New research conducted by Murdoch University and University of Western Australia (UWA) has shown that major reforms to the child support system and parenting benefits has left single parents more likely to experience poverty.
Associate Professor Lisa Young, from Murdoch’s School of Law, said that one of the key goals when the child support system was introduced was to reduce the likelihood of children experiencing poverty.
“One would have thought that, when introducing the reforms, their combined effect on single parents would be considered,” Ms Young said.
“However, no modelling was done and even now, reports that emerge discussing the impacts of the reforms fail to address the issue of the combined effect of these changes.”
To assess the impact of the changes a model was developed to indicate the potential changes to income for single parents affected by both sets of reforms.
“The findings indicate that single parents are more likely to experience poverty after the reforms than was previously the case as their disposable income may decrease dramatically if they meet the minimum workforce participation requirement of 15 hours, introduced under Welfare to Work,” Ms Young said.
“Only those single parents with at least average earnings are better off.
“At low levels of income, single parents are worse off under the reforms, and this loss peaks around $22,000 income.
“This is particularly concerning because this is the sort of income level one would expect from a single parent doing low paid unskilled work during school hours.”
Ms Young said if the government’s aim was to encourage single parents into the workforce, it was questionable whether inflicting short term financial pain would work.
“Research indicates that single mothers are already a motivated group in terms of workforce participation, and that it is often other barriers to work which restrict their engagement in full-time work,” she said.
“These reforms do not address any of those other barriers, such as, the educational and career disadvantages faced by those women for whom family support has been their primary work, a lack of family friendly arrangements in the workplaces of fathers and mothers, as well as a shortage of low cost, readily available child care.
“The danger of these reforms is that, rather than providing the support necessary to enable single parents to increase their workforce participation, these changes will drive more single parent families into poverty.”
Ms Young worked in conjunction with Associate Professor Dr Paul Flatau, from the Murdoch Business School and Dr Tracey Summerfield (then at UWA’s School of Law). The research was funded by UWA and Murdoch University.