Single parents forced to attend 'story time' or lose Centrelink payments

Luke Henriques-Gomes for The Guardian writes:

Chia is one of 68,000 parents who have been placed on a new government program, Parents Next, after receiving a call from Centrelink assessing whether they are at risk of “long-term welfare dependency”.
Since July, these parents – overwhelmingly single women – must meet a fortnightly participation plan negotiated with a case worker, known as their ParentsNext provider. If they don’t, their parenting payment – $384.25 for a single person – can be suspended or terminated.
Parents say they have been forced by their providers to attend activities such as “story time”, swimming lessons or playgroup, or told to sign up to education courses at their own expense, even if they already hold qualifications.
“It’s offensive that the government believes that … women aren’t trying to do what they can to increase the welfare of themselves and their child,” Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers, told Guardian Australia.
Now that it was compulsory and women faced penalties for not complying, Edwards said it had gone “from a soft touch … to almost blaming women for undertaking unpaid care”.
People can receive parenting payment until their youngest child turns eight, when they are moved on to the lower Newstart payment. They can be placed on to the ParentsNext program once their child is six months old.

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