Expert Opinion Panel
Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist
What good news could there possibly be for families who have lost hundreds of dollars per fortnight…
What good news could there possibly be for families who have lost hundreds of dollars per fortnight for the sake of Wayne Swan’s now abandoned promise of a federal budget surplus in 2013?
Yes, single parents are turning to prostitution or despairing about how they can support their children according to numerous media reports and posts on online single parent forums.
Yes, some working single parents are reporting benefit cuts of more than $200 per fortnight, because the taper rate for Newstart is so much harsher than that for Parenting Payment Single.
And yes, parents with young children are dreading that eighth birthday, because with it now comes Newstart poverty.
But there is good news amid the despair…
A grassroots campaign of mothers is attracting plenty of media attention. Widespread support for single parents has surprised some mothers who are more used to being made to feel ashamed for their situation.
Facebook groups and a day of action on Tuesday the 5th of February are the direct result of mothers coming together and fighting these changes – and they are attracting national attention.
Single mum Karen Jones from Melbourne has two teenagers and works 30 hours per week. Karen is one of the working parents who has lost thousands of dollars per year.
“I lose $240 per fortnight thanks to these changes,” Karen told www.SingleMum.com.au on Friday. Karen joined the Single Parents Action Group just before Christmas and is now the convenor of the Victorian branch.
“Concerned mothers started this campaign about three months ago and it has just exploded since then.
“Don’t think that it will be over this Tuesday,” said Karen “This Tuesday is just the beginning.”
“One of the great things about the surge in single parent activism in the last few months has been the coming together of people who often feel alone in the world” said Karen.
“…Some mothers are telling their stories for the first time and some have been through a lot”
“This is giving people a voice, they are not alone. Some mothers are telling their stories for the first time and some have been through a lot.
“Some are learning that you don’t have to feel degraded, humiliated, ashamed for being in this situation,” said Karen.
“We didn’t choose to be single mothers and if I could have had a different life for my kids I would have.
“People are hearing that, and they need to hear that it is not just a case of us having lots of kids, a lot of us are in this situation because of violence and intimidation,” said Karen “Things are not as clear cut as people think.”
Other good news for single mums dealing with big pay cuts is the announcement of a federal election on September 14. That and the abandonment of the commitment to a federal budget surplus this year raise the possibility of politicians reacting to people marching on the streets.
Other news that has brought a smile to the faces of single parents recently was the Minister in charge of Centrelink claiming she could live on Newstart’s $35 per day. Jenny Macklin later apologised for her comments that were widely condemned as insensitive and arrogant. Macklin’s current salary gives her about $900 per day.
Centrelink too had to apologise for bungling the changeover of thousands of single parents from Parenting Payment Single to Newstart and wrongly asking parents to hand in or destroy their pension cards.
Raising Newstart payments by about $50 per week
Raising Newstart payments by about $50 per week is a possible outcome of sustained political pressure on the government. This could occur as soon as the May federal budget.
Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, the acting CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says there is increasing interest from all political parties in the urgent need to increase Newstart.
“Politicians from all sides have acknowledged in recent weeks that the $35 a day Newstart payment is simply too low to live on.
“We welcome media reports that options are being considered by the Federal Government,” said Tessa Boyd- Caine.
However, the Federal opposition parties are giving no support to the single parents action groups and Tony Abbott’s recent ‘comprehensive’ policy launch ignored single parents altogether.
Plus Abbott is planning to axe the schoolkids bonus if elected on September 14, according to media reports this week.
The campaign to fight the parenting pension changes has been remarkable in that it has not been started, co-ordinated or promoted by a big lobby group or established political party. This has been mothers coming together, sharing stories and saying enough is enough.
For Karen Jones that has been a great outcome in itself.
“If nothing comes out this campaign at least I have made some good friends.”
Business & Finance Journalist
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.
Jason’s personal website is www.centrelinknews.com.au
Keep up to date with the latest Centrelink news and information at Jason’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/centrelinknews
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