When the coronavirus supplement was cut, single mum Leanne’s darkest days returned
It’s been almost a month since the federal government drastically reduced the coronavirus supplement to $50 a fortnight from its peak of $550.
For anyone, that’s a lot of money.
But for single parents, many of them women, the extra cash offered them a taste of a better life, says Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSC).
“It filled a gap of a failing income support system, it put a bandaid over growing inequality, and it masked, for six months, child poverty,” she said.
Just ask Leanne Taylor.
The coronavirus supplement meant she and her 11-year-old daughter did not have to struggle to pay for the basics.
But now, the dark days have returned.
After paying for groceries bills and rent, Leanne is lucky to be left with about $100 each week to spend on other everyday items.
“Kids need nutrition, but sometimes I will just go without so she can eat a meal the next day,” she explained.
Her voice cracks with emotion when asked about how missing out on the extra money has affected her daughter.
“I feel like my child is being left behind. She can’t do things her friends do. Simple things like taking her ice skating is a struggle,” she said.
Sadly, Leanne is not alone. The statistics for sole-parent households are truly alarming.
Children in these families are three times more likely to be living in poverty than those in couple families and the overall poverty rate for single-parent families is 44 per cent, according to research commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Services.
Nationally, more that two million people received the coronavirus supplement, according to Anti-Poverty Week research.
Another one million children benefited from the same supplement, with about half of those kids being in single-parent households.
For Leanne, life had become even tougher. RIght now, she can’t afford to service her car.
“It has had a great toll on my mental health,” she said.
Luckily, her friend has offered her parent’s house for her to rent in the Victorian town of Bendigo, which will leave her out of pocket $310 per week.
She had been struggling to find a rental, and the offer was a huge lifeline for her and her daughter, Claudia.
In a , the Council of Single Mothers, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Grandparents Australia want the $550 coronavirus supplement reinstated until the pandemic is over — as well as a permanent increase in JobSeeker payments, training and free child care for single parents.
As Ms Edwards explains, the best thing about the coronavirus supplement was that people could see the massive difference it made to families struggling to get by.
“People could get job ready, get a haircut and buy new clothes. Single parents could afford for their children to play sport,” Ms Edwards said.
Those are things Boadi Vincent has certainly missed as she struggles to manage with her two kids.
She describes the loss of the coronavirus supplement as “a death by a thousand cuts”.
“The cuts keep increasing and the cost of living is ever-growing,” she adds.
At the moment, she and her sons are living on variations of canned beans.
“You’re constantly on the edge, you’re constantly living hand-to-mouth, there is just no security,” she said.
Boadi is studying speech pathology, a profession she hopes will give her family a more financially secure future.
She believes single mothers have been an easy target for successive governments that are keen to improve their budget bottom line.
Since 2006, single parents have been forced off parenting payments and onto JobSeeker once their youngest child turns eight.
“It’s discriminatory. I have a job, I am a mother raising the next generation of Australians who are going to grow up and pay taxes,” she said.
“The government is pushing our children into poverty and forcing them to live as second-class citizens.”
Receiving the coronavirus supplement meant Hobart Mum Elizabeth Clark was able to save money, buy her first car and pay for driving lessons.
“I could say ‘yes’ to my daughter more often, since the supplement was reduced and ended, I haven’t been able to add to savings, and have to keep a close eye on the budget.” she said.
On top of that, Ms Clark will also lose access to her single parenting payment because her daughter turns eight soon.
“Worrying about money definitely affects my mental health,” she said.
“Hobart is in a rental crisis with skyrocketing rents and I expect my weekly rent will go up this year just as my income will go down. I’m very fortunate in lots of ways, but it’s still a worry.”
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