The Federal Government is hailing new figures which show a 13 per cent decline in the number of teen parents on welfare.
- Number of young parents aged 19 years and younger receiving income support has fallen from around 32,000 in 2013 to 27,940 in 2016.
- Social Services Minister Christian Porter says it is “positive news”
- Between 2015 and 2016, the number of students finishing their studies and going straight onto the dole decreased by 10 per cent.
But as welfare groups point out, this has coincided with a significant fall in teenage pregnancies.
But what the figures do not show is whether these young people now have jobs, or whether they have been cut off from income support.
Since coming to power, the Coalition has made it harder to qualify for welfare payments and toughened the obligations on those in the system, through policies like Earn or Learn.
Four years on, Social Services Minister Christian Porter says that approach is starting to show “real progress”.
“It’s a measure both of the system becoming more stringent, but also us having more of a focus on ensuring that just because a person has a child early in life, doesn’t mean that they can’t have self reliance through paid work,” he said.
The number of young parents aged 19 years and younger receiving income support has fallen from around 32,000 in 2013 to 27,940 in 2016.
Mr Porter said while there was no way of knowing for sure, it was likely that many of those young parents were now in the workforce.
“What is very positive news, is not merely that this represents a much better outcome for this group, but it represents a saving to the taxpayer of around $2 billion in lifetime costs,” Mr Porter said.
Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Service described the decline as “significant”, and wanted more information about whether their circumstances had improved since leaving the welfare system.
“We need more information to determine if this is overwhelmingly a good news story or whether or not we should be more concerned because income support is being removed from young parents who need it,” she said.
She has also pointed to figures which show that from 2012 to 2015, the number of teenage pregnancies fell from 11,240 to 8,574.
For young students on welfare, the decline was even greater. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of students finishing their studies and going straight onto the dole decreased by 10 per cent or around 4,850.
The Government is particularly interested in these two groups because detailed analysis of the welfare system found they — along with young carers — were most at risk of long-term welfare dependency.
Without intervention, the analysis by accounting firm PwC found young students would spend, on average, 37 years on welfare, and young parents 45 years.
At-risk groups currently on welfare
|Category: Young carers|
|Number in Australia:||11,000|
|Average amount of time spent on welfare:||43 years|
|Total cost to taxpayer:||$5.2 billion|
|Category: Young parents (under 18)|
|Number in Australia:||4,370|
|Average amount of time spent on welfare:||45 years|
|Total cost to taxpayer:||$2.4 billion|
|Number in Australia:||6,600|
|Average amount of time spent on welfare:||37 years|
|Total cost to taxpayer:||$2 billion|
|*who move from student onto working age payments|
But getting the latter group off income support is complicated — the vast majority are single parents, more than half have not completed Year 12, and about 14 per cent are victims of domestic abuse.
That is why the Government has embarked on a radical overhaul of the welfare system, focused on intervention and addressing these “at-risk” groups early.
Having spent the past year seeking ideas from stakeholders, academics and non-government groups, Mr Porter has announced the first lot of pilot programs to see which initiatives get help get these three groups into the workforce.