Anger brews over Gillard’s attacks on single mothers

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Labor’s attack on single parents in the May budget has sparked outrage among community sector organisations that work with low-income single mothers and children.

Gillard’s new policy will force around 100,000 single parents, 90 per cent of whom are women, onto Newstart unemployment payments when their youngest child turns eight. This will slash their weekly income by up to $223 a fortnight, or 12.8 per cent.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has demanded a parliamentary inquiry, arguing that the policy violates basic human rights. The government claims the policy is an incentive to push single mothers into the workforce. Gillard has tried to defend the decision, arguing: “…it will be better for them [single parents] because they’ll have a job for the rest of their lives, and better for the child to have someone in the household modeling what it’s like to go to work every day.”

But almost all recipients are already forced to search for jobs in order to receive payments and around half already work in low paid casual and part-time jobs.

Unemployed single mothers whose only income comes from parenting payments live below the poverty line. As ACOSS states, “The reasons that the other half do not have paid jobs now include low skills, poor local job prospects, caring for a disabled child, and illness or disability”.

Recipients tend to live in areas where unemployment is high, like Sydney’s western suburbs where employment rates reach 10 per cent. Work available is often in the evening and on weekends, and with lack of access to quality and free childcare outside school hours or adequate public transport, single mothers face a series of systemic obstacles to finding suitable employment.

These cuts will only entrench the cycle of poverty that many single parent families find themselves in. A recent Anglicare report showed that over 15 per cent of children in Australia live in families unable to buy food.

The policy shows how skewed the Labor government’s priorities are. In 2006 Howard introduced similar cuts as part of his welfare to work scheme. At the time Labor opposed the cuts because they left single mothers worse off without offering any improvement to employment opportunities. But in government Labor failed to reverse these cuts—and are now implementing an even harsher policy.

Gillard could help single mothers out of poverty by increasing welfare payments, providing state-funded childcare centres, free public transport and better public housing. But instead, Gillard is sacrificing single mothers to pay for Labor’s budget surplus. Meanwhile, she has assured business that she supports cutting the corporate tax rate even further. Gillard wants to rule for the rich and make the poorest in society pay.

Clare Fester

Website Comments

  1. sherie
    Reply

    Gillard should walk in our shoes before making devastating decisions like this … Wake up Gillard … Fix your surplus by taxing the rich instead of the poor … Think of the children you are depriving … Selfish

  2. Alison
    Reply

    The Gillard Government is breaching the human rights act and the Convention of the Rights of Children. If she is violating the UN Human Rights Legislation – why can’t her decisions be overturned???? She is a Dictator of the worse kind – so why is she not stopped!!!!!!

  3. maria
    Reply

    What is Julia thinking we single parents have it hard enough as it is all i want to know is how am i going to pay my rent when ive lost $270 out of my pension and on top of everything i cant work because been told my back is unstable so with 3 kids what where and how can i provide for them and how do i tell them that the home they grew up in we cant afore anymore thanks Julia for all the opportunities you are giving to me thank you i will be voting for you again lol dream on you a liar

  4. Lisa
    Reply

    I lost $140 a fortnight, its been my first payment and Im already depressed. I study fulltime as well as volunteering at my kids school 3 days a week. I honestly feel like this is nothing but discrimination against single parents, why did the partnered newstart clients not lose one cent their payment just swapped over. I am considering a lawsuit on the grounds of discrimination and I think everyone should do the same. Maybe Julia should have a few children and walk in our shoes for a while……

  5. Tammy
    Reply

    I don’t know what to do anymore, children who have 2 parents have the chance of getting 2 incomes into their household, I on the other hand have 1 income which is now cut more as on Newstart you are only able to earn $62 a f/n before it starts reducing. I also lost over $100 a f/n when payments were changed. How does this help me/…..are you serious and the ones that will suffer the most will be my children…………HELP

  6. Joyce
    Reply

    I have been a sole parent for nine years and have always worked in an administration role. I am not dumb or stupid, but the decision that was made by people supposedly brighter than myself was devastating. I lost $190 per f/n and I haven’t been unemployed, before my marriage breakdown l used to earn $64k per year and paid really high taxes. This is how you repay hard working Australians – thanks Julia l hope YOU sleep well at night :-(

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