explainer

"Our welfare system has lost its humanity." The alarming reality of the federal budget for single mums.

The Morrison government’s 2019 Budget has been criticised for making life harder for those already doing it tough.

“Families face cost of living pressures. And every one of us wants to see wages growing faster. But let me be clear: the answer to these challenges is not higher taxes. The answer is a stronger and more competitive economy, with lower taxes and more jobs,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

The real impact of this budget will see single mothers, women over 50, and women already financially marginalised, worse off than ever.

The Treasurer has announced a budget built on tax cuts, however these tax cuts offer the most benefits to people who already have the most, with people on the lowest incomes receiving nothing. It’s as if those members of our community who are really struggling have been completely forgotten.

This is what the tax cuts will look like:

● People earning $200,000 will get over $224 a week.
● People earning $50,000 will get $23 a week.
● People earning $25,000 (on pensions) get a one-off payment of $75 (equivalent to $1.40pw).
● People earning $15,000 (on Newstart) receive nothing.

None of the tax cuts benefit people on the lowest incomes, as one third of households, including low-paid workers, pensioners and people looking for paid work, do not have enough income to pay tax.

While we welcome the announcement of $328 million invested in initiatives to address domestic and family violence, we are seriously concerned that the financial resilience of women fleeing domestic violence doesn’t appear to have been addressed. These women are often financially isolated, and tax cuts aren’t going to change that.

The Budget measures are likely to have a negative impact on those doing it tough, particularly single mothers and single women over 50 who represent Australia’s fastest growing homeless group.

Our welfare system has lost its humanity….our most vulnerable need our help and support to live their best lives and be active contributors to society; the economy.

A welfare system is supposed to be a safety net that helps us when we need it most. Ours has become one that is quicksand – it is punitive, cruel and most disturbingly is entrenching poverty in this generation of welfare recipients and their children.

Every human being deserves to live in dignity and in a country with Australia’s wealth the levels of poverty particularly among single mothers, children and older women are a disgrace. They are also a wasted opportunity and resource for a stronger Australia.

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Some interesting (and alarming) facts to consider:

▪ 83% of all lone parent households in Australia are headed by women (ABS, 2016).

▪ 32% of single parents in Australia now live in poverty (up by 6% since 2011).

▪ Half of all unemployed single mothers have health conditions or care for children with disability or illness.

▪ Women are over-represented at lower income levels (ABS, 2018).

▪ 95% of Parenting Payment (Single) recipients are women.

▪ Only 40% of recipient mothers report child support paid in full and on time, and around one-third of child support cases involve payments of less than $500/year.

▪ 37% of women in abusive relationships had returned to the relationship for some financial reprieve (ABS, Personal safety survey Australia 2005).

▪ Almost ⅓ of single mothers have experienced homelessness at some point.

▪ Homeless women in Australia over the age of 50 has increased by 31% since 2011 (ABS, 2018).

▪ By the time they are 60, 34% of single women in Australia live in poverty.

We urge the Australian Parliament to urgently commit to Australian women living in poverty. It’s time to stand up and provide real support, real hope, and real funding to those most in need.

Global Sisters is working closely with single mothers and single women over 50 throughout Australia, to help them to create financial resilience by reducing isolation, increasing a sense of community and offering innovative solutions that make business a viable, flexible income generating option for them.

All we ask is that our Government listens … truly listens to the needs of these women who are ready for financial freedom. Their roles as mothers need to be valued and the multiple barriers they face daily need to be recognised and supported practically.

Ultimately the women we support and the Government want the same outcome – but the welfare system is broken and the execution is completely short sighted and wrong. This simply cannot be achieved on the back of a budget built on tax-cuts.

Mandy Richards is the CEO of Global Sisters, which exists to enable women to be financially independent and stand tall. We provide a genuine alternative for women who are unable to participate in mainstream employment. By removing the barriers they commonly face, we make self-employment a viable option.

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