It is generally said that the first 100 days of a new government is a good indication of its priorities and how the government intends to interact with stakeholders.
The first 100 days of this new federal government is particularly important for single mother activists, because we are in the unique position of having a Prime Minister who has the lived experience of growing up in a single mother family.
So, where do single mothers stand after the first 100 days of the new government?
The short answer is: not anywhere very different from the end of the old government but with real signs of hope as we move to the next stage. As we write, the Cashless Debit Card legislation has been repealed and legislation for an Integrity Commission is being discussed.
Years of advocacy work on behalf of single mother families has taught us to keep an eye on the main game and look for the small signs of progress on which we can build.
We are working closely with Terese Edwards of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) on single mother issues that can, and must, be addressed by the Federal Government.
The release of Anne Summer’s research “The Choice: Poverty or Violence” received a lot of media attention when it was released and its key messages are beginning to cut through with policy makers across the country. The ‘choice’ Summers refers to is the one facing women escaping family violence: stay in the violent home or face a life of poverty and the risk of homelessness. Both terrible choices for women and their children.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data proves that most single mothers who escape partner violence, even if they are able to work, are financially insecure and for those reliant on government support, poverty is inevitable.
Summer’s key recommendation is that government restore access for all single mothers to Parenting Payment Single (PPS) until their youngest child is 16, which has long been the key priority ask of CSMC and NCSMC.
The Jobs and Skills Summit
September’s Jobs and Skills Summit brought together representatives from community groups, unions, and employers to address economic challenges being faced by employees and those wanting to engage in paid employment.
None of the issues on the agenda were specific to single mothers, but some of the outcomes will certainly help.
- A commitment to invest $575 million in social and affordable housing.
- Development of a Carer Friendly Workplace Framework processes for businesses.
- A free national virtual work experience program, to build awareness of tech careers and support those who face heightened barriers to employment.
- ‘Digital Apprenticeships’ so workers can ‘earn while they learn’ in entry level tech roles.
- 1,000 digital traineeships in the Australian Public Service, over four years, with focus on women, First Nations people, older Australians, and veterans transitioning to civilian life.
- A $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement to provide additional funding for 180,000 fee-free TAFE places in 2023.
- Improving National Disability Insurance Scheme plans, to ensure participants who want to work are supported to do so.
NCSMC’s Terese Edwards attended the summit, taking with her a list of asks. She met with Tony Burke’s advisor and attended the Disadvantaged Job Seeker Roundtable. She then met with the Prime Minister for a long chat one-on-one during morning tea.
Prime Minister Albanese read NCSMC’s briefing paper, which you can read here. The key points of the paper are:
- The critical parenting role of single mothers and our perspective as being parents first and foremost – not as unemployed.
- The need for economic security for single mother families.
- Impacts of violence on both women and children that affect timing and nature of return to work.
- Parenting Payment Single (PPS) is still only barely liveable and is only a stepping stone to improving single mother families’ economic security.
- JobActive and ParentsNext both at times force single mothers to give up their degree and diploma courses or hours of paid work for fear of having their payments suspended.
- Too much child support is unpaid, the level is too low, and we need action.
- Cost and access to quality childcare is a problem for all women trying to work and extra so for single mothers. The government is promising action on this in July 2023.
So where to from here? In October, following the release of the Federal Budget, CSMC will ramp up our advocacy. This will include:
- Ending ParentsNext in its current form
- Moving single parents off JobSeeker and back on Parenting Payment and lifting the rate of Centrelink payments
- Action on child support
- Other changes that improve single mother’s economic security.