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ALIA submits to ParentsNext Senate inquiry; government ignores advice

Following a Senate inquiry into the federal government’s ParentsNext welfare program, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is urging public libraries to report ParentsNext case workers who are operating ‘under the radar’.

The controversial ParentsNext program, which was been in operation since July last year, makes it compulsory for single parents receiving Centrelink payments to meet a fortnightly participation plan negotiated with a case worker, known as a ParentsNext provider. Parents—mostly single mothers—have been forced to attend activities such as playgroup or library storytime, otherwise risk having their parenting payment suspended or terminated. Last year the Guardian reported that a single mother had her payment suspended for not attending a storytime session at her local library, despite notifying her ParentsNext provider that her child had kindergarten that day.

According to ALIA’s submission to last week’s Senate inquiry, the association ‘found that library services have been used by ParentsNext providers without contacting the libraries involved’. As a result, in November 2018 the association wrote a letter to the department of jobs and small business requesting that the department contact ParentsNext providers and require them to consult with library managers before making use of library facilities and programs.

However, despite the findings of the Senate inquiry and calls from various groups including ALIA and the Australian Human Rights Commission, jobs minister Kelly O’Dwyer is declining to make amendments to the ParentsFirst program before the next federal election.

ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher said in a statement: ‘Despite advice sent by the Department of Jobs and Small Business at ALIA’s request to ParentsNext providers, these companies continue to place libraries in an impossible position. If staff uphold library values of “free access” and refuse to be complicit in the ParentsNext process, single parents can be denied essential payments. If we sign storytime attendance forms, we are supporting a system which penalises families already on the poverty line.’

Accordingly, ALIA is asking its members to get in touch with the association if they are finding that ParentsNext providers are using storytime to monitor families’ eligibility for welfare payments without the consent of the library.


Category: Library news