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Expert Opinion

Jason Bryce - Business & Finance Specialist


Newstart changes & cuts to single parent benefits backroom deal


Latest Update: Senate Centrelink payments back-room deal

By Jason Bryce | 14 January 2018

Latest Update: Australian single mothers are once again targeted for welfare cuts - stock photo source: Bigstock.com

Australian single mothers are once again

...targeted for welfare cuts

The Turnbull government has apparently done a deal, or is very close to a deal, with the Nick Xenophon Team to pass most of their proposed welfare changes from the May 2017 budget. No one is providing complete details but the Nick Xenophon Team seems to be rejecting the lobbying (and pleas) from single mothers to retain the 'Intent To Claim' backdating payments rules. And NXT may even be supporting a big cut to bereavement allowance for pregnant widows.

If the deal goes through, you can expect the following changes...


Jobseekers


Turning down an offer of 'suitable work' means being automatically cut off for at least four weeks - stock photo source: Bigstock.com
Turning down an offer of 'suitable work' means being automatically cut off for at least four weeks

The much-hyped drug testing of welfare recipients pilot scheme is out. More importantly, single parents on PPS or Newstart may not have to complete extra hours of mutual obligation. The government wanted single parents on Newstart, aged between 30-49 years, to face increased activity requirements of 50 hours per fortnight, up from 30 hours but they seem to have given up on that.

But 80,000 job seekers will have their payments cut according to the Australian Council of Social Services as a new demerit point system is expected to save the government over $300 million in Newstart payments withheld from jobseekers. Turning down an offer of 'suitable work' means being automatically cut off for at least four weeks.

Intent To Claim

Axing the Intent to Claim directly affects Domestic Violence victims - stock photo source: Bigstock.com
Axing the Intent to Claim directly affects Domestic Violence victims

Currently applicants who can not provide all their paperwork – ID, tax returns, bank statements, children's documents - on the day they first contact Centrelink can lodge an "Intent To Claim" so they will be backpaid to that date. "Intent To Claim" is on the chopping block, leaving parents escaping abusive homes potentially without income for long periods of time.

Bereavement Allowance


Centrelink Bereavement Allowance under threat - stock photo source: Bigstock.com


Bereavement Allowance is now paid to pregnant widows from the date of the death of her partner until the birth of the child. This small number of people will now be up to $1300 worse off because they will be treated the same as any other widow/er.

Has the Nick Xenophon Team abandoned single parents?

It seems difficult to believe that the generally socially progressive Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) senators and members would support some of these cuts, in exchange for scrapping the drug testing trial, increased mutual obligation hours and minor funding increases for rehabilitation services.

Terese Edwards from the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
Terese Edwards, NCSMC

On Wednesday 10 January, the NXT party acknowledged to the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children's opposition to the axing of Intent To Claim but made no commitments.

"Please be assured that your correspondence will be considered by the team before it comes time to vote on this important issue," wrote Senator Rex Patrick's advisor Milly Pink in an email obtained by singlemum.com.au.

"Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the intent to claim."

Those non-committal words were in response to an email from Terese Edwards at the NCSM&C that included testimony from single mothers who need Intent To Claim:

"The day I left domestic violence, I spent the afternoon filling out paperwork at Centrelink. I could barely stand because the exhaustion was so great."

And

"My ex-husband used to lie and tell people that I was crazy. He would tell people my bruises and marks were caused by an allergy. It's not evil to be a social security recipient. The government is elected to disperse funds to where they are needed."


Have single mothers been abandoned by the Nick Xenophon Party - stock photo source: Bigstock.com


But this mum was straight to the point in her submission to the senators:

"Can you help me, I have applied for Parenting Payment Single – it has taken over 2 months. I have limited credit on my phone and each time I call I am on the line for ages. I have used my 3 visits at Vinnies. Really stuck for food."

The answer from NXT's social services spokeswoman, Rebekha Sharkie, is apparently no, we can't help you.

Rebekha told the Australian that the deal struck a good balance and that taxpayers expect people to look for work. She said the government had agreed to the deal.

Reactions to the deal

Labor Senator Doug Cameron told the ABC that the changes targeted the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country
Labor Senator Doug Cameron

Labor Senator Doug Cameron told the ABC that the changes targeted the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country, so he was not interested in negotiating with the government. The Greens also oppose the bill entirely. Terese Edwards said she will be "beyond disappointed" if the NXT party goes through with axing Intent To Claim.

"It is dangerous and no MP should be party to such flawed policy,"

"This would be a serious step backwards for women seeking safety," Terese told Singlemum.com.au .

"We know that women stay in abusive relationship because of a lack of finances (often kept from them as part of the abuse).

"We also know from a recent survey that women return to the hands of their abuser and to the place of their abuse because of finances," said Terese.

The dirty deal. What the Nick Xenophon Team has reportedly agreed to


The dirty deal. What the Nick Xenophon Team has agreed to - stock photo source: Bigstock.com
What the Nick Xenophon Team has reportedly agreed to (Stock photo)

OUT


X NO - Drug testing for Jobseekers is not going ahead

X NO - Increased mutual obligation hours for Newstart


IN


X YES - to axing Intent To Claim

X YES - Cut to Bereavement Allowance for pregnant women

X YES - Demerit Points system for Jobseekers

X YES – Rolling seven payments into one Jobseeker Allowance


Jason Bryce

Business & Finance Journalist


Take action! What you can do to protest the changes and cuts


Email Rebekha Sharkie MP - Rebekha.Sharkie.MP@aph.gov.au

Some ideas to include in your email:

Don't cut the 'Intent to Claim'. It's so important for women leaving Domestic Violence and for others who are doing it tough.

Don't make compliance harder when we really want a job. Of course we lose hope and faith in the system but let's not lose our only sources of survival.





Have your say on this story - what do you think? Make a comment below!




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Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.

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What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the

kids

are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.

Centrelink

plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a

divorce

or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

Please remember the bigger font words,because we will use it often in our website.