In July 2018 the Federal Government expanded its pilot of ParentsNext, a program for young parents to become employment-ready based.
At a first glance this seems a step-in-the-right-direction as we know that investing in families makes sound policy and economic sense. However, there is a sting in the tail and it’s known as ‘compliance and penalty’.
Fact: Parenting Payment Single at risk
Single Mothers groups totally oppose programs that can result in suspension, reduction and/or cessation of income support. This payment, usually the Parenting Payment Single, is often the only source that keeps a roof over the family’s heads, food in their bellies and the family afloat. Hold the judgement!
Put yourself in her shoes
Put yourself in her shoes, she is the amazing one! She is the one who is stepping up and is the visible parent taking on the majority or all, the primary care of one or more children.
As a country we fail to value and acknowledge unpaid care. We never talk about the ‘care cost’ or the ‘emotional labour’. We push it to one side as it`s falsely assumed that parenting is fluid and can be squeezed to meet the requirements of programs.
For those of us who have children and have done this as a sole parent, the demands are unrelenting and expected childhood bumps often occur at the most inconvenient times. Parenting is messy, challenging, it can have us holding our breath and filling our hearts; it`s not predicable.
If we are gainfully employed with preschool children, we may have some buffers in the form of leave entitlements or we may have the financial resources or the established networks to help us to juggle those competing demands as we keep all the balls in the air.
However, this is not the circumstances of participation in ParentsNext as eligibility is determined by location, receipt of the parenting payment (within the last six months) and no employment earnings during that same period, and with a child under six years.
Why can we not have programs underpinned by encouragement and reward?
Instead of the vast amount of money spent on the establishment of ParentsNext service providers it could be used by parents to purchase the types of assistance they most need and that will bring them and their children (and ultimately Australian society), the greatest long-term benefits. Why do we assume that these parents are passive in their own lives, that they are bereft of aspiration? This is flawed thinking.
The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc will be giving evidence on 27th February 2019 and talking to women who are participants of Parentsnext and also want to appear before the Committee. There are limited spaces and we commend the Committee on providing this opportunity and ensuring that the session will be confidential. This inquiry is an opportunity for us to tell the government our views and experiences about ParentsNext. NCSMC submission It is now public and on the parliament website as number 20. Our key recommendation is
Urgently remove compliance and penalty from the ParentsNext program. This is to occur immediately along with the revoking of any suspension and or reduction of income support because of the program
Do the single mum survey
Hot off the press – ParentsNext Survey
Single mother groups facilitated a parentsnext survey for participants. The findings of the survey shape our public advocacy. As always, your responses will be anonymous, your participation freely given, and your time is met with gratitude. Its not too late to have your say and we will update the survey findings.
If you are confused and/or want more tips and facts about ParentsNext click here .
You’ll find the official government information page here
By Terese Edwards
Chief Executive Officer of the National Council Single Mothers and their Children