ACOSS urges Parliament to stop cuts to sole parents

The Australian Council for Social Service is again calling on the Parliament to give child poverty it’s highest priority in legislating the Federal Budget, following the findings of Anglicare’s State of Sydney report released today showing the alarming rates of child poverty in Australia’s largest city.

The report sheds light on the true plight of Sydney families who have been presenting in large numbers for help with food parcels, electricity and other bills at the agency’s eight emergency relief centres between 2007-11. It reveals that almost half the people needing help were parents, and 62 per cent of the parents were sole parents, overwhelmingly women, and generally on incomes of less than $600 a week. One in 10 of the single parents were reliant on the Newstart Allowance, the rest were on the Parenting Payment.

“ACOSS has praised the fairness of the overall Budget. However, it will not address the deep concerns we have about the adequacy of income support and family payments for people on the lowest incomes. We must ensure that in a tight Budgetary environment the extra assistance is targeted to those who need it the most,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“For instance, with the urgent passage of the Schoolkids Bonus through Parliament, which extends a $410 to $820 a year ($16pw) bonus to families on up to $170,000 a year, the Government should now fold the Bonus into the family payments system and make sure those payments are targeted to those most in need. The largest increases in Family Tax Benefits should go to low income families (below $100,000), and they should be indexed to wage movements instead of the CPI.

“This would restore the original goal of family payments: reducing child poverty and supporting low and middle income families with the costs of children.

“The budget cuts to sole parent payments should also be withdrawn. According to the OECD two out of three children in families not in paid work are currently living below the poverty line. These families need better income support and family payments as well as help to secure employment – it’s not a choice of one or the other.

“An adequate safety net must be there for the poorest families who are unable to find paid work – one third of whom are living in poverty. A sole parent on Parenting Payment with one school age child receives under $500 a week in income support and family payments – for many families, most of that goes in rent.

“The proposal to shift around 150,000 sole parents to Newstart and other payments would reduce their income support by up to $60 per week, further entrenching child poverty. The payment cuts won’t create a single job or pay for a single training course.

“These parents are already required to seek part time paid work so this is about cutting payments, not workforce participation. Even with the increases in family payments and the Supplementary Allowance, a sole parent family with a primary school age child will still be about $40 a week worse off. If the parent is studying the family will lose another $32 a week because the Pensioner Education Supplement does not apply to Newstart Allowance.

“We urge the Government and parliamentarians from all sides of politics to do the right thing by these sole parent families, and make sure family payments are addressing child poverty, which must be our top concern.

“ACOSS also reiterates its call for the Newstart Allowance to be increased by $50 per week. The $4 per week Supplementary Allowance in this Federal Budget is a first step after 20 years without any increases, but it won’t resolve the serious financial deprivation of people living on this payment today, including many people with children,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

NOTE TO EDITORS: Single parent families available for comment

See ACOSS Budget Media Release: Robin Hood comes good, except for single parent families
ACOSS Report: ‘Waste not, want not: Making room in the Budget for essential services’