Statement by Toni Wren, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Week
10 May 2023:
It was promising to see increases in income support that we have long called for and we know will reduce poverty: JobSeeker, related Working Age Payments and Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Extending eligibility to the Parenting Payment Single payment until the youngest child turns 14 is also very welcome, although it would have been fairer to restore it to age 16 as it was in 2006. There are other helpful changes, especially to increase Medicare bulk billing and the energy relief package.
However, the very modest increases in JobSeeker and related payments and rent assistance fall well short and millions of Australians and their children will still be trapped in poverty in this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
It is also completely mystifying why the government has also chosen to deem that Parenting Payment Single is no longer a Working Age Payment and therefore not provide the $40 a fortnight increase to more than 230,000 parents (95.5% of whom are women) and 460,000 children who now rely on it. This is four times the number of parents (57,000) who benefit from the improved eligibility for the payment.
The Morrison government ensured Parenting Payment Single recipients received the Coronavirus Supplement in 2020 and the permanent $50 a fortnight increase which replaced it in April 2021.
This Labor government has chosen to specifically exclude them. The vast majority of the 1 in 6 Australian children growing up in poverty live in single parent, mother-headed families. Children in single parent families face poverty rates of 39%, three times that of couple families.
While it is correct to say the PPS is closer to the age pension than JobSeeker, these parents are caring for children and have much higher costs including for housing as they need a minimum of two bedrooms not one.
Family payments have been raided by successive governments and they don’t make up for the extra costs of raising children. The child support scheme is also a major problem contributing to high rates of child poverty. Cutting Parenting Payment Single recipients out of this very modest increase is a mean and unnecessary decision. They now float somewhere between Pensions and Working Age payments with no prospect they will receive future increases.
Anti-Poverty Week will continue our advocacy to ensure all Australians and children are lifted out of poverty.
See also Opinion Piece by Toni Wren in the Canberra Times, 12 May 2023.