Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd John Gass

Rudd pressured to reinstate benefits to single parents

NEW Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is facing pressure from women to reinstate payments for single parents with children under the age of 18.

Women from around the country began writing to Mr Rudd this week in the hope of persuading him to reverse the decision of his predecessor Julia Gillard to move about 84,000 single parents to the lower Newstart unemployment benefit in January.

Under the change, which was tipped to improve the budget bottom line by $728 million during the next four years, parents were moved to Newstart when their youngest child turned eight.

It was estimated some single parents were $60-100 worse off a week.

Women's Electoral Lobby national chair Melanie Fernandez said early this week the Prime Minister had shown a commitment to supporting women with a record number of women appointed to the new Cabinet.

"Now it's time to see some policy to back it up," Ms Fernandez said.

"Over the past decade we have seen support structures ripped away from those most in need.

"The reinstatement of these payments is a crucial step in ensuring Australia does not continue its alarming trend towards punishing its most vulnerable people."

The Howard government was the first to cut welfare support for single parents in 2006 when it diverted people applying for parental payments to Newstart, exempting those already on the scheme.

In removing this grandfathering arrangement Ms Gillard attempted to justify the move by claiming it would act as an incentive to force parents into paid work.

This approach failed to recognise two things, said Ms Fernandez: the difficulties single parents faced finding flexible work that met their caring needs and the value of unpaid work, .

She claimed the current rate of Newstart was completely unacceptable and left people living below the poverty line.

"With one in eight people living in poverty in Australia, including one in six children, we are now seeing the terrible effects of these policies coming to fruition," she said.

"When Australia is one of the world's countries most able to provide support, we can not continue to stand idly by and condemn people to a life of poverty.

"It's not fair, it's not effective. It's just bad policy."

Mr Rudd confirmed earlier this week increasing the rate of Newstart, which currently sits at about $35 per day, was under consideration by his new-look Cabinet.

Page MP Janelle Saffin has long advocated for Newstart to be increased, and has already raised the matter with Mr Rudd.

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