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.