DV Vic wrote a submission to the recent Senate Inquiry into the ParentsNext program calling on the Australian Government to abandon the compulsory and mutual obligation aspects of this program immediately.
ParentsNext is a compulsory “pre-employment” program aimed at “vulnerable” parents (overwhelmingly single mothers, many of whom are Aboriginal) who are on income support payments for more than six months and have children between six months and six years of age. Participation in the program is tied to the receipt of parents’ parenting payment. There have been numerous reports of women and their children being cut off from payments and put at risk of poverty and homelessness as a result.
DV Vic echoed the significant concerns raised across the community services sector about this program – namely that it is punitive, requires new mothers to participate in additional activities when many may already be struggling to adjust, and puts them at increased risk of poverty. DV Vic highlighted the fact that a significant number of mothers required to participate in this program will have experienced family violence. ParentsNext undermines the principles of recovery and replicates power imbalances present in an abusive relationship by making women participate in the program instead of giving women the ability to choose what is best for them and their children. By focusing the ParentsNext program on Aboriginal communities, ParentsNext also replicates a colonial mentality that refuses to give Aboriginal communities self-determination. We also argue that cutting victim survivors off their income support payments puts women and children at increased risk of family violence. Lack of economic resources is one of the main barriers to women and children leaving abusive relationships. Cutting women off from their income increases the chances that a woman and her children will be forced to return to a violent perpetrator to escape poverty and/or homelessness.