Single parents fear Newstart will set them back

AN EDUCATION and a car - two things most people would say are important when looking for a good job. For mother-of-one Nancy Sarpi, they are two things at risk under a government plan to get welfare recipients into work.

As the plan to get 100,000 single parents off parenting payments and onto the Newstart allowance - a step Labor says will encourage parents to enter or rejoin the workforce - passed the Senate yesterday, Ms Sarpi said it could result in her having to give up her car and possibly her nursing studies.

The full-time student and mother of 11-year-old Michael says it would cost her about $100 a week and make her question a plan to specialise in medications management.

The significant drop in income would most likely mean she would have to give up her car - necessary to get a job from her home in outer suburban Tarneit.

''I probably won't be able to run a car, which will then reduce dramatically my opportunity of employment,'' she said.

She said that her own friends on the Newstart allowance struggled to make ends meet despite being careful with their money and not having children.

A small group of protesters gathered outside Parliament yesterday to protest against the change, expected to save $685 million over four years.

Single parents will lose their parenting payments when their youngest child turns eight, while partnered parents will lose their payments when their youngest turns six.

People who have received the payment since 2006 already face these conditions. But under the current rules, those who were receiving the payment in 2006 can keep the payment until their youngest turns 16.

Two separate parliamentary committees had urged the government to delay the changes until a separate inquiry on the adequacy of the Newstart allowance concluded next month.

The change has been supported by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, but opposed by several other welfare groups.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the timing of the change so close to Christmas, and just before the start of the school year, would make its impact more severe.

The Greens moved an amendment to defer the change until July, but the move was defeated and the bill passed with the support of the opposition.

The protesters at Parliament included Petra Hilton, who travelled from Sydney's North Shore with her 15-year-old son Tobias. A logistics student, she said she found it difficult to accept the government's rationale.

''Plunging people into poverty is not an incentive to do anything positive,'' she says.

''I am working part-time and I am studying part-time, but on Newstart you don't get the support to do that,'' she says.

Kerry Davies, of the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, said: ''This is going to affect over 100,000 families and it will make life impossible for them … Newstart is inadequate for the unemployed and I don't know how they expect people with children to live on that.''

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The story Single parents fear Newstart will set them back first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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