Government hammered over single-parent pay cuts

Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin.
Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin. Aap

GOVERNMENT cuts to welfare payments of single parents have been attacked as punitive and ineffective by welfare groups.

The changes are expected to have a greater than average impact on the Northern Rivers, with single parents representing 20% of family households compared with the national average of 16%.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council CEO Tony Davies said the measures were designed to get a "quick budget fillip" for the government which would ultimately punish children of parents looking for work.

"The goal of a welfare system is to provide basic support for people so they can live a decent life. Children should have an equal opportunity regardless of the wealth of their family," Mr Davies said.

"These people are earning less than half the median income for our region, which is already well below the state average."

The median weekly income for families in the Page electorate is $1763 (versus the NSW median of $2370), while single parents with one child will now receive around $396 a week, down from $455.

Mr Davies said sole parents were an "easy target", and the subtext of the policy - that welfare-reliant single parents need a push to get into work - was outdated.

"It's simplistic to assume that by cutting benefits to extremely low levels that you will actually get people into work ... it really just punishes women (90% of single parents) and children for circumstances often beyond their control," Mr Davies said.

"Cutting it by this amount is only going to make one of the most important jobs - being a parent - even tougher.

"The more important thing is how you support people to have a basic quality of life and how you support them to get back into work."

The policy has been widely criticised by social welfare groups.

The Australian Council of Social Services have called for a substantial increase in the Newstart allowance.

Topics:  australian council of social services northern rivers social development council

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