THEY are teenagers, but they’re not your teenagers, Prime Minister Gillard, and penalising them for not participating in study, training or work, smacks of Big Brother (Welles’ 1984, not Endemol Star productions) tactics.
I believe in tough love, which is how Gillard is describing this proposal. But if a teenager has a baby and is then punished for irresponsible life choices, well, it’s a little like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted, so to speak.
I’m speaking of the recent Federal budget announcement that deemed a teen mum must sign up to a “participation plan” with Centrelink, be given access to childcare assistance and then show up for classes or training, or have her welfare suspended.
I understand Ms Gillard’s desire to stop the cycle of welfare dependency by building up the skills of young women who can ultimately return to the workforce, as opposed to stunting their prospects the minute they conceive a child.
But forcing the hand of a young woman who is already facing the most difficult prospect of all, doesn’t auger well for either the young woman or the government initiative.
Support and encouragement should be available to those women who want to continue their education and training, but it would be unwise to invest taxpayer resources on schemes for people who simply aren’t interested.
You’d be better placed to have campaigns on keeping young people interested in their own fortunes, excited about their futures, than holding their nose to the grindstone.
Beyond the trouble of forcing teenagers to work or study, there is the argument that a woman just a few years older will have the choice, and the government pay-cheque, to stay home with her children. Could you imagine the response if the same scheme was rolled out for women of a voting age? Yes, this would have been Gillard’s version of WorkChoices.
Given the major struggle young mums face (they are generally from a lower socio-economic demographic), threatening to cut off any financial support when it’s most needed would be an unnecessary strain on a family that is already stretched.
Why couldn’t Federal funds go instead to proven methods such as the Moreton Pregnant & Parenting students program which has been keeping Ipswich and surrounding teens in education since 2003?
I have no problem with the campaign to help young mums graduate from Year 12. In fact, I would hope if my daughter found herself in such dire predicaments, that she’d make that her first goal. But to threaten cuts if they don’t show up, to have any punishment whatsoever, at such a difficult time, is ridiculous.
In my 30s, and without the pressure of fulltime work or study, I still have trouble getting myself and the kids out of the house on time. How is a 16-year old meant to manage the same without a car or license?
I wouldn’t say this initiative implies that motherhood is not a profession in its own right. But rather that they’ve drastically underestimated the constraints a baby under six months old has on one’s life.
And that they’ve overstepped their boundaries by far. The choice to return to work post-baby is a parent’s decision to make, not the government’s.