Young mums need funds

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.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Veronica
    May 16, 2011 @ 04:20:57

    My problem with the whole thing is that not all teen pregnancies are accidents. Some are planned, because that is the best choice for that person. I was 17 when I got pregnant and gave birth. That was the best decision I could have made for myself and my own health. Having children young, worked for ME. Why should I have been punished for that, by being forced away from my daughter?

    I like this post. Just because my decisions are not the decisions agreed widely to be socially acceptable, does not suddenly make them bad decisions for every single person.


  2. Kirstie
    May 16, 2011 @ 05:23:56

    Love this article as you have hit the nail on the head, mothers over the age of 18 are not being forced by the Government to work or study until the child is of school age. If they want to enforce this issue then the decision should be fair and just across all age groups.


    • petajo
      May 16, 2011 @ 11:03:12

      Thanks Kirstie, it doesn’t seem fair for all. Any punitive measures concerning procreation makes me wince.


  3. jentbrave
    May 16, 2011 @ 12:28:57

    It’s the governments tried and true approach of attacking the powerless in our society to distract from bigger issues. Young mums, the unemployed and refugees being prime examples – and easy scape-goats that they like to trot out whenever the masses need a reminder on who to hate.
    You’re absolutely right that a proposal like this aimed at a cross section of the voting populace wouldn’t even be considered.
    We need more blogs like this one to remind people that support, kindness and respect are just as effective (dare i say more so) than fear and punishment ever will be.
    Rock on, Pete! 🙂


  4. petajo
    May 16, 2011 @ 12:43:19

    You said it, Jen… it would be such a welcome relief to find a political party that didn’t incite fear and loathing.


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