Welfare cuts to put 'pressure on charities'

Shellharbour councillor and social worker Kellie Marsh has warned that reducing welfare payments for single parents will put more pressure on the Illawarra's already stretched charities.

As a single parent herself, Ms Marsh said she understood the difficulties faced by those trying to raise children on single or low incomes.

She said the federal government's decision to shift single parents from the single parent payment on to the Newstart allowance once their youngest child turned eight, a cut of up to $110 a week, would push more mothers and fathers to breaking point.

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"When they can't pay the bills and put food on the table they'll have to turn to charities, which we know are already struggling to meet increasing demands for their help," she said.

The welfare cuts, announced as part of the May federal budget and effective as of yesterday, are expected to save the government $728 million over four years.

Ms Marsh said she was in favour of single parents "working and contributing to society", but there had to be jobs available for them and the hours had to be flexible.

"The reality for we single parents is, if we can't get jobs that fall within school hours we have to pay for childcare services or our children come home to empty houses," she said. "There needs to be a greater emphasis put on encouraging employers to offer jobs that come with flexible, child-friendly hours so single parents can go back to work and still care for their children."

But Families Minister Jenny Macklin yesterday defended the changes, saying they were aimed at getting people into work.

"We understand what is important for people who are unemployed is that we do everything possible to help people get work," she said. "What we have found as a result of changes made in 2006, we have seen more and more single parents going back to work and, of course, the more that people go back to work, the better.

"Unfortunately, we have far too many children growing up in families where nobody is working. We want to do everything we possibly can to support families to go out to work and hold down a job."

The changes will affect 84,000 single parents who are currently receiving parenting payments.

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