the Federal Parliament to reject proposals to cut the family payments of low income single parent and couple households, following the release of a new report showing that an extraordinary 19% of children aged 8-14 years are going hungry.

In addition, ACOSS has renewed its call for Australia to set a clear poverty reduction target as the core purpose of economic growth and job creation.

The Australian Child Wellbeing Project launched today, shows that although most middle years children are doing well, almost one in five children surveyed are falling behind and going hungry. These include, young people with a disability, young carers, materially disadvantaged young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, Indigenous young people, young people in rural and remote Australia and young people in out of home care.

“Our governments have forgotten that the core purpose of our family payment system is to protect against child poverty. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is the last leader to have placed child poverty at the centre of his Government’s agenda. His legacy of a targeted family payments system has been eroded since then and is indeed under further attack,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Policies of recent governments that have targeted vulnerable families, including single parents, have increased the risk of child poverty. Our Poverty in Australia report in late 2014 found about 603,000 or 17.7% of all children, and one in three single parent families, were living in poverty.

“ACOSS has long advocated for family payments to be simplified and targeted to families who need them most. Yet the Federal Government’s $4.26 billion cuts to family payments would have a devastating impact on some of the most disadvantaged parents and children, especially single parents and low income couple families.

“Our analysis shows the cuts currently before the Senate would see a sole parent, under 60, with one child over 13 years lose roughly $2500 per year or $48 a week, and a sole parent with two children around $3000 per year or $58 per week.

“Most families with children under 13, including those in the ‘middle years’, will also be worse off due to the loss of supplements. The abolition of the $730 a year Part A supplement would only be partly offset by a proposed increase of $262 per annum to the Part A payment (resulting in a net loss of $468). The Part B supplement is $354 per family. A dual income family with one primary school aged child will be $468 a year or $9 a week worse off if it is abolished. A single income family with a child under 13 years will be $822 a year worse off, or $16 a week.

“It is estimated that about 130,000 single parents with older children will be adversely affected by the changes to Part B alone, some of who are already on very low incomes. The numbers affected and the extent of the income losses mean that the changes are likely to lead to an increase in child poverty, which is already concentrated in single parent families.

“This would be unconscionable and lead to greater levels of hardship and poverty, and more children going hungry.

“As the Australian Child Wellbeing Project report points out, 19% of young people who are going hungry are also more likely to miss school, report health complaints, bullying, and low levels of engagement at school. We urge the Parliament to block the Government’s legislation, as the consequences would be too great for children affected.

“ACOSS has put forward an alternative package of reforms to family payments designed to reduce child poverty, target payments more appropriately and reduce workforce disincentives. We call on the Government to withdraw the current bill and rethink its approach to families policy to ensure that low income families receive the assistance they need and children get the best start in life,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

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