Poverty sends sin­gle mums back to abusers


SIN­GLE moth­ers are re­turn­ing to abu­sive re­la­tion­ships be­cause miserly wel­fare pay­ments are forc­ing them and their chil­dren into poverty, they say.

Women rep­re­sent­ing the Na­tional Coun­cil of Sin­gle Moth­ers and their Chil­dren told a fed­eral par­lia­men­tary in­quiry in Ade­laide yes­ter­day that al­most a quar­ter of moth­ers it re­cently sur­veyed had re­turned to an abu­sive part­ner be­cause they could not sur­vive fi­nan­cially alone.

This was largely be­cause the fed­eral wel­fare sys­tem cuts pay­ments to sin­gle par­ents when their youngest child turns eight.

Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Terese Ed­wards, pic­tured, gave an ex­am­ple of one mother who had fled in­ter­state with her seven-year-old twin girls to es­cape an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship but could not get work and even­tu­ally felt she had no op­tion but to re­turn af­ter her daugh­ters turned eight.

Sin­gle par­ents can claim a parenting pay­ment of up to $384 a week un­til their youngest child turns eight, af­ter which they are trans­ferred to the New­start al­lowance, which of­fers them a max­i­mum of $297.50 a week.

Ms Ed­wards said there were ex­emp­tions to al­low par­ents who were home-school­ing, had large fam­i­lies or took in fos­ter chil­dren to re­main on the higher rate, and ar­gued that should ap­ply to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence, too. The in­quiry heard sto­ries of women who were un­able to find more than part-time or ca­sual work and so were lim­it­ing them­selves to one meal a day to en­sure there was enough food for their chil­dren, did not use heat­ing in win­ter and strug­gled to put petrol in their car.

“Hav­ing an in­come pro­vides women with au­ton­omy and the se­cu­rity of be­ing able to keep petrol in your car or hav­ing a work­ing car be­cause you have to run (from your abu­sive part­ner),” she said.

“These women were in part-time, pre­car­i­ous jobs but they knew that they had that solid foot­ing be­neath them (of the sin­gle parenting pay­ment).

“Forc­ing women on to New­start is a false econ­omy be­cause it erodes their fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity and we have to put enor­mous amounts of money into wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions to sup­port them.”

The coun­cil urged the Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­ter­gen­er­a­tional Wel­fare De­pen­dence to raise the age at which pay­ments are cut to when a per­son’s youngest child turns 16. FOR SUP­PORT, PHONE 1800 RE­SPECT.

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