Bradley Lloyd and Alice Hodgkinson would like to spend quality time with their daughter, when she is born in nine weeks time.
Bradley Lloyd and Alice Hodgkinson would like to spend quality time with their daughter, when she is born in nine weeks time.

Teen mums forced into work, study

THE Federal Government's plans to force teenage parents into work or study has been met with disapproval from Warwick's young parents.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday a “tough love” scheme which will be implemented in 10 trials, including one in Brisbane and “a regional Queensland area”, which could mean the Southern Downs.

Under the trial scheme, teenage parents could see their welfare payments swiped just six months after the birth of their child if they do not meet the proposed work or study requirements.

The scheme has been designed to break the cycle of welfare dependency for Australian teenage parents, but Warwick's young mums say it will do more harm than good.

Cassy Bakon was awarded Southern Downs Young Parent of the Year for 2011 and has labelled the proposal “ridiculous”.

“I'm a single mum with twin boys and I'm doing my Certificate III in community service. I find it hard on my own dealing with work, study and having kids as well,” the Warwick mum said.

“But for the mums who are 16 or 17 and have a baby who is six months old – having to use day care would be expensive and take away from time spent with their child.”

Miss Bakon, who had sons Jay and Seth when she was 17, said it was difficult enough raising children without having an added burden of financial woes.

“Most people don't employ young parents. I found it very hard when I was looking to go back to work,” she said.

“There were certain hours I couldn't work and a lot of employers didn't like it.”

Miss Bakon conceded there were young parents who took advantage of welfare payments, but said many “just want to work”.

“After having my kids I wanted to (work) because otherwise it gets a little bit boring,” she said.

“I didn't return to work until my two boys were just over a year old and even then I was doing part-time work when I was with my partner.”

“Those girls without partners would find it much more difficult.”

Teenagers Alice Hodgkinson and Bradley Lloyd, who are expecting their first child in nine weeks' time, agreed.

The pair said they would count on Centrelink benefits as well as Mr Lloyd's income as a welder when their daughter arrives.

The couple said returning to work just six months after the birth of their child would be far too soon.

“A lot of people breastfeed up to a year and that's what I was planning on doing,” 17-year-old Miss Hodgkinson said.

“If you don't get any Centrelink payments you'd be forced back into work though and that's too soon.”

Mr Lloyd, 19, agreed and said the first year with any newborn should be spent with the child instead of concentrating on a career.

“It would be hard to keep up a routine for the baby and to spend quality time with them (if both parents had to work),” he said.

“We've got parents that could help out a bit, but you can't rely on them – we have to have childcare.”

The pair said while there were young families relying on welfare payments, it was for family reasons.

“They are people who just want to stay at home with the child, to raise it and not to be all over the place,” Miss Hodgkinson said.

Southern Downs Industry Education Association manager Jackie Robertson said Ms Gillard's proposed scheme appeared to be unwarranted.

“From what I have heard, this could be seen as discrimination based on age and gender – that's what's first raised in my mind,” Mrs Robertson said.

While aware of the motive behind the scheme, she said there was no ideal solution to break the cycle of welfare-reliant families.

“Sexual education and contraception certainly aren't the problems here – that's taught in all schools from primary years,” Mrs Robertson said.

“At the end of the day we live in the 21st century and there are multiple avenues for people to conduct themselves in a safe manner.”

Mrs Robertson said there were a number of resources in Warwick, including local GPs, the hospital antenatal clinic and community health to help provide support for pregnant youths.

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