Sole parenting - Welfare to work

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Sole parenting in the AIFS library catalogue

How Australian welfare reforms shape low-income single mothers' food provisioning practices and their children's nutritional health.

Jovanovski N and Cook K
Critical Public Health v. 30 no. 3 2020: 340-351
This article looks at the impact of recent welfare-to-work reforms on single mothers' ability to feed their families. It draws on interviews with 30 low-income single mothers receiving the Parenting Payment Single pension, the Disability Support Pension, or the Newstart Allowance for the unemployed. The participants discussed job seeker obligations, being transferred to different payment types with different rates and requirements, planning meals on a low budget, meeting children's nutritional needs, and coping strategies like going hungry themselves. The findings highlight the impact of stringent welfare requirements and policies on these women's time and budgets and the emotional and nutritional toll of trying to provide food for children at the same time.

Welfare-to-work interventions and their effects on the mental and physical health of lone parents and their children (Review)

Gibson M, Thomson H, Banas K, Lutje V, McKee M, Martin S, Fenton C, Bambra C and Bond L
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews no. 2 2018: Article no. CD009820
This systematic review assesses the evidence on the impact of 'Welfare-to-work' interventions on the health of lone parents and their children. Lone parents in wealthy countries experience high levels of poverty and ill health, and opinion is divided on whether welfare to work initiatives would alleviate or exacerbate this situation. The article looks into what is known about the impact of such programs on parent or child physical or mental health, as well as economic outcomes such as employment, income, and welfare receipt. The review identified 12 random controlled trials from overseas. Overall, the review concludes that such interventions are unlikely to improve the health of lone parents and their children, and have only small impacts on economic outcomes.

Obligations and sanctions rapid evidence review. Paper 8, Work obligations for sole parents and outcomes for children

New Zealand. Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand. Welfare Expert Advisory Group
Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2018.
This report summarises the evidence on whether work obligations for sole parents receiving welfare benefits impact upon children's outcomes. It outlines research from New Zealand and overseas on how New Zealand policy settings compare, the effects of work obligations for sole parents, and the generalisability of these findings to the New Zealand setting. Overall, the international evidence does not offer any firm guidance, with mixed findings on the effects of work obligations for sole parents on outcomes for children and unclear evidence on the impact of implementing overseas settings in New Zealand. This paper was prepared for the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which has been established to review how the welfare system in New Zealand can be improved.

'Outside systems control my life': the experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work

McLaren J, Maury S and Squire S
Abbotsford, Vic. : Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, 2018.
The Australian Government's Welfare to Work policy aimed to increase employment among people otherwise dependent on social security payments, and is a form of conditional welfare founded on the principle of mutual obligation. This report explores the experiences of single mothers under this policy, particularly in assessing the policy's success with regard to its own objectives of increasing workforce participation, self-reliance, and financial security in this disadvantaged group. Interviews were conducted with 26 single mothers from across Australia, with regard also to the practical and administrative barriers to workforce participation and self-reliance, and their experiences of the Centrelink agency and Job Network providers. The findings indicate that this policy is not assisting these women, does not take into account their unpaid work, and is indeed increasing financial insecurity and inhibiting self-reliance. In light of these findings, the report makes recommendations for improving the policy and service provider processes. It proposes that the current compliance framework should be replaced with a client-centred framework that is realistic and flexible.

[Social Services Legislation Amendment Act 2017]

Alston P
Geneva, Switzerland : Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2017.
This letter, from the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlights concerns over Australia's new Social Services Legislation Amendment Act 2017. It highlights the potential negative impact of this social service reform and related amendments on the human rights of persons living in poverty, particularly single parents and their children. It discusses recent benefit cuts affecting single parent households in Australia, the impact of the Welfare to Work initiative on single parents, the history of recent legislative reforms, drug testing and suspension of payments, cashless debit card trials, and the potential impact of the 2017 Act on waiting periods for youth allowance and parenting payments and family tax benefits. Access to social security is a human right but this letter reiterates concerns of the current and former the Special Rapporteur that the further cutting of social security payments will have significantly negative impacts on the human rights of tens of thousands of Australians, many of whom are currently living in poverty.

Lone parents, health, wellbeing and welfare to work : a systematic review of qualitative studies.

Campbell M, Thomson H, Fenton C and Gibson M
BMC Public Health v. 16 25 Feb 2016: Article 188
Lone parents on welfare experience poorer health and wellbeing than their peers. As this is possibly due to the high rates of poverty among this group, this article investigates whether 'welfare to work' and similar schemes can improve lone parents' health by raising their income. It reviews the literature on lone parents participation in welfare to work schemes from high income countries, and finds that participation produces a range of largely negative affects on health and wellbeing, due to conflict with child care responsibilities, stress from poorly paid and precarious work, increased stress and depression, and lack of control.

The effect of changing financial incentives on repartnering

Fisher H and Zhu A
Indooroopilly, Qld : Life Course Centre, Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, 2016.
This paper investigates how a single parent's financial resources affects their repartnering. It studies a natural experiment in Australia in which government transfer payments were reduced for a subset of lone parents, as part of the Welfare-to-Work reforms of 2006. This bi-weekly administrative data of separations among low and middle income couples was supplemented with data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The findings reveal that one way that lone mothers respond to a reduction in financial resources available at the time of relationship breakdown is by repartnering more quickly. The majority of this repartnering is reconciliation with the former partner, and the response is concentrated among mothers with low labour force attachment and those living in areas with high housing costs. These findings add to the international literature on the impact of policy on partnering decisions.

Silent voices, invisible violence: welfare to work and the exploitation of single mothers who have experienced domestic violence

Winter M
2015.
"In the last decade the Australian social security system has been transformed by neoliberal ideals and policies that enforce compulsory participation in welfare-to-work programs in exchange for income support. Introduced in 2006, the Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Welfare to Work and Other Measures) Act 2005, specifically targeted single mothers on the premise of combating welfare dependency and other social problems, such as homelessness and even domestic violence. While Welfare to Work has been promoted as being a pathway from poverty to economic independence, there is little research that directly addresses how single mothers who have experienced domestic violence are affected by these reforms. Through adopting a feminist standpoint theory approach, the study reported on in this thesis examined how Welfare to Work impacts on the lives of single mothers who had experienced violence. The study involved an analysis of qualitative interviews with 23 single mothers, as well as interviews with eight women's emergency service workers and three welfare system workers. Drawing on feminist theories on systemic violence and citizenship, the study examined how Welfare to Work impacts on mothers' care responsibilities, labour skills and choices. The research found that single mothers were disadvantaged by institutions that failed to protect them by prioritising patriarchal rights. These institutions intersected with Welfare to Work and impacted on mothers' ability to comply with the compulsory job seeking requirements. In the welfare system, mistakes made by Centrelink placed further stressors on the single mothers. They were denied information on exemption processes and treated the same as childless income support recipients, which in turn, benefited employment services. Welfare to Work did not support single mothers who had experienced violence to find sustainable employment ..."--Author abstract.

The impact of welfare to work on parents and their children.

Brady M and Cook K
Evidence Base 2015: Article 3
The 2005 'Welfare to Work' reforms included changes to what employment activities were required by single parents receiving the Parenting Payment. At the time, the primary claim was that these measures would increase individual wellbeing. This article assesses this claim. It reviews the literature from 2000 to 2013 on the impact of these reforms on the wellbeing of parents and their children, including families' financial wellbeing, parental subjective wellbeing and social connection, and parents' and children's physical and psychological wellbeing.

How has Welfare to Work reform affected the mental health of single parents in Australia?

Kiely K and Butterworth P
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health v. 38 no. 6 Dec 2014: 594-595
This letter briefly reviews the impact of Welfare to Work government reform on the mental health of single parents in Australia. Concerns about the adequacy of income support has chiefly focused on poverty - these new findings highlight the impact on the mental healthy of vulnerable groups as well. These findings are taken from a broader study on welfare receipt and mental health.

Jumping through hoops : the cost of compliance on sole parents.

McArthur M, Thomson L and Winkworth G
Child and Family Social Work v. 18 no. 2 May 2013: 159-167
This article explores single parents' experiences with the welfare-to-work process in Australia.

Sole parents and transition back to the workforce: catered for or not?

Barnard S
2012.
"This study researched the impact of changes in welfare legislation in Australia that have occurred since July 2006 relative to people receiving government financial assistance or payments via Centrelink. The reasons for legislative change are broadly discussed narrowing down to the issues these changes raise for single parents and for organisations. The research gathered the views of parents with dependents including sole parents concentrating on the challenges they face and the support they require in their transition back into the workforce. Sole parents are recipients of welfare to aid them in maintaining a household with dependent children and thus are affected by Welfare-to-Work legislation and Mutual Obligations requirements. The key area investigated was whether organisations are implementing work life balance and family friendly work practices that particularly address the needs of sole parents."--Author abstract.

Job satisfaction and 'welfare-to-work' : is any job a good job for Australian single mothers?

Cook K and Noblet A
Australian Journal of Social Issues v. 47 no. 2 2012: 203-219
This exploratory study sought to assess the job satisfaction of employed Australian single mothers who had mandatory employment participation requirements. In particular, we sought to identify the characteristics of the job and the individual that were closely associated with participant's job satisfaction. Self-report data on job satisfaction, employment characteristics and parenting stress were collected from 155 employed single mothers. Participant job satisfaction was compared to female Australian population norms and linear regression analyses determined the job-related and individual predictors of single mothers' job satisfaction. Findings from this exploratory study revealed that single mothers involved in a mandatory welfare-to-work program experienced significantly lower job satisfaction than the Australian female population. The individual variable, parental distress, negatively predicted each of the six job satisfaction domains while being employed on a casual basis was inversely associated with three domains (job security, work hours and overall job satisfaction). The Australian government purported that making the transition from welfare to work would improve wellbeing for program participants, under the assumption that 'any job's a good job'. However, the relatively low levels of job satisfaction experienced by single mothers in the current study provide little support for this assumption.

Welfare-to-work policies and the experience of employed single mothers on income support in Australia : where are the benefits?

Graham T and Marston G
Australian Social Work v. 65 no. 1 Mar 2012: 73-86
In July 2006, 'welfare-to-work' policies were introduced for single parents in Australia. These policies require most single parents with school-aged children to be employed or seeking employment of 15 to 25 hours per week in return for their income support payment. The changes represented a sharp increase in the obligations applying to single parents on income support. This paper is concerned with how the wellbeing of single mothers who are combining income support and paid employment is being influenced by these stepped-up activity requirements. The paper draws on data from semistructured interviews with 21 Brisbane single mothers. The analysis explores participants' experiences in the new policy environment, utilising the theoretical framework of 'relational autonomy'. Relational approaches to autonomy emphasise the importance of relations of dependency and interdependency to the development of autonomy and wellbeing in contrast with more individualistic approaches that privilege independence and self-sufficiency. Findings indicate that in their dealings with the welfare bureaucracy, participants experienced a lack of recognition of their identities as mothers, paid workers, and competent decision makers. These experiences have negative consequences for self-worth, relational autonomy, and ultimately the wellbeing of single parent families.

Lone parent obligations : supporting the journey into work

Sheffield : Dept. for Work and Pensions, 2011

The impact of the UK New Deal for Lone Parents on benefit receipt

Dolton P and Smith J
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2011.
"This paper evaluates the UK New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP) program, which aims to return lone parents to work. Using rich administrative data on benefit receipt histories and a 'selection on observed variables' identification strategy, we find that the program modestly reduces benefit receipt among participants. Methodologically, we highlight the importance of flexibly conditioning on benefit histories, as well as taking account of complex sample designs when applying matching methods. We find that survey measures of attitudes add information beyond that contained in the benefit histories and that incorporating the insights of the recent literature on dynamic treatment effects matters even when not formally applying the related methods. Finally, we explain why our results differ substantially from those of the official evaluation of NDLP, which found very large impacts on benefit exits."

Child support and Welfare to Work reforms : the economic consequences for single-parent families.

Summerfield T, Young L, Harman J and Flatau P
Family Matters no. 84 2010: 68-78
The 2006-08 reforms of Australia's social security and child support schemes saw significant changes to the income support eligibility requirements for single resident parents (mostly women) as well as to the calculation of child support. This paper models and examines the combined economic effect of the reforms on the assessed rates of child support, and on the disposable income and effective marginal tax rates of single parents. The modelling indicates that, for the scenarios examined, single resident parents fulfilling basic work requirements under the social security reforms will be financially worse off than before the combined reforms, with improvements in net disposable income only occurring for single parents who can achieve national average earnings or better. The paper goes on to discuss the policy and practical implications arising from these combined effects, particularly for the most affected groups: women and children. In particular, the authors discuss: the financial disincentives for single parents to work arising from these changes; the impact on the care of children; what 'fairer' sharing of the costs of children between parents means in practice; how parenting practices and traditional divisions of paid work interact with these financial reforms; and the opportunities for carer parents to achieve improved financial situations under the changes.

Lone parent obligations: a review of recent evidence on the work-related requirements within the benefit systems of different countries

Finn D and Gloster R
Norwich, England : Her Majesty's Stationery Office for the Dept. for Work and Pensions, 2010.
This report compares international policies on the obligations and entitlements of lone parents receiving income support. The report was conducted as part of the evaluation of the Lone Parent Obligations policy in Great Britain, which was introduced in 2008 to adjust the work-related requirements of income support for single parents. The report reviews the literature and presents case studies on the effects of similar international policy changes which operate in Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Are lone mothers responsive to policy changes?: evidence from a workfare reform in a generous welfare state

Mogstad M and Pronzato C
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2009.
"In this paper, we examine the consequences of a major Norwegian workfare reform of the generous welfare system for lone mothers. The aim of these policy changes was to improve the labour market attachment of lone mothers, and in this way increase their ability to be self-sufficient and escape poverty. Interestingly, the reform we study mirrors, in particular, the far-reaching welfare reform implemented in the US in 1996 (replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children programme with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families programme). Both reforms imposed and enforced work requirements and time limits on welfare receipt. Our study provides first evidence on the effects of the Norwegian workfare reform, making use of a unique household panel data set based on administrative registers covering the entire resident population. Unlike most previous studies of welfare reforms targeting lone mothers, we not only investigate the impacts on the earnings and labor force participation, but also examine the effects on disposable income and poverty."

Results from the Los Angeles Reach for Success Program: The Employment Retention and Advancement Project

Anderson J, Freedman S and Hamilton G
U.S.A : MDRC, c2009.
The Reach for Success (RFS) program provided voluntary, individualised case management services to recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance benefits, who were working at least 32 hours per week but earned too little to leave welfare. The program aimed to help clients, who were mostly single mothers, retain their employment and secure better jobs. It was run by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services from 2002 to 2005. This report evaluates the implementation and interim effectiveness of the program. It compares the program's impact on employment stability, earnings, career advancement, and welfare receipt with the impact of existing post-employment services offered by the County. This study is part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, a federal government project evaluating which interventions help welfare recipients and other low-income people stay steadily employed and advance in their jobs.

Welfare to work activity agreements, or how to reduce mothers' autonomy by requiring they do what they are already doing.

Blaxland M
11th Australian Social Policy Conference : An Inclusive Society Practicalities and Possibilities : 8-10 July 2009. Sydney, NSW : Social Policy Research Centre, 2009: 11p
From 2003, 'Australians Working Together' compelled Parenting Payment recipients of teenage children to engage in approved activities in order to remain eligible for income support. 'Australians Working Together' was abandoned for 'Welfare to Work' in 2006, in part because there had been little change in Parenting Payment recipients' activities in the preceding years. In this paper, the author contends that there was little change in behaviour, not because there were too few compulsory measures as argued by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, but because most parents were already undertaking the kinds of activities that 'Australians Working Together' made compulsory. As a result, while the policy did not greatly increase parents' employment, education or voluntary work, it did reduce parents' autonomy to decide what activities to do when. 'Welfare to Work' further sharply reduces parents' autonomy.

Women, work and welfare in the activation state : an agenda for Australian research.

Cortis N and Meagher G
Australian Bulletin of Labour v. 35 no. 4 2009 Special issue on women's work, current issues and future agendas: 629-651
Welfare-to-work programs are now enduring features of Australia's labour market and social policy landscape. Over two decades, both Labor and Liberal governments have progressively tightened the conditionality of income support, extending principles of mutual obligation to new groups of working age recipients. This article is concerned with legislation that came into effect in 2006 requiring sole parents who receive income support to enter the labour market when their youngest children reach school age. This policy has practical implications for the character and dynamic of the labour market, and for caregiving, family wellbeing and women's autonomy. After outlining recent Australian reforms, we examine how comparable overseas reforms have impacted on the independence and wellbeing of vulnerable, low income women; and use emerging themes to outline an agenda to guide the next phase of Australian welfare to work research.

Assessing the impact of a wage subsidy for single parents on social assistance in Canada

Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2009.
"In 2002 the Quebec government implemented the "Action Emploi" (AE) program aimed at making work pay for long-term social assistance recipients (SA). AE offered a generous wage subsidy that could last up to three years to recipients who found a full-time job within twelve months. The program was implemented on an experimental basis for a single year. Based on little empirical evidence, a slightly modified version of the program was implemented on permanent basis in May 2008. The paper investigates the impact of the temporary program by focusing on the labour market transitions of the targeted population starting one year before the implementation of the program and up until the end of 2005. We use a multi-state multi-episode model. The endogeneity of the participation status is accounted for by treating AE as a distinct state and by allowing correlated unobserved factors to affect the transitions. The model is estimated by the method of simulated moments. Our results show that AE has indeed increased the duration of Off-SA spells and decreased the duration of SA spells slightly. There is also some evidence that the response to the program varies considerably with unobserved individual characteristics."

Welfare to work: at what cost to parenting?

Cox E and Priest T
Sydney : Office for Women, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2008.
The Australian 'Welfare to Work' social security policy was changed in 2006 to increase workforce participation among single parents. This report examines the impact of these changes on parents' well being and parenting quality, and assesses the service and policy processes. It draws in part upon a longitudinal survey of 46 single parents, who were interviewed at the commencement of the new policy and 12 months later, on their income support payments, employment status and experiences, educational participation, volunteer work, financial situation, health and stress, parenting time and quality, child care, and contact with social security services. The authors found the 'Welfare to Work' policy change undermines parent and family well being and fails to achieve the expected benefits from parental employment. The authors critique the policy and its underlying assumptions, and propose recommendations to improve service delivery, flexibility, and assessment criteria, and recognise the importance of family life.

Everyday negotiations for care and autonomy in the world of welfare-to-work: the policy experience of Australian mothers, 2003-2006

Blaxland M
2008.
A significant new direction in Australian income support policy was introduced in 2002. Known as Australians Working Together, this development changed the basis of social security entitlement for parents. Throughout most of the twentieth century, low-income sole mothers, and later sole fathers and parents in couple families, could claim income support throughout most of their children's school years. The primary grounds for their entitlement were low income and parenting responsibilities. Australians Working Together introduced compulsory employment-oriented activities to Parenting Payment entitlement for parents whose youngest child had turned 13. This thesis investigates mothers' experience of this new welfare system. Using Dorothy Smith's 'everyday life' approach to research, it draws upon qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse Australians Working Together. The research is grounded in a longitudinal interview survey of Australian mothers of teenage children who were subject to these changes. The analysis moves from their experience outwards through the four levels of analysis in Williams and Popay's welfare research framework. The thesis examines mothers' day-to-day worlds, the opportunities and constraints they navigate, the policies and institutions which shape their opportunities, the political framing of those policies, and wider social and economic transformations. In their negotiation of the social security system, mothers are striving for recognition of autonomy and care. They want their capacity to determine for themselves how to live their lives to be acknowledged. They would like the social contributions they make through employment, education and voluntary work to be recognised. They struggle for their unpaid work caring for their families to be valued. They wish that they had sufficient material resources to care well for their families. The thesis develops a theoretical framework to examine these struggles drawing on the work of Honneth, Fraser, Lister, Sennett, Fisher and Tronto, Daly and Lewis. This multi-level, everyday life analysis reveals the possibility of reframing the social security system around mutual respect.

Life on a Low Income : a research project about 150 Australians.

Martin S, Grahame T and Connelly K
Scarlet Letter no. 63 Spring 2008: 6
The Life on a Low Income project is a three-year study investigating the experiences of Australians living on low incomes. The study focuses on the effects of welfare policy on particpants' experiences of welfare and work. This article describes the project and provides an overview of some results from the first round of interviews, conducted with 25 single mothers in Melbourne. Most of the participants are employed in part-time, low-paid jobs. The article discusses the effects of the compulsory activity requirements of the welfare-to-work changes since 2006 on women with primary school children or older. All of the participants found it difficult to live on the money they get from their paid employment and/or Centrelink. Many of them received financial assistance from friends, family or support agencies, but few received financial support or assistance with care from their children's father. A common view was that their choice to parent primary school children was being undermined by the requirement to seek work, and that the role of mothers is undervalued in society.

New deal for lone parents: non-participation qualitative research

Brown R and Joyce L
Leeds England : Corporate Document Services, 2007.
New Deal for Lone Parents is a British government voluntary welfare to work scheme introduced in 1997. This report, commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions, presents findings from a qualitative study exploring the reasons for non-participation by eligible lone parents.

Sole parents and income inequality.

McInnes E and Taylor J
SACOSS News May/Jun 2007 8-9
Two brief case studies are used to illustrate the financial impacts on sole parents of the 2006 Welfare to Work changes to income support and child support. The article highlights the financial disadvantage to sole parents who claim income support and who have been moved off the Parenting Payment Single, compared with those who continue to receive the Payment. It discusses the social factors that create a context of income vulnerability for single mother families.

Exploring the implications of welfare changes for single parent families in their transition to paid work.

Cook K
Brotherhood Comment Apr 2007 14
The article outlines a proposed study of single parents required to return to work under Australian welfare to work legislation, to be undertaken by researchers at Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Brotherhood of St Laurence. 250 participants will be asked about their income, time use, health and well being. A small number will also be interviewed about how the welfare to work transition experiences shape their everyday lives.
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