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Australia Family Life?

Australia Family Life?

Old Aug 26th 2002, 4:18 am
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Default Australia Family Life?

Bad parents to lose family payments

By Tom Allard and Liam Phillips






NEW parents would lose family payments unless they attended courses or undertook other activities to improve their parenting skills, under a proposal to be considered by the Federal Government.

The extension to parents of the mutual obligation principle that has guided the Government's welfare reforms is being pushed by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Larry Anthony.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald today says Mr Anthony wants a public debate on the issue. He will put a submission to Cabinet in the next month which will discuss ways to improve early childhood development. Costed policies would be developed later.

Prime Minister John Howard is enthusiastic about the issue after a briefing from Professor Fiona Stanley, director of Perth's Institute for Child Health Research.

Professor Stanley said tying family payments to parenting obligations had been successful in other countries such as France but it had to be part of a bigger approach.

"We need a whole change of culture in putting the family first," she said. "Many things depend on children having a good environment early in life. Most parents want to be good parents. It's just that a lot of things get in the way."

Mr Anthony said the economic and social benefits of getting the early years right - and the cost of failure - warranted some form of compulsion.

He city the Government's immunisation drive. "We linked immunisation directly to family payments and what we've seen now, bang, we're up from 60 per cent to 90 per cent," he said. "It worked very well. We need to look at that, mutual obligation, for parents."

The mutual obligation principle requires welfare recipients to do something in return for their full payments, such as looking for a job or undertaking training or voluntary work, or face losing some of the payout.

About 90 per cent of parents get some kind of family payment, including a one-off lump sum of nearly $800 for new parents and fortnightly payments for stay-at-home mothers and families on lower incomes.

Mr Anthony said parents could be required to attend seminars or watch parenting videos.

He said 600,000 children in Australia grew up in households where neither parent worked and there was an alarming rate of children being removed by welfare agencies from their parents. "All the research shows us that if we get it right in the early years, one dollar spent today saves the taxpayer seven dollars later," he said.




-with SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
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