Parents cry for help from charities
The Sunday Telegraph
February 17, 201312:00AM
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ONE of Australia’s leading charities has reported a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, which it has attributed to the changes in the single parenting payment scheme.
The new rules, which took effect in January, were expected to affect 80,000 women who would move from the parenting payment to the much lower Newstart allowance.
Frontline workers for The Smith Family in NSW, Queensland, WA and the ACT told The Sunday Telegraph the change had resulted in a dramatic rise in calls for assistance from predominantly single mothers struggling to with back-to-school costs.
The Smith Family chief executive officer, Dr Lisa O’Brien, said the rise in calls amounted to a 30 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. She said the charity had been finding it challenging already in helping needy families post-GFC.
The cuts to payments had coincided with single parents having to pay upfront costs for school books, uniforms and fees, resulting in a rise in calls for financial help, she said.
“Our community workers are experiencing a 30 per cent increase in calls from families needing support for the essentials,” she said. “A lot of the families we help are single-parent households.”
The Smith Family has gradually shifted its focus from a broad-based charity to one that is focused on the education needs of children.
The charity strongly believes the education of children is the best means of families breaking the cycle of poverty. It has secured sponsors to help pay for the education needs of 34,360 children, but needs another 1200 to meet the demand.
The charity fears the welfare cuts will see the demand grow again this year.
The federal government expects to save around $728 million over the next four years by moving single parents from the parenting payment scheme to the Newstart unemployment benefit. But critics of the revised scheme claim some are about $120 worse off per fortnight.