IT’S called the Newstart allowance, but for the 80,000 single parents who were moved onto it last week, it is anything but.
Single parents whose youngest child has turned eight will now be transferred from the parenting payment to the lower Newstart allowance.
The move, which will largely affect women, will cost these households between $60 and $110 each week.
Shoalhaven is home to a high number of single parent families, and Member for Gilmore Joanna Gash said she is very concerned about how many will cope.
Having depended on a single parent pension herself, she said she was all too well aware of the difficulties.
“I feel very strongly about this. We have a lot of single parents in this area,” she said.
“I think people will be surprised at how many people will be affected by it and there’s just not the jobs to go round.”
She said that when she had to rely on the pension, she “literally begged” to go to work in order to manage.
But she added she was lucky enough to have her mother to step in and offer child care.
“I didn’t have any experience, I just had to beg people to give me a go. I drove taxis, I worked in hotels and clubs.”
She said most people dependent on single parent benefits were in a situation they didn’t want to be in.
She said she had no doubt the charities would be absorbing more demand.
Manager of Nowra Family Support Service Inc. Pam Arnold has delivered a blistering criticism of the changes to the payments.
“Single parents, predominantly women, but not excluding fathers, not only face the burden of parenting their children by themselves, they also face the challenge of obtaining employment in a job market which has no suitable jobs,” Ms Arnold said.
“Newstart is less than half of the minimum wage in Australia – approximately 42 per cent. Where is the equity?
“The Australian Government has a duty to ensure that all children regardless of the families they live in, have access to basic rights.
“By depriving single parents of an adequate living allowance, we are depriving our most valuable resource, our children, of life opportunities.”
Community worker Helen Esdaile said she was prepared for problems facing many single parent families to get much worse.
She noted that her annual Christmas lunch (see story below) was seeing more single parents and their children in attendance each year.
She said 2013 was going to be “extremely challenging” for single parents affected by the payment changes.
• See letters, editorial page 6