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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8957

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (11:44): I thank all senators who have made a contribution to the debate on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011. This legislation delivers on the budget commitment for the teenage parents and jobless families measures under the government's Building Australia's Future Workforce package. These measures provide new services, opportunities and respon­sibilities to boost the educational attainment, job readiness, child wellbeing and function­ing of families with young children in some of the most disadvantaged locations in the country.

We have a growing economy and a strong labour market but not all Australians are benefiting equally from this. Joblessness among families continues to be a significant, social and economic problem in Australia. It is associated with higher rates of poverty, poor health status and low educational attainment for parents and their children. There is a strong intergenerational tendency for joblessness in families. By taking steps to build family functioning and skills, this government aims to break the cycle of welfare reliance and give disadvantaged parents and their children a brighter future.

Through the teenage parents and jobless families measures, the government is providing greater opportunities for parents to build on the own skills and capabilities, providing a pathway to better life outcomes for themselves and their children. The government recognises the important role that parents play in caring for their young children. These measures are being introduced to enhance this role, not to reduce it. There are often many services available in local communities that can provide the support and assistance parents need to plan and move forward in a positive way. These measures encourage parents to make the most of the services they are entitled to in their local communities. By introducing requirements for teenage parents receiving parenting payment in 10 trial locations, the government is sending a clear message that having a child does not mean the end of your education. Teenage parents in the trial will be required to engage in activities to help them attain year 12 or an equivalent qualification. They will also be required to do activities with their child or children that will maximise their health and education outcomes. Children need good early childhood development opportunities to help them become school ready both socially and academically.

Parents in the jobless families trial will be required to attend interviews with Centrelink where they will develop a plan focusing on job preparation and future employment. They too will be asked to do activities in their local communities designed to get good early health and education outcomes for their children. These measures are about building on and enhancing family functioning, skills acquisition, community engagement and making sure that families are well equipped for the future. All Australians on income support should have the opportunity to access the full range of services available to improve the lives of their families, but with this opportunity comes responsibility. This bill strikes the right balance in ensuring that those opportunities are made available to parents who need them while clearly stating that parents need to meet their respon­sibilities to ensure that early health, education and well-being outcomes are achieved for their families.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.