The Morrison Government cannot delay scrapping its discriminatory ParentsNext program, with a Senate Inquiry finding that the program is causing “anxiety, distress and harm” for many parents, including for women escaping violence.
The findings of a Senate Inquiry into the punitive ParentsNext program were released today. The report states that the “flaws” in the program “indicate fundamental changes need to be made” and recommends that ParentsNext not continue in its current form.
The ParentsNext program forces parents to complete tasks, many of which are burdensome and demeaning, or risk having their parenting payments cut through the Targeted Compliance Framework. 95 per cent of the tens of thousands of parents captured by the program are women and over 20 per cent had their payments suspended between 1 July 2018 – 31 December 2018.
The Government admits that the program is racially discriminatory – breastfeeding mothers are dragged into an intensive version of the program that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents with babies as young as 6 months.
Antoinette Braybrook, Convener of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, who gave evidence at the Inquiry said:
"We welcome the report’s recommendation that ParentsNext should not continue. This program is setting our women up to fail and should come to an end. No amount of tinkering around the edges will make a fundamentally flawed program better, especially when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations were not involved in its design or implementation.”
“Instead of setting up programs that make life harder for our women, we urge the Government and Opposition to work with us to develop services that value the unpaid work our women do, and that support – not punish – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents."
Muriel Bamblett, Chair of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, said:
"We have seen quite recently with the approach to Closing the Gap that the Government does have a capacity to listen to and work with communities in the development of its programs. The ParentsNext program doesn’t align with those principles at all, and simply wouldn’t get through a process where communities and peak Aboriginal organisations have a say.”
“What our parents, families and children actually need is a program co-designed with them; one that is non-discriminatory, one that will properly support children in such a vital time in their lives, and one we know will work."
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, who gave evidence at the Inquiry, said the legislative instrument underpinning ParentsNext must be repealed immediately:
“After these damning findings, particularly of the impact of withholding money from single mothers, how could the Government and Opposition not commit to scrapping this cruel and disastrous program? Gender equality should not depend on your postcode, the colour of your skin or the type of paid or unpaid work you do.”
“Between changing nappies and breast feeding, parents have more than enough on their plate. Rather than pointing the finger and punishing parents, the Government should be thanking them for the endless hours of unpaid care work they do.”
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519