“OUTSIDE systems control my life”: The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work* report finds the Welfare to Work policy is not only failing to help single mothers find employment, it is increasing their financial insecurity and eroding their attempts to find work and become self-reliant. Based on interviews with 26 women from around Australia, Welfare to Work policy is failing to help single mothers find employment, increasing their financial insecurity and eroding their attempts to find work and become self-reliant. The report puts a human face to this policy, including experiences of a harsh compliance regime and inconsistent policy implementation by jobactive providers and Centrelink. It includes recommendations for policy change to improve outcomes for single mothers on Welfare to Work.
Summary of key findings
The Welfare to Work policy was designed to help single mothers achieve financial security through self-reliance and economic participation, but it does not address the fact that women are already participating in the necessary unpaid work of care. The policy does not consider the barriers that single mothers face in obtaining employment, such as lack of child care and the availability of quality part-time roles. Implementation of the policy has resulted in negative experiences for many women from Job Network Providers in the form of inconsistent interpretations of the policy and in some cases aggressive behaviour. The policy has in many cases interfered with women’s intrinsic motivation to find employment and achieve long-term financial security through tertiary education or entrepreneurial activity.
- Welfare to Work is not meeting the stated goal of improving workforce participation.
- Welfare to Work is not meeting the stated goal of self-reliance.
- Welfare to Work is not meeting the stated goal of improving financial security.
- Single mothers are being forced into making decisions which often work against the financial security and wellbeing of their households.
- Welfare to Work appears to be founded on erroneous assumptions about clients, including that they are unemployed and/or disengaged.
- Providers were focused on remaining accountable to the government rather than to their clients, and even those staff members who were courteous or concerned had very little to offer in the way of practical help.
- Many individuals appear to be referred to Welfare to Work when they are not in a position to participate in employment.
- While some providers are courteous, others engage in intimidation, threats, bullying and abusive interactions with clients.
- Welfare to Work policies are not consistently interpreted and applied by providers.
- Job Network Providers were dismissive of the importance and impact of being labelled non-compliant, and thus receiving a suspension of payments, on the participants’ lives.
- The Welfare to Work policies do not take into account the structural barriers that women have to engaging in secure and meaningful employment.
- The low rate of the Newstart Allowance exacerbates poverty and creates additional barriers for single mothers to enter employment.
- For single mothers, engaging in employment did not equate with financial stability.
- In spite of negative experiences with Welfare to Work, women displayed persistence and courage in the face of adversity.
SOURCE: McLaren, Juanita; Maury, Susan and Squire, Sarah. “Outside systems control my life” The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work.” Women’s Research, Advocacy and Policy (WRAP) Centre, October 2018.
“Outside systems control my life” The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work*, produced by the Women’s Research, Advocacy and Policy (WRAP) Centre, was released at the 2018 ACOSS Conference in Sydney today, Monday 29 October 2018. [The full report, Findings at a Glance summary and a compendium of the case studies are available]
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia