Young mums at the frontline of new Centrelink ‘revolution’

Young mums at the frontline of new Centrelink 'revolution'

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Young mums at the frontline of new Centrelink ‘revolution’

Young single parents have been identified as a target of major new welfare reforms by the Turnbull government.

By Jason Bryce | 22 September 2016

…”aiming to revolutionise the welfare system”

will target three ‘at-risk’ groups…

The Turnbull government has announced “a new approach aiming to revolutionise the welfare system.” The new approach will target three ‘at-risk’ groups – young single parents, young carers and young students. Young single parents are ‘at-risk’ of remaining on Centrelink for many years, according to the Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter.

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter

“Revolutionary change is required,” said Mr Porter “Young carers, young parents and young students will be the initial priority groups.”

Mr Porter said the new approach is called “The Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare” and is all about ‘early intervention’ to ‘create a path out of the welfare system.’

What does a path out of welfare look like? The government admits it doesn’t know and has decided to outsource that part of the plan. Mr Porter announced a $96 million “Try, Test and Learn Fund” which will ask for ideas and proposals from charities, businesses and government to build pathways out of welfare.

Mr Porter said the government will have the fund up and running by the end of 2016 and will consult widely on how it will operate.

Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, is cautiously optimistic about the plan.

“We support anything that is viewed as an investment, particularly for sole parents because, gee, they’ve had a tough time of late,” Terese told ABC TV on Tuesday night.
“My concern is that there is also some mention of some budget savings,” said Terese.

Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer, NCSMC - Image source: Terese Edwards
Terese Edwards, CEO of the NCSMC

Mr Porter said the budget savings would come in the longer term as the targeted people moved off welfare. He said “passive welfare” is bad for parents and children

When asked Terese about the revolution, she was a lot more direct.

“It’s such a nonsense that sole parent families don’t want to be in paid work and are accepting of hardship.

“Who chooses to live with financial stress? I don’t know any parent who resigns themselves to their children missing out.”

Terese said parents make decisions about working “in the context of access to jobs plus the safety and care of the children.”

A fact-sheet on parents was released by Mr Porter documenting some of the findings of the research that is underpinning the welfare revolution. According to the research (by big accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers), there are about 432,000 people receiving Parenting Payment from Centrelink. The research estimates that 48 per cent of those parents will still be receiving income support payments in ten years while 22 per cent will have moved off Centrelink.

Of those totals, there are about 4,370 parents under the age of 18 who are currently receiving Parenting Payment. Around 70 per cent of those young parents will still be on Centrelink in ten years while another 23 per cent will still be receiving Family Tax Benefit.

Help not wanted

It is these numbers that Mr Porter’s revolution wants to change by helping young mums access education, training and employment. In a major statement of the obvious, the researchers from Price Waterhouse Coopers said: “Having a child young can disrupt education, and increase the barriers to finding and keeping a job.”

“This can lead to long-term welfare dependency.”

Terese is particularly blunt on this point.

“There are 730,000 job seekers and just 120,000 jobs now available, do the maths.”

Terese said single mums had been posting on social media about the pathway out of welfare they are looking for.

“It was jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs,” said Terese pretty simply.

Jason Bryce
Business & Finance Journalist

Further Single Parent reading

Family Tax Benefit cuts – are you losing money?

10 government cuts that you didn’t know about

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go to Jason Bryce's Biography

Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the 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. Read Jason Bryce’s full profile here

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