New laws hit tuck shop mums
By HELEN JACK
KAY GIBBS runs the canteen at South Lismore Public School and relies on volunteers to serve the students.
When Federal legislation came into affect on July 1 requiring single unemployed parents with their youngest child aged over seven to find at least 15 hours' work each week, Mrs Gibbs lost four volunteers in one fell swoop.
Left with a gaping hole in her canteen's roster, Mrs Gibbs is scratching to find replacement volunteers and putting in extra hours herself to fill the gap.
But the problem is not just South Lismore's alone. Clunes Public School canteen co-ordinator Dave Speachlee said he also lost four volunteers from the canteen roster. "I lost them to work commitments," he said.
Mr Speachlee was forced to do the same as Mrs Gibbs, working the extra hours to fill the gap.
Single mum Susie Sivewright said the legislation had stopped her working in the South Lismore School canteen.
"You're allowed to do some volunteer work but not a lot. But if you have 15 to 20 hours a week paid employment then you can do as many hours' voluntary work as you like," she said.
But while school canteen rosters seem to bear the brunt of the legislation's affects, Girl Guides Association state commissioner Prue Carpenter said finding volunteers was an ongoing problem for her organisation.
And Family Support Network project co-ordinator Jodie Clark said since July 1 volunteers registered for their next training course had dropped by two-thirds.
"We had 17 last year, now we have only six registered," she said.
"Volunteers need to be parents and those we have retained are either working part-time, studying, have a partner that is working, or are retirees."
A Centrelink spokesman said customers receiving Parenting Payments were required to look for part-time paid work of at least 15 hours per week when their youngest child reaches school age.
"Parents may be able to take part in voluntary work ... as long as it is approved by their Job Network provider and has the potential to improve their employment prospects," he said.
"But approved voluntary work must be used in conjunction with other approved activities including looking for paid work.
"There is nothing to stop parents from volunteering their services in a school canteen if they have the time but they will only be able to use it to help meet their Centrelink obligations if it is approved."