Single mums put pressure on
Single parent protesters gather outside Parliament House on February 5, 2013 in Canberra. File picture: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

The Rudd government is under pressure from single mums in marginal seats to reverse welfare changes that have left many households struggling on $35 a day.

Tens of thousands of single mothers, many already working part time, were shifted off parenting payments and on to the Newstart Allowance this year, leaving many between $60 and $100 a week worse off.

Under former prime minister Julia Gillard, the government had pushed single parents from the pension on to the lower Newstart allowance in a move that saved $728 million over four years.

Days after returning to the top job, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was raised by a single mother after his father died in a car crash, said cabinet was considering whether to address the impact on single parents.

It’s also believed he sees raising the unemployment benefit as a priority.

Single parents have inundated the office of Mr Rudd and other Labor MPs with letters, emails and phone calls about their hardship, pleading for help.
Labor MPs represent six out of 10 seats with the highest number of single parents.

Ms Gillard’s seat of Lalor in western Melbourne had the most followed by the western Sydney seat of Chifley held by Ed Husic.

Some mothers warned Mr Rudd the lower funds would leave women battling domestic violence with no choice but to stay in abusive relationships.

“I am a single parent of three children aged 16, 7 and 6. I am not a bludger, I am not a drug addict, I am not a drunk, I do not wear high fashion ... I do not even come close to buying enough underwear for myself,” one single mum wrote.

“I believe that you have the morals, humility and conviction to admit that the government has made a mistake.”

The welfare cuts had the support of Labor and the opposition in parliament.

Scores of single mothers in a Facebook group campaigning against the changes have flagged voting Greens, the only party which objected to the changes.

For years, welfare and business groups have been calling for the Newstart Allowance to be increased by $50 a fortnight.

They argue the low rate has trapped people in poverty and become a barrier to their employment because they don’t have enough money to cover basic living costs let alone interview clothes or a hair cut.

Australian Council of Social Services spokeswoman Cassandra Goldie told AAP that boosting Newstart and the Youth Allowance to alleviate poverty were at the top of the organisation’s election wish list.

Dr Goldie said increased support for long-term unemployed was necessary and she would like to see a paid work experience scheme expanded.

Trials with older workers have been a success, she said.

Other priorities included increasing supply of low-cost housing and a four-year national funding deal to cut homelessness.

Meanwhile, in what could spell a windfall for expectant mums, the Australian Greens have found some common ground with the coalition on the issue of paid parental leave.

Both parties want to give mothers 26 weeks off work with replacement pay.

But they disagree on the cap with the Greens wanting a $100,000 threshold and the coalition offering a more generous $150,000 cap.

The Labor government introduced Australia’s first paid parental leave set at the national minimum wage of $622 per week over 18 weeks.

The West Australian

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