A FEDERAL Government plan to force teenage mothers back to school or training within 12 months after the birth of their child contains both danger and opportunity, according to officials from two Catholic welfare organisations.
Brisbane Centacare Catholic Family and Community Services director Christine Hodge and St Vincent de Paul Society national council chief executive officer Dr John Falzon have both warned that coercive and punitive measures for the young mothers may cause more problems than they solve.
At the same time Ms Hodge and Dr Falzon agree there is an urgent need for supports and resources to help such young women into education and training.
However, Cherish Life Queensland president Teresa Martin has questioned the intent of the scheme and believes it is part of a much bigger Government agenda to force mothers to place their children into childcare.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently announced the scheme which will strip parenting payments from teen mums who refuse to return to school or training.
Young parents will receive free childcare and those who lose welfare payments will be able to claim back-pay if they later meet tough new “learn or earn” rules.
Under the plans, young parents will be forced to draw up study and work plans with Centrelink once their baby turns six months and return to school or job training a year after their birth.
About 4000 of Australia’s 11,000 teenage parents will participate in the trial from January 1 next year in 10 disadvantaged areas.
Teenage parents currently receive the parenting payment and do not have to look for work until their child turns six.
The scheme, which was to be formally announced on Budget night on Tuesday, is part of a Government focus on training and skills programs.
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