Welfare groups and human rights lawyers appeal to UN to prevent damaging sole parent payment cuts

5 October 2012

Leading Australian community welfare groups and human rights experts have sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights to prevent the Commonwealth Government from pressing ahead with damaging cuts to the parenting payments of over 100, 000 single parents and their children.

The Australian Council of Social Service, St Vincent de Paul Society, National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, WEAVE (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination) Council for Single Mothers and their Children Victoria, Women’s Legal Services NSW and the Human Rights Law Centre today sent an urgent communication to UN Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmon over the Federal Government’s decision to bring on legislation in the Senate next week, against the advice of two separate Parliamentary Committees.

The legislation will mean an effective Budget cut of between $60 and $100 a week for these sole parents by pushing them onto the lower paying Newstart Allowance when their child turns eight years of age.

Only last month the newly established Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights advised the government to delay the Bill citing major reservations, including 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.

“This was 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,” said ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“The Government’s decision to press on regardless is simply unnacceptable and brings into questions its own Human Rights Framework, of which the new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights was to be a primary protective mechanism.

“If the Bill passes the Federal Parliament, it will place more than 100, 000 single parents, and all of their children into even greater risk of poverty and homelessness. This will start happening from 1 January, just 10 weeks away, at the worst time of the year for struggling families,” Dr Goldie said.

See letter to United Nations Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmon >>

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

Find out more about the campaign to Stop Cuts to Sole Parent Payments!