25 August 2008
ACOSS commented today on reports that the Government will introduce legislation this week to establish trials linking income support with school attendance.
“Income management is a blunt instrument to address the complex reasons that children may not be attending school and there is no evidence that it will work,” ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds said.
The factors contributing to poor school attendance include a lack of basic education and support services in some areas, poor quality education programs, bullying, insecure housing and health problems affecting children and families.
Suspension of income support payments is a harsh penalty which itself poses a serious threat to family and child wellbeing. Many of the families affected by these proposals are already living on low incomes and the suspension of payments will increase hardship and poverty.
Suspension of income support is discriminatory – it only affects parents on the lowest incomes. All parents are legally required to enrol their children in school. These laws should be enforced andbacked up by support services.
Parents play an important role in their children’s education and need to be encouraged and supported to do this. If parents are struggling to fulfil these responsibilities they need additional help, not punishment. The first responsibility of Government is to ensure that the right services and supports are available, including family support services, parenting programs and mental health and drug and alcohol services.
Governments must also ensure that high quality and culturally appropriate education services are available to all children, irrespective of where they live.