No love if you want wel­fare

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - ANNIKA SMETHURST NA­TIONAL PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

THOU­SANDS of cou­ples pre­tend­ing to be sin­gle to claim higher wel­fare cheques will have to prove they are not in love to keep their en­ti­tle­ments — and they’ll need a wit­ness to back their story.

As part of a Bud­get drag­net to catch wel­fare cheats, a se­ries of tougher re­stric­tions will be placed on el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for sin­gle-par­ent pay­ments.

From Septem­ber next year, feud­ing par­ents will have to find a third party to back up claims their re­la­tion­ship is over af­ter the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices es­ti­mated that up to 15,000 peo­ple in ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships were in­cor­rectly re­ceiv­ing sin­gle­par­ent pay­ments.

Wit­nesses caught mak­ing a false dec­la­ra­tions about a re­la­tion­ship could be jailed for up to a year.

Sin­gle par­ents are en­ti­tled to a base pay­ment of $264.50 a fort­night more than par­ents in recog­nised re­la­tion­ships. That equates to $6800 a year more.

Cen­tre­link recog­nises mar­riages, same-sex and de facto re­la­tion­ships and cus­tomers with mul­ti­ple part­ners but will only pay the sin­gle-par­ent pay­ment where there has been a “phys­i­cal as well as an emo­tional sep­a­ra­tion”.

A woman was jailed for two years af­ter she claimed $90,326 in sin­gle par­ent­ing pay­ments over a seven-year pe­riod. In court she was found to have re­peat­edly made false state­ments to Cen­tre­link to hide the fact she was liv­ing with a man she later mar­ried.

An­other claim­ing to be a sin­gle mum was jailed for 18 months af­ter plead­ing guilty to fraud­u­lently claim­ing more than $60,000 for sin­gle-par­ent pay­ments over eight years.

The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates 7400 par­ents re­ceiv­ing sin­gle­par­ent ben­e­fits will see their pay­ments re­duced and a fur­ther 7400 will have their pay­ments axed.

So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter Chris­tian Porter said the ra­tio­nale was sim­ple: “Peo­ple should only be re­ceiv­ing the pay­ment to which they are en­ti­tled.”

The na­tion’s peak wel­fare body, the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice, de­scribed the pol­icy as an “un­nec­es­sary in­tru­sion into peo­ple’s lives”.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Cassandra Goldie said 33 per cent of sin­gle par­ents live in poverty and are al­ready forced to prove the have used up all their sav­ings and are look­ing for work.

“This kind of sur­veil­lance is only one step away from the bad old days when Cen­tre­link would do home vis­its to check how many pairs of shoes were at the front door,” she said.

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