The Australian Council of Social Services, of which the St Vincent de Paul Society is a member, wrote to Mr Harry Jenkins MP Committee Chair Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights  to seek an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, pursuant to your functions under section 7 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011, into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012 (“the Bill”) introduced to Parliament on 31 May 2012 by the Hon Bill Shorten MP.

We believe that the Bill’s intention to cease parenting payments when a single parent’s youngest child turns 8 years old is a violation of human rights, as defined by the core United Nations treaties.

The operation of the Bill

The Bill will remove the “grandfathering” provisions established in 2006 to protect sole parents on parenting payments. This means that if sole parents cannot obtain sufficient hours of paid work when their youngest child is eight years or older, they will have to apply for other income support payments such as the much lower Newstart Allowance. All single parents, whether in casual or part-time employment will stand to lose a portion of their income, and in some circumstances they Australian Council of Social Service may lose up to 12.8% of their income, or $223.23 per fortnight. This could affect as many as 100,000 sole parents, the majority of whom are women (90%).

The Bill is a violation of human rights

The proposed cuts to sole parents social security payments target some of the most marginalised and impoverished members of Australian society, many of whom are struggling with basic living costs on existing social security payments. The cuts also disproportionately impact women, who make up the major portion of single parent recipients.