Young mums need support, not a ‘crackdown’

Thursday 5 May, 2011

Major welfare groups today cautiously welcomed some aspects of the Government’s budget measures to support teenage parents, but rejected the proposal of suspending social security payments which would have serious and damaging consequences for young parents, especially those who are socially isolated or who have limited family and other support networks.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and Kate Beaumont National Welfare Rights Network Vice President said there was no need for the Government to include the suspension of payments in the budget measure and committed to spending the next six months leading up to the changes to convince the Government that a “big stick” approach is not necessary nor helpful.

“We welcome the additional $47.1 million to assist new, young parents with mentoring, parenting skills and other supports. With childcare costs being met by the Government, a major barrier that stops teen parents from taking part in education and training will be removed. Many community services around Australia have been crying out for greater investment in services to support young mothers.”

“However, suspension of payments can lead to significant hardship and where very young children are involved, the risks are too great. Cutting off payments to parents with young children is an extremely blunt and brutal approach. An initiative designed to support young parents should not involve any risk of increasing levels of poverty or children being left without access to food, essential health care and shelter.”

“The promised coordinated case management and individually tailored engagement participation plans could make a real difference, when the time is right, but only if this is done in a way that fosters a young person’s confidence and skills.”

“It is important not to overstate the number of parents who are teenagers in Australia. There are around 11,000 parents aged 19, accounting for just 2.5 per cent of all parents who are receiving parenting payments. There are around 446,000 parenting payment recipients, with 327,000 receiving Parenting Payment Single.”

“We are also concerned that the way this measure has been publicised into negative stereotyping of young mothers on income support, about being poor parents, or resistant to receiving more support habitually reliant on welfare when this is simply not the case. It is the responsibility of government to challenge these stereotypes, and send a message of support and encouragement to young mums, as we lead up to Mother’s Day.”

“It will be critical for teen parents to clearly understand their legal requirements and obligations to attend Centrelink appointments as distinct from any requirements to take part in any ‘compulsory’ parenting participation plans. Under current legislation parents are required to enter into an Employment Pathway Plan and meet participation requirements only once their youngest child has reached six. Any activities must take into account family and caring responsibilities and the impact of any disability or illness.”

Media contact
Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO, 0419 626 155
Kate Beaumont, Vice President, National Welfare Rights Network: 0414 792 923
Gerard Thomas, Media and Policy Officer: 0425 296 882.