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Write a Submission to the ParentsNext Senate Inquiry

Late last year, the Senate launched an inquiry into the Welfare-to-Work ParentsNext Program. The government will be taking submissions on this program until 1 February 2019. The inquiry will be reporting on 31 March 2019. The AUWU strongly encourages anyone who has been effected by the implementation of ParentsNext – or anyone who is interested in contributing to the inquiry – to make a submission. To make a submission visit the ParentsNext senate inquiry home page and select upload submission. There is more information on how to submit below.

The AUWU will be holding workshops across the country to help parents write submissions. Sign up to the AUWU above and watch our Facebook page for more information. If you cannot attend a workshop, please call the AUWU hotline on 1800 289 848 and we can assist you with your submission on the phone

The AUWU calls on you to take action against ParentsNext!

Here are 4 ways you can take action NOW:

  1. Make a submission to the senate inquiry.
  2. Complete the survey, created by Terese Edwards CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (approx. 5 minutes).
  3. Sign the petition.
  4. Tell us your stories.

If you wish to get involved with campaign or host a workshop, please contact auwucampaigns@gmail.com

What is Parents Next?

ParentsNext is a “pre-employment program” – similar to other job ‘activation’ programs like Newstart  – created by the Australian Government for single parents receiving the Single Parenting Payment. First introduced in April 2016 in 10 trial locations, the program was expanded in all non-remote areas across Australia on the 1st of July, 2018. The program overwhelmingly affects single mothers (approximately 96% of participants), including approximately 10,000 Indigenous women (2), with the stated aim to ‘increase female participation in the workforce’ and ‘reduce risk of long-term welfare dependency’ (3) by early intervention. Recipients are referred to the program after receiving a call from Centrelink about whether they are at risk of “long-term welfare dependency” (4), and are then referred to a ParentsNext provider (5).

 

Like most Centrelink payments, it comes with a set of “mutual obligations” that recipients must meet to keep their payment ongoing (operating under the “targeted compliance framework” (6)). These are agreed to in a Parents Payment Employment Pathway Plan – similar to a “Job Plan” –  in which the recipient must participate in “job seeker” like activities. Failure to meet these “mutual obligation requirements”, without a ‘reasonable excuse’ (7), will result in a “mutual obligation failure” and a suspension of payments (8). Some of the activities include:

  • Attending regular appointments with a ‘ParentsNext provider’.
  • Reporting income every fortnight (just like Newstart recipients).
  • Engaging in education pathways and Time-to-Work programs.
  • Volunteer work and engagement with the community (with an Activity Host Organisation).
  • Launch-into-Work placements.

 

The program has already attracted notoriety: with single mothers being forced to attend “story time” or lose their payments (9), and, single parents (and their children) being left without the ability to purchase food over the Christmas period, instead being directed to foodbank or charity (10).

This program is punitive.  

It punishes single mothers and their children.

Why Should We Fight It?

Implicit in the reasoning behind ParentsNext is the sexist and backwards idea that raising children is not work. The Australian Institute of Family Studies found (using 14 years of HILDA data) that:

‘New mothers go from spending a weekly average of 2 hours caring for others to a whopping 51 hours(11).

That is a total of 17 hours more than full-time work, and yet one of the most important social labours a person can do for their society – raising the next generation – is not considered work, because it is not waged and traditionally considered ‘women’s work’.

 

Raising a child IS work!

ParentsNext is really about the persistent, unfair narrative of inter-generational welfare dependency (12)

 

ParentsNext is one of the most insidious attacks on welfare recipients to date. Access to the Single Parenting Payment should be a right under social security,  free of compulsory activities and mutual obligations (as stated in the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011) (13). Single mothers are already very vulnerable socioeconomically (14), and to insinuate that women must start “thinking of work” while raising infants is insulting, sexist, and is an attack of mothers’ already struggling with the low rate of Centrelink payments (15). Raising young children is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding times in a woman’s life. Let alone the fact that the threat of payments being cut puts children at risk too. Additionally, Good Shepherd points out that

‘There is no evidence to suggest that sending a parent back to work or engaging them in work training or preparation when their youngest is under the age of 5 will improve their ability to enter paid employed when they are ready to do so’ (16).

ParentsNext RORT checklist

CHECKLIST

350M used to punish women.

 

ParentsNext costs Australians $350million a year (17). This money could be used to raise the standard of living for single parents and their children, who are currently living on payments woefully under the poverty line (See: ACOSS Poverty Report 2018).

Bipartisan support against punitive measures.

 

Both Providers and Participants are against the punitive measures ParentsNext imposes on participants (18), that result in payments being suspended.

Against human rights.

 

 

MARQUE Lawyers declare ParentsNext has ‘unjustifiable limitations’ on both the right to non-discrimination and the right the social security (19).

Sexist.

 

Disproportionately targets single mothers (96% of participants), the program inherently doesn’t consider the raising of children to be work. This is inherently sexist, devaluing the unpaid work of child rearing and framing it as “doing nothing”.

Hurts mothers and their children.

 

If a parent is cut off from their payment, their child suffers the consequences too. The risk of poverty is highest for children in sole parent families (20) and is highest for single mothers on social security payment (21). This means precarity – the state of having insecure income. The 2018 Foodbank report, found that ‘Two in five single parent households (39%) have experienced food insecurity in the last year’ (22). Couple this with the fact that ‘females are 31% MORE LIKELY than men to experience food insecurity as a result of living on a low income or pension’ (23), we can see just how much potential there is for ParentsNext to increase precarity for women and their children.

ParentsNext targets Indigenous Australians.

 

The “intensive stream” is designed to target Indigenous Australians that are, to quote the Departments’ Discussion Paper, ‘five times more likely to be in receipt of Parenting Payment than non-Indigenous Australians’ (24). ParentsNext ignores the concrete, socio-economic issues that leads to Indigenous single parents accessing parenting payments to survive. Instead it targets them, with the same punitive approach as the Community Development Program, with the aim of getting them “off the dole” and “into the workforce”-  ignoring the labour they do every day as single parents.  MARQUE Lawyers also noted that this has ‘unjustifiable limitation on the right to non-discrimination’ (25), as enshrined in the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

How to Submit

The due date for submissions is 1st of February 2019. This is a very small lead up time, and releasing it over the Christmas holidays will make the participation of single parent’s much more difficult. For the Senate Inquiry to be taken seriously by politicians, we must encourage as many parent’s as possible to make a submission. Making a submission is not particularly difficult, but for stressed out, sleep deprived single parent’s, who might not be confident with their writing skills, it can feel like an enormous task. Submissions can be emailed or sent in letter  to the committee. Submissions to the inquiry must follow a particular format to be accepted. The main things to remember are:

  • It MUST have the name of the inquiry (Inquiry into ParentsNext, including its trial and subsequent broader rollout)
  • It must have the name and address of the writer; the writer can ask to be anonymous or confidential, and can also ask for it to not be published online, but this must be stated on the document. You must still include your name and address even if you choose to be confidential
  • It must address one or more of the “terms of reference.” This means that you must relate it to the inquiry. The “terms of reference” are broad and you can talk about how it makes you feel to be on the program, does it help you with parenting, do you hate being told what activities to do with your child, does it cause stress or help you, are you treated with respect, did this interfere with your plans for study or help, did the threat of cancelled payment or actual cancellation put you in hardship? You can talk about many other aspects too like the effect on your child. They basically want it to be relevant to the inquiry.
  • You can say what you want changed, how to improve the program, or if you want it scrapped etc.

Additionally, Terese Edwards – CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children – has created an easy-to-read, excellent  explanation sheet to assist mothers’ wanting to make a submission. We strongly recommend you read it. This can be downloaded here: Senate Inquiry into ParentNext – Dec 2018

Appendix 1: Compulsory Participants criteria:

Appendix 2: ParentsNext Service Provider Financial Outcomes:

What ParentsNext providers are making of you:

 

 

Useful Links

ParentsNext Deed and Guidelines Information:

Department of Jobs and Small Business:

  • ParentsNext website:

https://www.jobs.gov.au/parentsnext

https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-deed-2018-2021-incorporating-gdv-1

  • Service Guarantee: Intensive Stream

https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-services-guarantee-intensive-stream-2018-2021

  • Service Guarantee: Targeted Stream

https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-services-guarantee-targeted-stream-2018-2021

Helpful Links and Organisations:

National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children:

  • Website:

http://www.ncsmc.org.au

Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • 24 hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Call toll-free 1800 737 732.

References:

(1)  Parents Next Evaluation Report. Australian Government, Department of Jobs and Small Business (2018). Pp. 11. Available at: https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-evaluation-report
(2) Discussion Paper for ParentsNext National Expansion. Australian Government, Department of Employment (2017). Available at: https://familiesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/parentsnext-discussion-paper.pdf
(3) Ibid, pp. 7-8. ParentsNext Deed 2018-2021, § 4.2. Available at: https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-deed-2018-2021-incorporating-gdv-1
(4) ParentsNext Deed. Annexure B2 – Service Guarantees. & Discussion Paper, pp.7. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/06/single-parents-forced-to-attend-story-time-or-lose-centrelink-payments

ParentsNext is compulsory for single parents who: (1) Have a child aged between six months and six years, (2) Haven’t had paid work in the last 6 months, and (3) Have been getting Parenting Payment for the last 6 months. (see: https://docs.jobs.gov.au/documents/parentsnext-brochure). ParentsNext is also open for voluntary participants.

(5) Akin to the streams for Newstart recipients, there are two categories for ParentsNext “participants”: Intensive Stream and Targeted Stream. (The difference between these is geographical, this can be confirmed by DHS).

(6) ParentsNext Deed, Chapter B3 & Discussion Paper, pp. 18.
(7) The definition is incredibly vague and circular in the legislation. See: Social Security Act 1999.
(8) ParentsNext Deed, Chapter B3.
(9) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/06/single-parents-forced-to-attend-story-time-or-lose-centrelink-payments
(10) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/19/service-providers-call-for-parents-next-overhaul-after-families-left-without-food
(11) https://aifs.gov.au/publications/mothers-still-do-lions-share-housework [my emphasis] (12) For a personal account of the damaging conception of intergenerational welfare dependency, see: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/01/life-on-the-breadline-the-one-thing-that-was-passed-on-to-me-was-relentlessness
(13) All citizens have a right to access social society and social insurance, as stated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights done at New York on 16 December 1966; ratified by the Australian Government in 1980. See also: ‘Human rights implications of the ParentsNext program’. Marque Lawyers (October, 2018). § 2.3.
(14) See: ‘Poverty in Australia’, ACOSS, (2018).
(15) Previous studies have shown that Government recent changes in the social security payments for single parents have only lead to greater hardship and precarity for single parents. See: Mckenzie, Hayley & McHugh, Clare & McKay, Fiona. (2016). Life on newstart allowance: a new reality for low-income single mothers. Journal of Family Studies. Pp. 1-16. Summerfield, Tracey & Young, Lisa & Harman, Jade & Flatau, Paul. (2010). Child support and Welfare to Work reforms the economic consequences for single-parent families. Family matters (Melbourne, Vic.). 84. Pp. 68-78.
(16) https://www.goodshep.org.au/media/1929/gsanz-submission-response-to-parents-next-discussion-paper-final.pdf
(17) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/04/senate-launches-inquiry-into-program-forcing-single-parents-to-attend-story-time
(18) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/19/service-providers-call-for-parents-next-overhaul-after-families-left-without-food I.e. Jobs Australia the peak-body for non-for-profit Job Providers.
(19) See: ‘Human rights implications of the ParentsNext program’. Marque Lawyers (October, 2018).
(20) ‘Poverty in Australia’, ACOSS, (2018). Pp. 40.
(21) Ibid.
(22) Foodbank report, (2018). Pp. 15. (my emphasis).
(23) Ibid. pp. 19. (my emphasis).
(24) Discussion Paper for ParentsNext National Expansion, pp 10.
(25) ‘Human rights implications of the ParentsNext program’.  § 7.8.

Justice For Josh Snap Action

It’s now been over 30 months since 18-year old Josh Park-Fing died on his Toowoomba ‘Work for the Dole’ site – yet, the Morrison government still refuses all requests to release the report into his death, or take any responsibility for this dangerous program.  In fact, last month the Morrison government significantly expanded this punitive and dangerous program. Two-and-a-half years after their tragic loss, Josh’s grieving family continues to wait for answers.

Josh’s employment service provider NEATO has now been fined a measly $90k for forcing him into a compliance activity that ultimately took his life.

Join the AUWU’s Snap Rally at Kelly O’Dwyer’s office tomorrow afternoon to demand Justice For Josh and help us present this petition! RSVP below.

To ramp up the pressure, we are also asking people to call Kelly’s office office on (03) 9822 4422. Tell her to release the report into Josh’s death. Ask her why her government continues to roll out a program that fails to meet proper workplace health & safety standards 64% of the time. And tell her, for the safety and well-being of all workers, to shut this awful program down

Go Public

We are always looking to publish new stories and reports from unemployed workers. These stories have the power to challenge and change a broken system. If you’d like to share yours, please get in touch.