Australia consistently ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest nations in the world yet, despite this, thousands of our children are living in poverty or disadvantaged circumstances due in part to a poorly designed and ineffective child support system.
Currently, Australian parents owe more than $1.6 billion in child support payments. This is a national disgrace and impacts every sole parent trying to meet their children’s nutritional and developmental needs, wellbeing and security without the financial assistance to which they are legally entitled.
‘Child support needs to operate in the best in of the child, and this means that payments are paid on time and in full,’ says Terese Edwards, CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children.
Single mothers are disproportionately affected by unpaid child support. Without this payment, they frequently struggle to feed and clothe their children and meet their family’s basic needs.
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and the Councils for Single Mothers and their Children together call for urgent changes to improve the enforceability of child support assessments.
We recommend that the next Federal Government ensure that Australians with an enforceable child support liability are required to lodge an annual tax return in line with prescribed dates. Failure to do so should be dealt with accordingly.
“While the costs of living are increasing, child support payments remain stagnant and significant numbers of parents are allowed to default on their payments,” says Deb Tsorbaris, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.
Currently there are over 200,000 child support payers who breach this requirement, committing both tax and child support avoidance or minimisation.
“This is markedly increasing the material disadvantage experienced by Australian children increasing the likelihood of ongoing disadvantage. We must invest in resolving this issue for the current and future economic and social benefit of the country as a whole,” says Ms Tsorbaris.
We also urge the parties to commit to a trial of government guaranteed child support as recommended by the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program.
Women who have escaped family violence and had to relinquish any claim to child support to reduce the risk of contact with a violent partner through the child support system could be the ideal pilot group for this trial.
“Trialing guaranteed child support with this key group is an opportunity to assess its broader feasibility. Additionally it recognises that perpetrators of family violence are being allowed to avoid their responsibilities to financially support their children through the inadequate response of the child support system,” says Jenny Davidson, CEO of the Council for Single Mothers and their Children.
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and the Councils for Single Mothers and their Children look forward to party commitments to these statements and to working with the next Federal government to reform Australia’s child support system to protect children from poverty and disadvantage.