LOCAL community organisations have warned the scrapping of the baby bonus will lead to more strain on already overstretched welfare agencies.
In Tuesday’s budget the government dumped the baby bonus, and replaced it with a one-off increase in Family Tax Benefit Part A.
Under the bonus, which will be scrapped on March 1 next year, families with incomes of up to $150,000 received a $5000 payment on the birth or adoption of their first child and $3000 for each subsequent baby.
But now $2000 will be paid for the birth or adoption of a first child or each child in multiple births, and $1000 for second or subsequent children.
Families will receive an initial payment of $500, the remainder to be paid in seven fortnightly instalments.
Nowra Family Support Service team leader Lynne Jackson-Waite said the changes to the baby bonus would affect the most vulnerable in the community.
“I think it will mean a lot more families seeking help from other agencies.
“It will lead to a lot of dependence on other welfare agencies.”
She questioned the rationale behind the move.
“Personally I really can’t understand it – children are our most precious commodity and we should be doing everything we can to help them and their families,” she said.
“This is all about children’s futures – we need to look after them and that starts at birth.
“It was a well known fact that the most vital time for brain development in a child is in the first three to five years – and that correlates with the mother and the father feeling less stressed and providing an environment that is productive and stimulative.
“Yet if there are constant worries over money that creates stress and it doesn’t go away.
“The bonus is a wonderful assistance to families and it is especially vital to families that are vulnerable or single parent families.
“Taking it away or reducing it could be jeopardising the family’s ability to get essential items it needs.
“Right across the board this is used by many families to provide necessary items and cover ongoing expenses of raising a child.
“Families are often the most vulnerable, why are they targeting them?
“I believe in being able support families to parent children to their optimum and that requires financial support.
“Lots of families don’t have extended families or nuclear families for support.
“This will lead to a lot of dependence on other welfare agencies.”
Nowra Women’s Refuge support worker Roslyn Pratt said the scrapping of the bonus would leave women and children more vulnerable.
“I was shocked when I heard the baby bonus will go and will be provided as a tax break in Family Tax Benefit A,” she said.
“In our case we deal with a lot of women who are involved in domestic violence situations, often single mums, I don’t know if they will be eligible for that family benefit if they aren’t working.
“They will again be disadvantaged, I think it will only help if they are working.
“The previous baby bonus did help people and the majority of them used it for its meant purpose.
“Sure you had the odd case who didn’t use it for its intended purpose and it is those cases that get reported in the media and then all get categorised like that, which is unfair.
“The majority of women who get that baby bonus use it to survive and buy things for their children or baby.
“Some of our women have been able to use it to try to establish themselves in their own houses.
“They have to start from scratch and they need to pay things like bonds, advanced rent and then purchase things that they need like beds, cooking utensils etc.
“And on top of that they were dealing with new babies and the associated cost and perhaps other siblings as well.
“The bonus was an advantage for them. Now without it they will be back where they were pre the bonus – disadvantaged.”