In its 20th year of acting on poverty Anti-Poverty Week is focusing on the urgent need to reduce child poverty in Australia and is calling on all parliamentarians to support action to halve child poverty by 2030.
“1 in 6 children in Australia today are growing up in poverty, which harms their lives and diminishes their future prospects,” said Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director Toni Wren.
“Gains from record low unemployment are being overshadowed by the increased cost of living, especially housing. Those left behind are trapped in hardship, including 760,000 children.
“Over 20 years we’ve learned much more about the consequences of child poverty and also more about what works. Yet as a nation, we haven’t prioritised our children in policy-making and eroded payments aimed at families and children. The forthcoming Wellbeing Budget should commit to action to halve child poverty.
New analysis undertaken for Anti-Poverty Week by Life Course Centre researchers Dr Alice Campbell and Professor Janeen Baxter of The University of Queensland finds that over the last 20 years:
- single mothers are at a significantly greater risk of being in financial hardship than partnered mothers and fathers. The risk of financial hardship for single mothers is 34.4% (in 2019) more than double that of partnered mothers (14.5%).
- This has been the case for the past 20 years. The risk of being in financial hardship decreased for single mothers between 2001 and 2006. However, it began to increase again from 2008 onwards.
- The proportion of single mothers in financial hardship has not dropped below approximately 30% in the past 10 years, (2010-2020), except for a brief period when the Coronavirus Supplement was paid.
APW analysis finds single parent families reliant on income support payments in 2022 are:
- struggling on low payments which reduce as their children get older
- are more likely to be in private rental and in housing stress, with a much higher gap between weekly rent and rent assistance payments [63% of people on low incomes receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance are in rental stress – 23% higher than before the pandemic]
- are less likely to be receiving regular child support and are owed debts of at least $2billion
- are more likely to be women – 95%
- too often forced to choose between staying with violence or face poverty and homelessness if they leave.
“Disturbingly it is government policies from 2000 that have increased child poverty, especially in single-parent families headed by women,” said Toni Wren:
- Sole parents whose youngest child is 8 need to claim the punishingly low JobSeeker Payment now (worth only about 66% of age pension), instead of Parenting Payment.
- Those with younger children able to claim Parenting Payments still receive a lower rate than the age pension and face harsher income tests, meaning they take home less from part-time work.
- Family payments have been raided for Budget savings so real expenditure in 2020-21 is the same as in 2000-01, despite a 20% increase in the number of children aged 0-14 over a similar time period.
- The child support system has been eroded and is not protecting children from poverty.
- Buying a home has become harder and they are more likely to be renting privately yet rent assistance hasn’t had an increase beyond inflation for more than 22 years and social housing provision is not meeting demand.
The cuts in family payments and increases in housing costs are taking a toll on couple families with children also. Couple families relying on unemployment and associated payments are also suffering from the erosion in the value of these important safety net payments.
Anti-Poverty Week calls on our Federal Parliamentarians to pass legislation to halve child poverty by 2030, with measurable targets and actions to achieve this goal.
“The New Zealand Government introduced such legislation in 2018 and they’ve made great progress so that fewer children live in poverty. Setting targets enshrined in legislation works and changes lives for the better,” said Toni Wren.
Actions the Government could take now to reduce child poverty include:
- Increase JobSeeker and related payments so everyone can afford the basics including rent, food, medication and education.
- Build more social housing and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance so everyone has a safe place to call home.
- Review family payments and child support to ensure they do their job of reducing child poverty and restore single parenting payment eligibility until the youngest child turns 16 not 8.
- Ensure income support and housing feature in the forthcoming final National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–32.
Read our Media Briefing – 20 years on – Still Too Much Child Poverty in the ‘Lucky’ Country which includes charts and tables
See Anti-Poverty Week activities in all States and Territories