Teen mums a target in budget

A TRIAL that will strip teenage parents of their welfare payments if they fail to work or study is about helping teenagers, not punishing them, Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin says.

Announced as part of the upcoming Federal Budget, the two-year trial in 10 communities will require teenage parents to plan education and work activities with Centrelink once their child is six months old.

Once the child turns one, the parent must return to school to finish Year 12 or equivalent. Under current arrangements, they are not required to look for work until their youngest child is six.

Parents will work with Centrelink to develop a participation plan that includes compulsory activities designed to support them in their parenting role or help them get a good education.

Locations of the 10 trial sites are yet to be announced, but will be chosen on factors such as unemployment and welfare dependence.

Data on welfare payments to teenage parents on the North Coast was unavailable yesterday, but NSW Health figures show the area has the second highest rate of teenage mothers in NSW.

Ms Saffin said the program would create a better future for teenage mums and their children.

“We do have quite a few teenagers who become mothers and the challenge is letting them stay in school and training to keep their skills fresh. This will give them more support to do it.”

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Northern Rivers families will be up to $4200 better off per year under changes to the Family Tax Benefit designed to keep teenagers in school.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Family Tax Benefit for 16-19-year-olds would increase by about $160 a fortnight for families who have a teenager in full-time secondary study or the vocational equivalent.

About 11,300 families in the Richmond and Page electorates receive Family Tax Benefit A and have a child turning 16 in the next five years.

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