TOUGH CALL: Jen Sims and her son Ashton, aged 9, of East Ballina. Ms Sims is facing up to having $75 a week less to pay household bills.
TOUGH CALL: Jen Sims and her son Ashton, aged 9, of East Ballina. Ms Sims is facing up to having $75 a week less to pay household bills. Patrick Gorbunovs

Families lose up to $110

NEW Year's Day was not a cheery day for Australia's 60,000 single-parent families relying on government parenting payments to live.

In a move sold by the government as encouraging people to get back into the workforce, single parents with youngest children more than eight years old have had their parenting payment axed and will be put on the dole.

The changes will affect some families by as much as $110 per week and require single parents - mostly women - to start looking for work.

The Northern Star heard from several single mums yesterday who said the changes would put more pressure on their already taxed household budgets.

Ballina resident Genevieve Sims, mother of nine-year-old Ashton, has worked part-time since Ashton was three months old, supporting herself with parenting payments, a crucial supplement.

Today she will receive her final payment before being transferred to Newstart and losing an estimated $75 a week.

"It's definitely going to make things a lot harder for us ... I suppose (car and contents) insurance will prob- ably be one of the first things to go and then I'll be looking at my phone plan," Ms Sims said.

Ms Sims has already tried working full-time in 2011, but after almost 12 months with Ashton missing out on soccer games and swimming lessons, she cut back to part-time hours.

"I don't have family in the area so I don't have someone to go and pick up Ashton after school," Ms Sims said.

"The money was better then but my son is my priority and spending time with him is more important."

Asked whether Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin could really live on the dole (as Ms Macklin claimed on New Year's Day), Ms Sims was sceptical.

"I'd love to see some of those politicians really do it, and not just a week, but for six months - just wait until bills and rego comes in," she said.

Kyogle grandmother of 12 Annette Hotko, who raised five kids herself, echoed the strong views appearing on The Northern Star's Facebook page about the issue.

"I know lots of people in our community who are struggling to survive… even people who work," Ms Hotko said.

"I don't think they can justify putting parents of young children under pressure; if anything they need more, not less. Electricity is through the roof, feeding a family is expensive. Just to try and get into the job market," she said.

Former principal of Nimbin Central Public and Casino Public schools Margaret Hayes said the policy change was appalling.

"I'm really saddened that the Labor Party federally is becoming so removed from their own values," she said.

"One of the most important roles that anyone can do is nurture children. Parents rearing children on their own need every support that they can get."

TIPS FOR LIVING CHEAPLY:

  • Go without internet and mobile phones, use library internet services instead.
  • Avoid using any kind of heating or cooling, rug up instead.
  • Cut down on unnecessary luxuries or habits such as smoking and drinking.
  • Eat fresh seasonal vegies and cheap proteins such as legumes instead of processed foods.
  • Take shorter showers and turn lights off.
  • Visit soup kitchens and other regular community catering events.


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