The impact of social security reforms on single mothers and their children

Stream: Social security, conditionality and risk
Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 1.35 pm – 3.15 pm

Abstract

In 2016, there were almost 1,000,000 lone parent families in Australia, with 81.8 per cent headed by a single mother. The rate of poverty among lone parent families was 32 per cent, rising to 59 per cent in households where the parent was unemployed.

Changes to social security policy relevant to lone parents have focused on reconnecting them with training and employment to insulate against the risks of long-term welfare dependence. Maintaining access to Parenting Payment Single is contingent on participation rules and when the youngest child turns eight years old, benefit entitlements switch to the lower Newstart Allowance. Since the changes commenced, rates of poverty among lone parent households have increased. Research suggests a deterioration in the health, wellbeing and development of children in those families.

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare is the peak body for child and family services in Victoria. Its membership of over 100 organisations consists of many direct service providers including FamilyCare, the main provider of child and family services in the Goulburn Valley and West Hume region of Victoria.

Service providers in Victoria have voiced concern about the impacts of social security reforms on single mothers and the ability of state-funded services to meet their needs, with implications for child wellbeing and safety. This paper will review recent research about the impacts of social security reforms on single mothers and their children and investigate the potential challenges that these impacts pose for the delivery of child and family services.

Authors

David Tennant (Presenter), FamilyCare
David Tennant is a lawyer, who joined the community sector in 1995. He has held service delivery, policy, management and representative roles in the years since, maintaining an interest in issues related to financial hardship and the structural causes of poverty.

David was appointed CEO of regional Victorian community agency FamilyCare, in May 2010. FamilyCare’s main office is in Shepparton, one of the Commonwealth’s 10 place-based welfare reform trial sites and the only community in Victoria subject to a trial of income management. David Co-Chairs the Treating Families Fairly forum for the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.

Kelly Bowey (Presenter), Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare
Kelly Bowey is a Senior Policy and Research Officer at the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare. She has previously worked as a social worker in the disability sector and currently leads the Centre’s social policy responses across a range of areas.

Kelly recently represented the Centre at a Senate Committee hearing on ParentsNext and is leading the Centre’s response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Her passion for social justice informs her work and enables the Centre to provide strong advocacy on critical social issues.