Children in jobless households amongst most disadvantaged
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Children in jobless households amongst most disadvantaged

by Freya Lucas

February 25, 2019

Speaking about the To have and to have not  report, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) has joined calls for the Newstart allowance to be increased, and for family support payments to be reviewed, amidst concerns that too many children are being impacted by parental unemployment.


The report outlines the extent to which children are, or are not, having their needs met in key interlocking areas integral to childhood wellbeing. The wellbeing dimensions are:


  • Being loved and safe;


  • Having material basics;


  • Being healthy;


  • Learning;


  • Participating; and,


  • Having a positive sense of identity and culture.


The report examines deprivation levels across the general population of Australian children and specifically those living with disability, those living in monetary poverty, and those living in jobless families.


The report used the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to assess the interlocking areas by selecting up to 16 key indicators to measure deprivation among Australian children. The analysis was conducted on the children in the survey, which is representative of the Australian population, when they were aged 6-7 in 2010, 8-9 in 2012,and 10-11 in 2014.


In summary the report finds:


Children in jobless families were more likely to suffer from a greater number of deprivations than any other group examined. For example they are more than four times more likely to be homeless than children in families where an adult works, nearly twice as likely to be bullied or face social exclusion, and almost two and a half times more likely to be missing out on learning at home.


Children in monetary poverty (that is children living below the poverty line) suffered effects far wider than just their material basics. For example they are more than 1.7 times more likely to face food insecurity, nearly twice as likely to lack good relationships with friends, and almost two and a half times more likely to be missing out on learning at home.


Children with disability, while generally engaged and included in the family and home environment, are more likely to be experiencing significant social exclusion both at school and in the community. They are also more likely to experience deprivation across all dimensions including being up to three times more likely to lack relationships with friends, and around two times more likely to have mental health concerns.


Penny Dakin, CEO of ARACY, said the report provides further evidence that the level of Newstart and the support given to jobless families is inadequate.


“Our research shows that when a child grows up in a home where no one is working, they are much more likely to face major obstacles on a number of fronts well beyond simply not having enough money.


“It means these children are more likely to be homeless, to be bullied at school, to not get regular or healthy meals and miss out on school excursions. The child may also be impacted by other issues that prevent parents working such parental mental illness, addiction or disability.”


Describing the current system of unemployment benefits as “punitive”, Ms Dakin said that children who were born into families where a parent is not working are “effectively penalised because of the stigma attached to their parents. This is a double tragedy because not only does it make children’s’ lives harder today, but all the research shows that when children grow up in adverse conditions, they are much more likely to suffer issues such as unemployment, ill-health and jail as adults.”


Citing recent ABS statistics showing that there is a dearth of employment opportunities, with one job available for every eight people who are unemployed or underemployed, Ms Dakin said the low Newstart rate “can never work as an incentive for people with complex needs to find a job”.


“But it does help ensure their children face a whole range of extra problems. It’s time to raise the Newstart rate and give kids in these families a fair go.”


The report made five other recommendations beyond raising the Newstart rate, including:


  • The introduction of regulations to reduce the amount of unhealthy food marketing reaching children;


  • Prioritising preventative and early intervention programs to improve mental health for infants and children;


  • The introduction of evidence based anti-bullying programs in all Australian schools;


  • More inclusive education systems, which are adequately resourced; and,


  • Better data on children to effectively guide policy.


The report can be viewed in full here.

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