Post written by Jane Hunt, former inaugural CEO at Fitted for Work.
People under 25 will no longer be eligible for the Newstart allowance; instead they will only be able to access the lower-paying Youth Allowance. This means that a young person living away from their family will receive $47 less per week to live on – around 18% of their disposable income.
21% of our clients are under 25 years of age and typically don’t have families that are able to support them, which is why they come to us in the first place. With this significant loss of income we are concerned they will not be able to secure safe housing, and instead will rely on couch-surfing or fall into homelessness. All of which is a barrier to young women getting work. Combined with Australia’s highly casualised workforce and rising youth unemployment, this budget will make it harder for young women experiencing disadvantage to break out of their situation. They will need the intensive and individualised programs that FFW provides to help them transition to work quickly so they don’t get stuck in a cycle of disadvantage and poverty.
Women Under 30
From January 2015, new jobseekers who are under 30 years of age will have to wait up to six months before receiving unemployment benefits, and will then have to participate in Work for the Dole.
In the last financial year, approximately 34% of our clients were under 30 years of age, and over half of this group had already been unemployed for more than 6 months when they came to Fitted for Work. Under the new budget measures, these women will have had no income for 6 months before accessing our services. Their need and anxiety to get work, already high, will be crippling.
In addition, this group of women will now be required to ‘work for the dole’ for 25 hours per week, leaving them little spare time to look for work. This will leave the women we see very vulnerable and they will find it even harder to break the cycle of disadvantage and unemployment. As a consequence we anticipate more demand on our services and increased need for programs that help women find sustainable employment.
Under the new budget, an unemployed single mother with one eight-year-old child will lose $54 per week or 12% of their disposable income. In addition, the increase in child care fees for parents on JET (Jobs, Education, Training) Child Care Fee Assistance and reduction in hours of JET subsidised care available will discourage participation in work and training for low income women.
24% of the women we see at Fitted for Work are single mothers. FFW and the CMSC recently surveyed 93 single Mothers about the barriers and enablers to getting work, and found that the women we spoke to were all highly motivated to provide for themselves and their families: “‘Having a job is not only a matter of money…it is about also the ability to develop yourself and get a better income later in life, and also to set up examples to the children that they can do it”.
However, when trying to balance a job with looking after young children single mothers often face precarious work conditions (i.e. work that is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected and cannot support a household) that will see them cycle in and out of casual employment. Our survey showed that it is already difficult to earn a salary that enables them to care for their children and pay for all things that help them keep work, such as childcare and petrol. “Considering it is impossible to work full-time with 3 children and their special needs, I am working for not only little financial reward, but little to no prospect of developing a career…Its soul destroying to work so hard, and still only be treading water.” Under the new budget, single mothers will need additional and intensive support to secure sustainable employment.