Helping Families Get Ahead

Columns
Friday, May 22, 2015

Children living in the poorest households have a tough time.

Two-thirds of those in the most severe material hardship have a parent on a benefit. Nine out of 10 of those are sole parents.

I’m concerned about what happens to these children when their family’s resources fall behind those of other households.

National is committed to doing more for them. That’s why we’ve developed a $790 million package at the heart of this year’s Budget to help children in our poorest households.

As part of this package, National is increasing benefits for families with children by $25 a week – the first increase in benefit rates beyond inflation since 1972. We’re also increasing Working For Families payments to low-income families of $12.50 a week in most cases.

This package includes greater work obligations for sole parents on a benefit. It also includes more childcare support for low-income families to help parents into work, education, or training.

The package targets 160,000 of our lowest-income families, those earning less than $36,360 a year. It strikes a balance between helping families who have fallen behind other households, while ensuring there remains a strong incentive to move from welfare to work.

It’s the next step in National’s commitment to address the long-term drivers of deprivation.

Moving to paid work is the best way to lift more families out of poverty, while an increase in benefit rates will help address our concern about children whose family resources have been falling behind other households. Over many years, beneficiary family incomes have hardly changed in real terms, while those for working families have increased.

The hardship package builds on our welfare reforms to help people into work. We are already seeing promising results – 42,000 fewer children are living in benefit-dependent households than three years ago.

It also builds on the $500 million families package in last year’s Budget which included free doctors’ visits for children under 13, extra paid parental leave, and an increase in the parental tax credit.

And it’s just part of the work we’re doing to improve the lives of children – including record immunisation rates, more support for early childhood education, a whole-of-government approach to family violence, free breakfasts in schools that want it, and a $359 million programme to raise the quality of teaching and leadership in schools.

National’s plan is working to help families – from every household – get ahead.