ACOSS urges parliamentarians to reject legislation cutting payments for single parent families

31 May 2012

The Australian Council of Social Service has today expressed disappointment that the Federal Government is going ahead with its plan to cut single parent payments that will severely affect the lives of more than 100,000 sole parents and their children.

“This is not a workforce incentive but a cost cutting measure at the expense of some of the most disadvantaged families in our community,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“These parents are already required to seek part time employment and half are already in some form of paid work. The payment cut won’t create a single job or pay for a single training course.

“The proposal means that from next January many single parents will see their payments drop from $324 per week to $265 per week as they will be forced onto the lower paying Newstart Allowance when their youngest child turns eight.

“This $59 drop in payments will make it so much harder for families to cover the costs of food and bills, housing, healthcare, transport and schooling. Even with the increases in family payments and the new Supplementary Allowance, a sole parent family with a primary school age child will still be about $30 to $40 a week worse off. The end result will be more children in poverty.

“There is no evidence to show that moving sole parents and their children onto lower payments will increase their job prospects. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. The things that will make a difference to their employment prospects include intensive career counselling and support, training for those with limited employment-related skills, affordable good quality child care, and ongoing jobs with predictable, family friendly working hours.

“As far as we are aware, the only new investments in these services in this year’s Budget directed to those affected by the proposed payment cuts is a $3 million telephone career counselling service. Some services for this group have been reduced.

“Around $50 million a year is being cut from Job Services Australia services despite the fact that the funding available to assist even long-term unemployed people is very thin: on average, enough to interview a ‘long-term’ unemployed person once every two months and spend $500 on training. Budgeted increases in JET Child Care subsidies are due to higher demand, not an expansion of eligibility and indeed both eligibility and the level of subsidy are being reduced.”

“If nothing else this harsh proposal is further proof of the urgent need for an increase to the Newstart Allowance which one member of parliament this week correctly described as ‘woefully, horribly, utterly too low’.

“We welcome the announcement by the Greens calling for an inquiry into the long-term adequacy of Newstart. However, we already know that right now, it needs to be increased by at least $50 per week. This was the recommendation of the Henry Tax Panel, which has the support of union and business groups, economists, and the whole community sector. Unless this happens we will continue to condemn around one million people to life on around $35 a day.

“ACOSS and other leading community welfare organisations have jointly written to all federal Members of Parliament and Senators, urging them to reject the legislation reducing the payments of sole parents, introduced into Federal Parliament today, and to give child poverty the highest priority in deliberating over the Bill. As it stands the plan will entrench child poverty and should be opposed by all sides of politics,” said Dr Goldie.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

More Information:
New ACOSS Factsheet on impacts on single parent families

See ACOSS joint letter to Federal Parliamentarians