Last night I lay awake desperately trying to work out how we will logistically pick up my son from primary school at 3pm every day for the next seven years.
After starting the school and child care pick up and drop off for the first time this year, the reality of this daunting daily task hit me and I panicked.
“Who can actually leave work at 2.30pm to pick up their children from school” I whined to my partner. “How on earth are we going to do this?” I moaned as I drew up a weekly family logistical run sheet that was so creative it would have rivalled a Baz Luhrmann script.
Suddenly while leeching outrage and anxiety about this new life dominated by school hours I got a grip and gained a whole lot of perspective.
The fact I am contemplating this new task as a “we” instead of an “I” means I have no idea what “hard” really is. I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a sole parent. I am not one. But here are some facts about them.
- Nearly 90 per cent of them are women.
- Almost one in four children from single-parent families live in poverty
- Since the removal of the sole parent payment last year, a survey by The Parenthood found 88% of sole parents were struggling to pay for groceries for their children each week.
Simply being solely responsible for the school pick up and drop off every single day is enough to do my head in. The 8.30 am drop off and 3pm pick up means you are left with around five and a half hours to work, study or cook, clean, and run errands.
As any parent knows, the chance of you being able to do any of the above while your children are with you is extremely limited. So as a sole parent you are left with roughly five hours a day to be your most productive sans children.
I imagine finding a job that allows you to work these short hours would be very challenging. Then if you are fortunate enough to find a job that does, it still needs to be relatively close to where your children go to school.
Personally I feel all parents deserve a medal for getting their kid to school on time, dressed and with a healthy packed lunch each day. But sole parents deserve more than a medal – they deserve support.
But no, rewarding sole parents for their work is not what the former government did – they removed the sole parent payment once their youngest child turned eight. The move affected nearly 100 000 single parents, many working part-time, leaving them between $60 and $160 a week worse off. The decision was to save taxpayers $728 million over four years.
Exclusive research now released by The Parenthood shows the impact of removing this money has been devastating for sole parents and their children – with a negative impact on nutrition, health and emotional and social well being.
Of the 550 sole parents who took part , 88% reported struggling to cover the cost of groceries each week and more than half found it difficult to meet basic transport expenses for their family. More than half of all respondents reported struggling to meet rental costs.
Maintaining basic levels of nutrition has also been a big issue for sole parents since the cuts. Almost half of all respondents admitted their child’s nutrition levels have declined as a result of the cuts, with two in every three sole parents admitting they’ve skipped meals. Over 50% of respondents have sought charity assistance for food and / or housing.
Sadly, the data confirms it’s not just physical wellness that has been impacted upon, with a decline in the mental and social health of sole parents and their children also on the rise.
More than two thirds of respondents reported their child has suffered social or emotional distress, while 73% reported their own mental health has declined. Shockingly, 32% of sole parents admitted their child has missed a medical appointment because they were unable to cover costs.
In good news, the federal government are reviewing the payments to single parents as a result of their announced welfare review. There is a chance to right this wrong.
You may not be a sole parent but you may know one – or you may have been raised by one.
If you too would like to see the sole parent payment reinstated at a minimum of $50 a week, please join our campaign We are also asking for sole parents to be allowed to work more hours per week before their payments are cut. This is very important as currently more than 60 % of sole parents work.
Let’s give sole parents and their kids a fairer start in 2014.
Fiona is a former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister and is currently a Mum in Brisbane. She is the CEO of The Parenthood, a not-for-profit advocacy group who represent the rights of parents. You can follow her on Twitter @FiSugden.
Do you think the single parent payment is enough?