The senate inquiry into ParentsNext today heard repeated and insistent calls to make the program voluntary and abandon the punitive demerit point system that is causing many mothers huge distress and anxiety.
“The committee also heard that the program is not compatible with Human Rights, Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“In her opening statement, Professor Rosalind Croucher, President of the Human Rights Commission expressed grave concerns about the compulsory and punitive approach of ParentsNext saying the punitive compliance approach is unjustifiably harsh.
“There was deep concern and distress expressed by mothers in regards to choice and control being taken away from sole parents who are being type cast as incapable of making their own decisions, simply because they are on income support and the repeated invasions of privacy experienced by many women on the program.
“Women who gave evidence to the inquiry reported having to send a photo or a text to an employment provider who they barely know “updating” them on what “activities” they are doing with their child on a day to day or weekly basis, which they found incredibly disempowering and an invasive obligation.
“There appears to be a disconnect between what the department says and what is happening on the ground, for example women escaping domestic violence who are meant to be able to access exemptions from the program but they are finding it very difficult to navigate the bureaucracy and in many cases re-traumatised by having to disclose again and again.
“It was pointed out that the control the Government was taking over women’s lives in fact mirrored the economic control abusive partners had formerly held over their lives and the real potential to re-traumatise mothers.
“It was also reported that a mother had a doctor’s appointment arranged for her child without her consent or knowledge, but did not feel she could cancel this appointment for fear of losing her income.
“The overwhelming evidence heard today was expressions of alarm on why the Government is being so heavy handed with single mothers and the private lives of families.
“As has been seen with the jobactive program, the new the demerits point system the “TCF” is disproportionately impacting First Nations peoples.
“ACOSS said the misogynistic undertones of targeting single women cannot be ignored and there is a clear moralising about “certain lifestyles”.
“The majority of participants and stakeholders who gave evidence to the inquiry stressed the real urgency in ensuring that single mothers and their children, one in four of whom are already living in poverty are not subjected to the Targeted Compliance Framework “demerit point system” that can result in suspension and cessation of payments.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180