Single Parents stood up all around Australia this week to unite in protest against being forced off the Parent Payment Single (PPS) and onto the lesser Newstart Allowance.
The Australian Government's recent controversial move to force all remaining "grandfathered" (pre-2006) Parent Payment Single recipients onto Newstart (when their youngest child turns eight years old) has been met with single parent outcries all over the country.
This 1st of January 2013 government move brings most pre-2006 PPS parents into line with single parents already on Newstart since the 2006 changes were initially implemented by the Howard government.
The "Single Parent Day of Action" held on the 5th of February 2013 saw single parent rallies being held in all capital cities of Australia, and was the brainchild of the Single Parents Action Group (SPAG).
A grass-roots parent organisation, SPAG was started by the dedicated Adelaide single mum and grandmum Kathy Lee just three months earlier, and was the motivating force behind the well-coordinated nation-wide protests this week.
With the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) and other prominent organisations strongly supporting the protests, all capital city rallies reported excellent turnouts of single parents.
Prominent rallies included Adelaide, where a major city road had to be closed to facilitate over 100 protesters, and Melbourne, where officials chose to assemble a "thin blue line" of police at Parliament House in the city where single parents were rallying.
High profile speakers all around the country were eager to be involved, including charities and other notable organisations, politicians and parents.
Canberra became the main focus for parents, SPAG, NCSMC and SingleMum.com.au representatives to join together to lobby politicians whilst parliament was in session.
Parents from Canberra and surrounds attended, plus parents from several other states including Victoria, Adelaide and Tasmania bore the personal expense to fly or drive themselves - and in some cases their children - to the nation's capital to represent themselves, and their fellow single parents.
Sydney single parents were given two rally options, with one rally being held in Martin Place, or alternatively they could choose to make the trip to Canberra free of charge thanks to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), who funded a free bus to transport them to the Canberra Rally.
Meeting at Old Parliament House at 9:30am, Canberra Rally attendees kicked off with a round of informal speeches from concerned parents , such as SPAG founder and parent Kathy Lee, and other interested parties, such as up-and-coming Greens' ACT Senate candidate Simon Sheikh. All spoke passionately in support of the single parent cause.
Protestors then united to march to Parliament House behind placards and signs, chanting "No to Newstart!" and "No to Poverty!", where they were welcomed by still more supporters and media for another round of speeches.
Samantha Seymour, SPAG organiser, speaks at the Canberra Parliament House Rally
One of the major SPAG organisers and a driving force behind the February 5 rally campaign, Samantha Seymour gave a heartfelt and rousing speech on the lawns of Parliament House. Samantha's speech also represented the many thousands of single mums and dads around the country that had been unable to attend the rallies that day due to their unrelenting work or childcare commitments.
Other inspiring Canberra speakers included SPAG founder Kathy Lee, Terese Edwards (CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children), Dr Cassandra Goldie (CEO of ACOSS), John Falzone (CEO St Vincent DePaul) and The Green's Senator Rachel Siewert and Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.
Senator Siewart later went on to hold Parliament to account on the Newstart issue at Question Time that afternoon, with single parents watching-on from the public gallery.
Following the rally speeches at Parliament House, parents were invited to attend a luncheon hosted by the Greens Party - a welcome re-fuel for those that had commenced their journey in the early hours in order to make the trip to Canberra that day.
Parents then set out on the mammoth task of covering more than 40 private meetings with Members of Parliament.
They worked hard to get their points across - appealing to MPs to consider a number of measures that should be taken immediately in order to support single parents, including a Parenting Payment Single roll-back, or alternatively a raise of $60 to the Newstart Allowance to bring it up to a minimal level of financial support, and into line with the PPS.
By meeting with the MPs, Parents hoped to assist politicians in realising the dire implications of continuing to move single parents from the Parent Payment Single to Newstart once their youngest child turns eight years old. They gave personal examples of situations to show how the significant drop in income on Newstart can financially devastate Australian single parent families. Families who are living at high financial risk due to the already low-paying Parent Payment Single.
The attending parents showed extraordinary dedication and determination to helping improve not just their own family situation, but the financial situation of all Australian single parent families on or destined for Newstart.
Many issues were raised regarding the Parenting Payment Single to Newstart laws, both during the speeches and throughout the day, including the startling fact that many single parent families are now scrambling to cope with an income reduction of anywhere between $60 to $140 per week.
Studying single parent families are now being hit with the double-whammy of not only losing their all-important Pensioner Education Supplement, but also having to afford the JET childcare supplement being raised by over 1000 percent in parent contributions - for many single parents, to continue their studies in the hopes of improving their employability is now a luxury that they cannot afford.
Another major concern is that for domestic violence victims with children over the age of eight, escape may now prove to be financially unviable if they cannot support their family independently once they have left the abusive relationship.
Ironically, it is the working single parent majority that were the most financially affected by the Newstart shift, with their welfare income being reduced once they earn above just $32 per week in paid work - far sooner than the Parent Payment Single limits .
Kathy Lee & Michelle Lee pound the corridors of Parliament for the single parent cause
Many parents feel that these concerns call into question the government's assertion that moving single parents onto the dole was purely a work-incentive based policy, and not a (now defunct) budget surplus one. It seems generally agreed that it wasn't realistic to accept the government's justification of moving single parents onto the dole when statistical evidence proves that 68% of single parents were already in paid employment prior to the Newstart changes. Reducing money to already working, already impoverished households and putting their homes and food budgets at risk is not the answer to improving their employment prospects.
With Newstart set at a staggering 77% below the poverty line and over 17% of Australian children now living in poverty, the government is being called upon to take immediate measures to save single parent families from imminent financial ruin.
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