Welfare in doubt under ParentsNext scheme

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the expansion of ParentsNext on Thursday. Photo: FILE
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the expansion of ParentsNext on Thursday. Photo: FILE

The future is uncertain for young recipients of the Parenting Payment, after it was announced the compulsory ParentsNext pre-employment training program would be expanded to Dubbo in 2018.

The $263 million ParentsNext scheme was unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday, following a successful 12-month pilot in 10 priority locations.

“Priority groups” for the program include parents under the age of 22 years who do not have a year 12 or equivalent qualification, parents who are assessed as highly disadvantaged and parents whose youngest child is aged five years old, a Department of Employment spokesperson said.

But when asked by the Daily Liberal, the spokesperson did not say whether parents would face welfare payment cuts if they did not take part in the program.

“Some parents receiving Parenting Payment will be subject to compulsory participation,” the spokesperson said.

Parkes MP Mark Coulton was also unsure whether some parents could face cuts, but said “I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want take the opportunity to take this up”.

Under the program, parents may have access to education, training, parenting courses, counselling, health services, housing services, financial management, and language, literacy and numeracy classes. ParentsNext may also assist parents to access childcare services in their local area, the employment department spokesperson said.

Due to the “high proportion of Parenting Payment recipients who are Indigenous” in Dubbo, the region will receive an “intensive” version of the scheme.

“The more intensive stream … will provide: additional funding to assist parents with work-related expenses such as training, work experience and mentoring; ParentsNext providers will be paid an incentive for each participant who achieves an education or employment outcome; each Indigenous parent in the program will be immediately eligible for a wage subsidy (paid to employers) of up to $10,000; services provided to Indigenous parents through the program will be culturally competent,” the spokesperson said.

“Sometimes I think that one of the most stabilising influences you can put into a family is a job,” Mr Coulton said.

Mr Coulton said he would be keeping an eye on the expansion to ensure ParentsNext delivered the outcomes it was supposed to and, if the results were good, would welcome a broader roll-out across the Parkes electorate.

“I’ve been involved with things like this before I was in parliament and I’ve seen numerous parents, they’ve got these kids … they’ve probably left [school] before their education was completed but by doing a certificate in aged care or something they’ve found secure employment but also a whole lot of satisfaction that comes with having a job,” he said.

“The security of the income, the role model for a child … and obviously the more people that are involved and engaged in active employment generates more income, not only for those families but wider communities as people are brought up with these programs.”

The government will soon be seeking tenders for service providers to deliver ParentsNext in Dubbo, with programs set to begin from July 2018. Visit www.employment.gov.au/parentsnext for more information.