Single Mothers give evidence to Parliament Committee

Changing the Narrative on Intergenerational Welfare Dependency

By Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of the National Council Single Mothers and their Children | 30 January 2019

diversity, race, ethnicity and people concept – international group of happy smiling different women over white pointing finger at something

32% of children who reside in a sole parent family live in poverty

We have a policy failure

The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc named the submission ‘changing the narrative’. It’s time to get serious about the inherent flaws that overwhelmingly affect single mothers and robs them of financial security. 32% of children who reside in a sole parent family live in poverty. We have a policy failure. Australia has travelled through periods of low unemployment, budget surpluses and navigated a global financial crisis. The economy has changed but not the circumstances for single mothers. If we continue with the same approach, we will get the same result and we miss out on the full riches and talents of our children as they do have access to necessary funds.
The submission contains seven recommendations. They are not challenging, they are not ground-breaking and in fact mostly they’re about restoring what was previously available and asking the government to act upon its own legislation.
We live in a country where celebrating a little ones eighth birthday is a cause for great duress as it can signal the end of access to the Parenting Payment Single.

Lonely little girl at home. Autism concept

Our hearts hurt every time, children go hungry, sleep rough, don’t connect with their peers through sport or other activities. The policy, welfare to work, and its key drivers, is completely out of step with the realities of single mother households.

In the opening statement to the Committee. Terese Edwards stated;

In my 10 years in working at NCSMC I have never communicated with one mother who did not have a plan, an aspiration or wanting to be the best parent that they could possibly be.

In fact, the pain and the distress are palpable when they cannot quarantine their children from hardship, financial stress and all of its ramifications.

The NCSMC team that appeared before the Committee were well-qualified to speak. All single mothers and all have important points to make.

In my 10 years in working at NCSMC I have never communicated with one mother who did not have a plan, an aspiration or wanting to be the best parent that they could possibly be.

In fact, the pain and the distress are palpable when they cannot quarantine their children from hardship, financial stress and all of its ramifications.
The NCSMC team that appeared before the Committee were well-qualified to speak. All single mothers and all have important points to make.

Canberra, Australia – March 11, 2018: Parliament House reflecting in the water feature

The women repeated the unequivocal statement that cutting access to a Parenting Payment Single when a child turns eight is an unmitigated failure. It’s out of step with state child protection requirements, it’s not aligned to capacity and employment patterns of single mothers. The latest research from ABS tells us that employment increases with the age of the child and that 14 years is when employment becomes more accessible. ‘Welfare to work reform’ harmed single mothers who were in paid employment due to the punishing thresholds. The witnesses spoke to the flawed child-support system, the ballooning debt and the impact of non-lodgement of tax returns.

Young woman mother (age 30-40) having financial problems. Money concept. Real people. Copy space

The founder of ‘women in poverty’ read women’s statements which encapsulated the unrelenting hardship due to the inadequate level of Newstart. The committee were informed about women affected by domestic violence who are also forced across to Newstart, there are no exemptions. This heartless policy occurs the context of the horrors of violence against women, the committee heard how a lack of finance can delay – prevent women from leaving, and/or or forces them to return.

New research known as ‘Outside systems control my life’ was also part of the evidence.

The hearing was recorded and streamed live and testament to power of the evidence was the media attention.

Resources:

Intergenerational Welfare Dependence inquiry

NCSMC Intergenerational Welfare Dependence inquiry submission (number 12)

“Outside systems control my life” Single mothers’ stories of Welfare to Work

Terese Edwards
National Council of Single Mothers and their Children

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