Welfare conditionality

Linking the right to income support with ‘mutual obligation’ and compliance activities can increase barriers to financial security and wellbeing. Welfare conditionality has particular impacts for women and their families.

The Welfare to Work policy reforms introduced by the Australian Government in 2006 aimed to increase employment participation and the self-reliance of people otherwise dependent on social security payments, including:

  • Single mothers with school-aged children
  • The long-term unemployed
  • People with disabilities

Our Women's Research, Advocacy & Research (WRAP) Centre has been conducting research and social policy analysis to see whether these reforms are meeting their aim of improving workforce participation, self-reliance and financial security, with a particular focus on women and their families.


ParentsNext is a ‘pre-employment program’ that primarily targets women with children under the age of 6 who have been receiving a parenting payment for at least 6 months continuously and have no reported employment earnings in the previous 6 months.

  • ParentsNext was introduced in 10 locations in April 2016
  • In October 2017 we responded with a discussion paper and wrote a blog highlighting the program’s flaws
  • From July 2018 ParentsNext was rolled out across 30 communities nationally and now operates in all non-remote areas of Australia
  • In February 2019 we put in a submission to the Senate Inquiry into ParentsNext, including its trial and subsequent broader rollout, which includes 11 recommendations
  • In February 2019 we wrote a blog on how ParentsNext can be improved
  • On 27 February 2019 our CEO, Stella Avramopoulos and Dr Sarah Squire, Head of our Women’s Research, Advocacy & Policy (WRAP) Centre appeared before the ParentsNext Senate Inquiry Hearing in Melbourne

Our concerns include the:

  • Narrow focus on mothers which undermines the role of parenting in the early years
  • Linking of program participation to income support payments, including the authority of private contractors to suspend payments for non-compliance
  • Program’s overreach into the family life of citizens by mandating parenting activities
  • Lack of investment in housing, employment policies and child care to reduce structural and cultural barriers to labour market participation

> Full submission
> Blog: ParentsNext doesn’t get much right – but it could with some meaningful co-design
> Blog: Parents vexed? ParentsNext is poorly designed to support mothers into work
> Media statement

Media coverage

25 April 2019: The Guardian: Domestic violence victim forced on to ParentsNext welfare program in 'horrifying' case - Sarah Squire, Head of WRAP Centre
19 April 2019: The Guardian: 'It's soul destroying': the stress and stigma of being a single parent on welfare - Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand research cited
2 April 2019: Pro Bono Australia: Political parties under pressure to dismantle ParentsNext - Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand joint statement cited
12 February 2019: Sydney Morning HeraldOur social security system hurts women with young children - Sarah Squire, Head of WRAP Centre
6 February 2019: The Guardian: One in five parents had payments cut in first six months of new welfare program Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand submission cited


Welfare to Work

Our recent research report "Outside systems control my life": The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work finds the Welfare to Work policy reforms are not only failing to help single mothers find employment, they're increasing financial insecurity and eroding women's attempts to find work and become self-reliant.

> Full report
> Findings at a glance
> Women's stories
> Play the Welfare to Work game of chance

> Report launch at 2018 ACOSS National Conference [video] - Panel session hosted by Paul Barclay, ABC broadcaster  

Media coverage

30 October 2018: Pro Bono Australia Welfare program dismisses complexities of single motherhood - Sarah Squire, Head of WRAP Centre
29 October 2018: The Guardian Welfare to work policies pushing single mothers into 'precarious' work - Juanita McLaren, report co-author

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