Bendigo single parents rally for payments

SINGLE parents from Bendigo will rally today to demand the federal government address changes to the parent payment pension that they say is making them feel hopeless and desperate.

A number of parents from Bendigo’s Single Parent Action Group have travelled to Melbourne to protest, joining one of a number of events to be held across the country as parliament resumes.

Bendigo mother Andie Downing was meant to be addressing the rally but has had to work today.

Ms Downing, who is employed casually in community development, said she had worked hard to look after her son, but was struggling to cope with the payment changes.

“I’ve studied and I work and I do what I can to get by, but the new payments are restrictive,” she said.

“The system has pushed us back below the poverty line and I can’t see it getting better.

“I’m feeling very hopeless about it.”

The federal government introduced tighter payment restrictions on January 1, which forced parents off their pension and on to the Newstart allowance after their youngest child turned eight.

A number of politicians have suggested increasing the Newstart allowance to help compensate more than 60,000 single parents now receiving between $60 to $100 a week less under entitlement changes.

Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons said the motivation behind the changes were to get people back to work, but  it had been delivered by a “brutal method”.

Bendigo mother Carol, who asked to withhold her surname, said the government had “failed” parents and neglected to consider the impact on individuals’ circumstances. “We’re all in different situations,” she said. 

“My marriage broke down while my son was having cancer treatment.

“We don’t choose to be single. Some of us are in abusive relationships.”

Carol said the first month of reduced payments had proved difficult but she was fortunate to be in a Department of Housing home.

But department figures revealed the public housing waiting list at the Bendigo office grew by 8.7 per cent last quarter.

Housing Minister Wendy Lovell said there had been an increase in single parents seeking private rental properties “due to the Commonwealth’s cuts to their income support”.

Members of the Single Parent Action group will meet at State Parliament at 11am today.

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