Since 2006 the federal Government has been moving sole parent families off the Sole Parenting Payment and onto the Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight.
In May 2012 the Federal Government announced it would be moving an additional 100 000 sole parent families onto the Newstart allowance.
These changes have left one in four sole parent families living in poverty. The Newstart Allowance is not an appropriate benefit for sole parents. It does not recognise the additional costs incurred, and barriers faced by sole parents.
Governments have justified this change by arguing it will push more sole parents into paid employment, however 60% of people receiving the sole parenting payment were already in paid employment.
Many sole parents fail to find jobs because they are facing the difficulties of a tight job market. Unemployment has risen from 5.1% to 5.6% over the last year, and the number of job advertisements has steadily declined in 2013.
With workforce participation staying steady for the last four months, this policy has done nothing other than drive sole parent families into poverty.
There is a lack of adequate opportunities of part time and flexible positions that fit around school hours and caring responsibilities. Sole parents are often faced with employer prejudice, and only offered casual jobs that lack security.
Sole parents and their children deserve all the opportunities Australia has to offer. Ensuring that Australian children grow up free from poverty should be a key priority of all parties.
We call on your parties to reinstate the Sole Parenting Payment for all sole parent families with children under 18.
Over the last decade the number of sole parent families living in poverty increased from 15% to 24%. It is unacceptable for Australia to leave some of the most vulnerable members of our community living in poverty. Since 2006, changes to the Sole Parenting Payment have pushed more families into poverty, leaving them unable to pay bills, other costs, or even homeless. This year, further changes to the Parenting Payment Single have pushed over 100 000 sole parent families onto the Newstart Allowance reducing the maximum rate for these parents to $533.00 per fortnight.
In addition to this being a cruel and punitive policy, there is no credible evidence that shifting sole parents to Newstart increases rates of employment. Sole parents often require part time and flexible positions that fit around school hours and caring responsibilities.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that between May 2012 and May 2013, the rate of unemployment has risen from 5.1% to 5.6%. This, combined with the ANZ Job Advertisement Series showing that job advertising declined for the fourth consecutive month in June, means there are fewer job opportunities for sole parents.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has expressed “concerns the legislation [Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Act 2012] will have significant and detrimental impacts on the human rights of over 100,000 Australians, many of whom are currently living in poverty”. These human rights include Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which enshrines the right to social security, including access to healthcare, and an adequate standard of living, food and housing.
We call on you to make a commitment to fairness and Australian families this election, and commit to reinstating the Sole Parenting Payment to all sole parent families with children under 18.