Single-parent families struggling to survive

Caroline Conyers with her son Marshall, 5. Photo: Michael Clayton-JonesChildren of single parents are sinking further into poverty while those raised in two-parent households are less likely to be poor than a decade ago, Australia’s most comprehensive household survey has found.

Nearly one in four children living with a single parent is below the poverty line, compared with 7.6 per cent of those living with two parents, according to the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

The poverty rate for children living with a single parent has risen 15 per cent since 2001, up from 20.9 per cent to 24.1 per cent. The HILDA survey, managed by the University of Melbourne, has tracked social trends by interviewing the same 12,000 people each year since 2001.

Report co-author Associate Professor Roger Wilkins said children who grew up in poverty were often less educated, struggled to find a job and suffered ”inter-generational transmission of welfare dependence”. Changes to the single-parent pension were the most likely cause of rising poverty among children of lone parents, he said.

Child poverty in single-parent homes leapt almost 6 percentage points between 2005 and 2007, when Welfare-to-Work changes began moving some of the parents on to the lesser Newstart allowance.

Single-parent homes make up 12 per cent of about 8 million households in Australia. Since the beginning of 2013 the single parenting payment is no longer available once the youngest child is eight.

”That change will exacerbate the trend of increasing poverty among children in lone-parent households,” Dr Wilkins said.

Caroline Conyers, from Pakenham in Melbourne’s south-east, is unemployed and has three children aged five, 16 and 18.

She receives a number of government payments, but after rent, and utility bills has just $570 a fortnight to cover food, clothes and other expenses for herself and her two youngest children. Her eldest child supports herself and pays $35 board a week.

”Things are too tight,” Ms Conyers says. ”Although I put off going to a local food bank, it got to the point where I really didn’t feel as though I had a choice.”

She has visited the food bank four times this year and begun to volunteer there. She cannot afford to run a car, which narrows employment options. She plans to do a two-year TAFE course so she can apply for jobs as a nurse before her son, Marshall, turns eight.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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