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Greens announce bill to restore single parent payments

The Australian Greens will introduce a bill into Parliament to move single parents back onto parenting payments.

An exposure draft of legislation that reverses the changes made by both the Gillard and Howard Governments, that dumps single parents onto Newstart, has been released today.

The draft Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Caring for Single Parents) Bill 2014 will see single parents remain eligible for parenting payments until their youngest child turns 16, rather than the current limit of 8, which was imposed by the Howard Government's Welfare to Work regime in 2006.

"This bill would scrap the Howard Government's changes to parenting payments, which dumped single parents onto Newstart when their youngest child turns eight. It would also restore the payments of those parents affected by the Gillard Government's January 2013 payment cuts," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on families and community services said.

"In the previous Parliament, I introduced a bill to restore income support to single parents on Newstart to the equivalent of the parenting payment. The feedback from single parents was that they did not want to be on Newstart and that they felt diminished as parents by the payment. I have taken this into account in this new exposure draft. This bill reverses the changes that dump single parents onto Newstart.

"The Welfare to Work approach, has always been about punishing single parents and saving money off the backs of vulnerable people. Forcing single parents onto Newstart does nothing to help them into work. All it does is expose them and their children to poverty.

"We know that the majority of single parents work part time. More than half of those parents affected by last year's payment cuts were already in paid work.

"To help people into work we need to ensure they have access to education and training opportunities, child care and other support services, many of which are out of reach when you're living beneath the poverty line on Newstart.

"Significant numbers of single parents on the Newstart Allowance experience multiple deprivations, going without items that are vital for an adequate standard of living-for example, medical treatment, warm clothes, a decent and secure home, and school books for children. Newstart puts adequate food, safe accommodation and basic household expenses out of reach.

"Our legislation will provide stronger support for single parents to raise their families while they're working or studying. It will help keep families out of poverty and give children a better start in life.

"Our Bill also ensures employees who are carers have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Carers do vital work across the community and without them, the burden on government and the not-for-profit sector would be considerably higher. They need to be supported to combine employment with their caring responsibilities.

"The Federal Government is overlooking the needs of the most vulnerable Australians, when they should be in the forefront in any economic debate. An exposure draft allows for consultation and discussion across the community about the ways in which we help single parents and their families," Senator Siewert concluded.

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