Single Mothers’ Struggles Among the Worst

Struggles and needs of single mothers in Australia.

Single mothers and their children experience higher rates of poverty than any other household type in Australia.

Upcoming changes to social security will have a devastating impact on them.

A new report from social justice organisation Brotherhood of St. Laurence shows that low-income single mothers and their children continue to be caught in the binds of poverty and insecurity, with limited choices and opportunities.

The recent addition of the Coronavirus supplement to many social security payments, including Parenting Payment Single, has been widely welcomed. This has finally allowed many single mums to make ends meet and live with dignity. But the government is set to slash the supplement on 25 September, with the dramatic drop impacting up to 1.1 million children.

‘Trampolines, Not Traps’, the year-long qualitative research study, shows just how tough it will be for many single mothers to make ends meet once the supplement is gone.

One mother spoke of the need to forgo meals so that her child could eat;

I make sure my son eats … He gets what he needs to be happy and survive, but there’ll be times when I do the grocery shopping and it’ll be nappies, food for my son, formula for my son, and then I might get myself a bag of noodles for the week.”

Another mother, juggling two kids, reported how hard it has been to find extra work. Despite a degree in community services, she hasn’t been able to find more than 7 hours of work. This doesn’t cover the cost of rent, food, and bills.

Many of the women that we interviewed reported high levels of stress and anxiety as they were constantly worrying about money, budgeting and working out how to pay their bills,” says Dina Bowman, Principal Research Fellow at the Brotherhood of St. Laurence.

This important study highlights the structural inequality that has hit single parent families so hard, and will continue to do so once the supplement is removed. It also gives voice to women’s experiences of being caught between work, care and welfare.

As Bowman and her co-author Seuwandi Wickramasinghe argue:

Women and children need strong foundations: stable, safe and affordable housing; affordable good quality child care; decent and inclusive employment; flexible access to education and training; and a fair social security system.”