Can single parent families survive on Newstart? It might depend on where they live

Parliament house flag post

Can single parent families survive on Newstart? It might depend on where they live

Posted 8/01/2013 by Carol Ey

There has been considerable media coverage in recent days about the implementation of the new income support arrangements applying from 1 January for single parents whose youngest child is over 8, who are being moved from Parenting Payment Single (PPS) on to Newstart Allowance (NSA). Some of this coverage implies that these families will now be required to live on $35 a day. While this is not the case, with total entitlements being significantly higher than this, the ability of single parent households to live a reasonable lifestyle while solely dependent on income support will be heavily influenced by where they live. This FlagPost looks at the impact of different accommodation arrangements on the amount of money left over for other living costs.

How much income support will single parents receive under the new arrangements?

The figure of $35 a day or $492.60 per fortnight (pf) for NSA relates to a single person with no children and no other source of income. The allowance for single parents with dependent children and no income is a little higher, at $533.00 pf ($38 per day); however they also receive Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and Pharmaceutical Allowance. For two children, one aged between 8 and 12 and the other 13 to 15, this would amount to just under $500 pf in addition to NSA. When lump sum payments for the Schoolkids Bonus ($410 per year for primary school children and $820 for those in high school), Clean Energy Advance and the FTB annual bonus (over $1800 in this example) are included, the total social security income is around $30 000 per annum or roughly $82 per day. In addition, single parents receiving NSA are eligible for a Pensioner Concession Card, which provides access to reduced medical costs and other discounted benefits.

Homeowners and others not paying rent

Providing food and clothing for a family of three on $30 000 a year (on which no tax would generally be payable) may be reasonable if there are no accommodation costs. The background paper produced for the Pension Review (the Harmer Review) calculated that in 2007 some 10 per cent of those in receipt of PPS and 20 per cent of singles in receipt of NSA did not pay any rent. It is likely that in many cases these people were being supported by other family members.

The Pension Review paper also suggested that 18.5 per cent of PPS recipients were homeowners or purchasers. A 2009-10 ABS survey found that around a third of low income single parent homeowners did not have a mortgage and housing costs were estimated at around $40 per week. According to the ABS survey the average mortgage in 2009-10 for low income single parent households was $274 per week, however it is unlikely that single parents fully dependent on income support would be sustaining mortgages at this level from their income support payments. 

Public housing 

Public housing rents are generally set as a proportion of income (usually 25 per cent) rather than at the market rate. However many states discount FTB payments when calculating income levels, so most single parents in public housing would pay less than 25 per cent of their income in rent. For example in Victoria the total fortnightly income of a single NSA recipient with two children aged 10 and 13 would be $1030.18 pf and rent would be $208.45 pf, leaving just under $60 per day for other living expenses.

Private rent

According to the Pension Review, over half of PPS and NSA recipients were in the private rental market, for which Rent Assistance (RA) is generally available. For a single parent with two children no RA is payable if the fortnightly rent is less than $141.40, and the maximum amount of $141.82 pf is payable where rent payments are more than $330.49 pf. According to the ABS survey, 50 per cent of low income single parent households across Australia were paying more than $500 pf in rent in 2009-10. While some single parents would be in community housing which is likely to be lower than the average, it is still reasonable to expect that most single parents with two children in the private rental market are paying rents above the $175 per week threshold for the maximum payment, particularly given the increase in rents since the 2009 survey. 

For the example quoted above, and taking the 2009-10 median rent of $250 per week (which is likely to be at the low side of current private rental costs in most locations), after rental payments, there would only be $48 per day for other expenses – a very different scenario from those fortunate enough to have rent free accommodation.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment taxation Sport illicit drugs Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force welfare policy Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States higher education people trafficking school education aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA United Nations federal budget health financing emissions trading gambling Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme forced labour Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Fair Work Act child protection people smuggling debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure ALP New Zealand Australian Crime Commission Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament slavery by-election political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Afghanistan Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs poker machines doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing paid parental leave European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing election timetable citizenship Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel violence against women domestic violence disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation family assistance expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens money laundering servitude Special Rapporteur Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days baby bonus DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions

Show all
Show less
Back to top