Make ParentsNext Voluntary
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My name is Ella and I am organising some elements of this campaign against ParentsNext. I am an ex Policy Advisor, I have a degree in Social Science, I’m a sole parent and I’m required to participate in ParentsNext. I believe that the ParentsNext program should be voluntary when a parent is ready to re-engage with the workforce. We should not assume that parents don’t want paid employment.
My story is that my partner left us when our daughter was 8 months old and I was thrust into the life of a sole parent. I was very ill at the time, had a child that needed medication and suddenly had to move 1000kms from my home and job to live with my mother.
Luckily ParentsNext wasn’t around back in 2014, and they’ve only just caught me before my daughter starts primary school. I was waiting for this time anyway, because of many reasons, but mostly so I could afford to work (as I couldn’t afford childcare).
Since starting this campaign I’ve heard from many women who have been targeted by this program. All women are confused, angry, terrified and humiliated. The politicians say they are ‘helping mums return to work’ but what’s really happening is that the unpaid work these women are already do is being undervalued. Worse than that it’s being construed as ‘dole bludging’.
Many sole parents are trapped by the system. They have no support from the other parent. The Child Support system is flawed so a lot of absent parents can get out of paying any money towards the wellbeing of their child. Interestingly it is the wealthy absent parents who are most successful at hiding money.
Sole parents are abandoned by the State to live in poverty but trusted and legally obliged to raise healthy well adjusted children. Most parents do this willingly, however to be told your payments will be cut ‘if you don’t take your child to story time’ is pretty stressful. Most sole and single parents are just coping already.
Most women I’ve spoken to have been bullied by their ParentsNext (job network) provider. These providers don’t have social welfare degrees, they are not psychologists, and do not have any qualifications associated with managing (mostly) women who are often traumatised and escaping violence. These women are having to literally beg them for exemptions to attend Court or medical appointments. Some women are staying with their abusers because they don’t want to deal with the instability of ParentsNext.
The ParentsNext providers are motivated by incentives- the Government pays them for each parent they ‘sign up’ , pays them an regular amount for each person on ‘their books’ and also they get a big payment when a parent ‘finds work’. Women receive no on-going financial help.
Adding further humiliation ParentsNext providers are forcing women to sign a privacy waiver by saying “if you don’t sign this form we’ll stop your payments”. It is illegal to coerce an individual to sign a privacy waiver. Providers obtain this signature so they can control a parent, check up on them with Doctors and make sure parents are attending their activities. This is a horrific breach of privacy and I am getting advice on legal options for women who are coerced to sign a privacy waiver.
Will you stand with me and other single income families by signing and sharing this petition?
ParentsNext is part of the new DHS legislation that requires women with children from just 6 months old to participate in ‘job seeker’ like activities. The program is punitive. If parents don’t make an appointment due to their child being sick or other reasons associated with poverty, then their payments are cancelled. This means the Government is taking desperately needed money away from potentially impoverished women and children. This is particularly concerning considering the Government has touted ParentsNext as addressing intergenerational poverty.
ParentsNext legislation is in breach of several international Conventions.
ParentsNext is in breach of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). It is also in breach of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It should be reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Australia signed onto the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR, in 1975, which includes the right to social security. The United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights advocates that there is ‘a strong presumption that retrogressive measures taken in relation to the right to social security are prohibited under the Covenant’
The ParentsNext Discussion Paper clearly states that women are the primary target of this policy, which makes it discriminatory towards women in denying them their rights for social security and also places children at risk.
The ParentsNext Discussion Paper states that “approximately 96 per cent of...participants are expected to be women”
Fathers are not a focus for this program.
This focus is on mothers those in our society who can least afford the time to prepare for employment.
Women spend 16 hours per week on housework prior to becoming a parent, which jumps to 30 hours per week when their youngest child starts school, while caring duties jump from 2 hours per week to 51 hours when a baby is born.
It is discriminatory to view mothers of young children as unemployed workers when they are in fact working longer hours than men in full time positions, but largely without remuneration.
The Parenting Payment system already imposes a high level of conditionality on receipt of Parenting Payments, which has increased poverty levels particularly for single mothers and their children
The Government pays ParentsNext providers KPI bonuses for assisting clients to achieve certain outcomes. These payments are misplaced, and will result in providers pushing clients to certain outcomes; this has been shown to not work for the Welfare to Work agencies.
The program should be voluntary and bonuses should be paid to the clients themselves. The program should be incentivised not punitive.
Several key organisations (see references below) strongly advise that mothers of young children, particularly those who are single parents, not be included in the job seeker category.
There is no evidence that sending a parent back to work or engaging them in work training or preparation when their youngest is under the age of 5 will improve their ability to enter paid employment when they are ready to do so. There is also no evidence that the activities outlined in the ParentsNext National Expansion Discussion Paper will improve barriers to employment such as disadvantage, mental or physical health issues, dealing with domestic violence or lack of completion of high school when the recipients are caring for very young children.
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