ParentsNext petition to be presented in Melbourne today
A petition with over 34,000 signatures calling for the controversial ParentsNext program to be made voluntary will be presented to Labor and Greens senators in Melbourne today.
The ParentsNext program was piloted in ten locations around Australia in April 2016, and an expansion of the program was announced in the 2017-18 Budget, with an investment of $263 million. According to Discussion Papers, 96 per cent of ParentsNext participants are likely to be female, with that number including approximately 10,000 First Nations people.
The program has been positioned as complementary to a range of other government initiatives targeting an increase in female workforce participation, however many key advocacy groups, including SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children and the Australian Human Rights Commission have voiced concerns about the program, where non compliance can result in the suspension, reduction or cancellation of Parenting Payments, leaving parents and young children without access to essential goods and services.
The petition, to be presented at Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens Melbourne today, will be presented to Senator Rachel Siewert, representing the Australian Greens Party, and Senator Murray Watt, representing the Australian Labor Party.
The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, and Good Shepherd will also be represented at the presentation.
The petition was started by a young mother, Ella Buckland, who used it to call for “the punitive welfare program ParentsNext to be made voluntary, at the Senate Inquiry into the controversial program”.
Ms Buckland has “been fighting tirelessly to expose the issues with ParentsNext, a Government welfare program forcing women with babies as young as six months old to engage in “ready for work” activities.”
Highlighting her concerns with the program, Ms Buckland said “If these vulnerable women are unable to attend the program their payment can be cut, leaving single mums no way to feed their children. These young mothers can also be penalised for not demonstrating that they are taking their children to swimming lessons or other extra-curricular activities.”
She described her experience, and that of other women like her, who she says have “been targeted by ParentsNext. All of them are confused, angry, terrified and humiliated. Most women I’ve spoken to have been bullied by their ParentsNext job network provider. They are having to literally beg for exemptions to attend court or medical appointments. Some women are staying with their abusers because they don’t want to deal with the instability of ParentsNext.”
For more information about ParentsNext, see here.