OPINION: Government clueless on families’ needs

WHAT does it take to raise a child?

The popular answer is it takes a village.

The reality for many Australians is that it takes one single parent, something the federal government seems to lack understanding of at the most fundamental level.

For the future of Australia, this is a disaster of monumental proportions looming over the next generation. 

The National Council for Single Mothers and their Children is absolutely correct in lobbying hard the federal Labor government over its changes to parenting payments for children under 18.

But what has not yet been brought to light is a far greater problem, one that extends even further.

That is single parents – working or not – supporting children over 18 without assistance of the other parent or the  government.

And this in an environment where there are very few trainee positions for school leavers and where tertiary education other than university (for example TAFE,  is a pay up-front fee – usually totalling thousands of dollars).

The reality is once a child turns 18, two financially disastrous events occur.  

The first is that the parent paying child maintenance is no longer obliged by law to do so, regardless of whether or not that child is financially independent. 

That leaves the supporting parent with the entire financial burden of putting a roof over that child’s head, food in their mouth, medical expenses and so on, leaving little or nothing left to pay upfront fees for tertiary education.

And if that parent earns an average wage, the dependent child is entitled to no support from Centrelink until they turn 21.

That also means that they don’t even show up in the unemployment figures.

The fall-out from this  if the system is not changed is that the next 10 years are going to see a whole generation of uneducated Australian youth who have been unable to launch themselves on a career path, not through lack of motivation or desire, but because they have hit a brick wall at every turn.

Ridiculously high HSC requirements for basic trades, nowhere near enough traineeships/apprenticeships with legitimate employers, the downturn in the retail industry and the unscrupulous employers lobbying for cheap overseas workers are all contributing factors to a bleak future for Australian youth.

For the single parent who is still supporting children on the road to financial independence well into their twenties, there will be little time or money to prepare for their own retirement. 

And then the government expects these parents to not ask for an age pension upon retirement.

In a climate with a very uncertain future, we should be redirecting some of the funds that are being sent overseas to build other countries and start building our own, through supporting our young adults’ transition from school into young, well-educated working adults.

It really is a no-brainer. So why can’t the federal government see it? Because they are out of touch with what families need.