A recent whistleblower reported to the Guardian Australia that staff at a provider of the ParentsNext Program were encouraged not to grant an exemption to a single mother who had experienced family violence. In return, the provider would receive fewer government payments. The National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children said that the forced disclosure of such experiences retraumatised women.
The ParentsNext Program aims to provide parents with an opportunity to develop a sense of self and prepare them for the demands of working life. The program includes a number of activities that help parents become more involved in their children’s lives. These activities include education courses, playgroups, and story times at the local library. Parents should sign up for these activities if they want to improve their chances of finding a job.
Parents who take up this program will benefit from the assistance of a trained professional. They will receive assistance in finding a career path, increasing their confidence, and developing skills that will help them secure employment. The program can also assist parents with accessing local support services. The Training Alliance Group, the Perth North provider of the program, helps parents find a course, find work experience, and connect them with other parents in the community. Moreover, they will assist parents with writing resumes and practice job interviews. Parents can also get emotional support, and access to financial assistance.
The ParentsNext program is designed to support parents who receive Parenting Payments and Carer Payments. It also helps them prepare for work when their youngest child starts school. The program provides financial support for parents to prepare for employment, and connects them with local support services. If a parent has not been actively seeking employment in the last six months, Centrelink will contact them and refer them to a ParentsNext provider. The provider will then meet with the parents and help them set goals for their lives.
Participants’ participation plans
Participation plans are negotiated between parents and providers and must be based on the participants’ own personal circumstances and desired outcomes. They should not include requirements that are unreasonable, such as searching for a job or attending a specific activity. However, the plan must be flexible and participants can make changes if their circumstances change.
Participation requirements vary between services. Some require parents to attend appointments, while others do not. Participants are encouraged to check the website of their service provider for the latest requirements. If they are unable to attend appointments, they should speak with their providers to discuss their options. If they are not able to comply with the requirements, their participation plan may be terminated and their payments may stop. If this happens, they should contact the Department of Education.
The program has also been criticised for failing to meet human rights obligations. The NCSMC has consistently expressed concerns about the program, including at the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry. NCSMC told the committee that the program’s structure is unsatisfactory and that its current form is inconsistent with Australia’s human rights obligations.
Targeted compliance framework
The Targeted Compliance Framework for the ParentsNext Program sets requirements for the program and the services it offers. The framework covers eligibility, direct registration, commencement dates, participation assistance, outcomes and concurrent referrals. The guideline also covers eligibilsity for Volunteer and Compulsory Participants. Volunteers and Compulsory Participants must participate in the program to the extent permitted by the Program.
ParentsNext participants are required to attend activities, meet provider requirements, and report their incomes to the program. Participation is not optional and is often required as the only source of income for families. Nevertheless, the program can help parents access services that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The program is not only effective in helping parents, but it can help parents access education and training opportunities that may not be available through other government programs.
Activities must be scheduled once every fortnight. However, there are certain circumstances when other scheduling options are necessary. Some activities can only be scheduled once a week, while others should be scheduled every day. Providers should consider the needs of their participants when preparing activities. They should also consider whether the activities are safe and appropriate.
A new report shows that a large proportion of ParentsNext participants have had their payments suspended for failing to meet their mutual obligations. In the 2017-18 financial year, 33,620 participants had their income support temporarily suspended for non-compliance. Of those, 4,868 had no valid excuse and were given a demerit point by the job agency. This means that only 15% of ParentsNext participants were eligible to be reinstated.
The report finds that ParentsNext does not adequately support disadvantaged mothers and exposes them to the harm of coercion. It fails to address the fact that a large proportion of the women involved in the program were victims of family violence. In addition, the ParentsNext compliance framework is not ideal for a pre-employment program.
The ParentsNext program has an unfortunate history of failing to meet its objectives. The program’s focus on compliance instead of building skills, motivation, and confidence is not beneficial for the cohort. Furthermore, the TCF is not flexible, and therefore has led to significant difficulties for ParentsNext participants.