Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Drilling down DPB numbers

In Parliament this week the Prime Minister said:

"... through a strong economy and the welfare reform measures this Government has undertaken, we now have the lowest number of people on the equivalent of the old DPB since 1988."

Strictly speaking this is true and surely very good news?

The complication is benefit changes.

To get a clearer picture I asked MSD for the number of sole parents on any benefit and compared it to earlier data. Roughly, this compares pre to post GFC.

At September 2006 there were 107,628 sole parents on welfare. (By December 2007 to number had dropped further to 103,366 but I don't have the additional info for that date.) The following table provides a breakdown of sole parents by benefit type. Note that 88 percent were on the DPB.

By June 2015 the percentage of sole parents on the "equivalent of the old DPB" - Sole Parent Support - had dropped to 76 percent.

So we can frame this another way.

The percentage of sole parents on welfare benefits other than "the equivalent of the old DPB" has doubled. 

That is because sole parents with children 14 and older, and 'women alone' have been moved onto the Jobseeker benefit; and sole parents caring for someone who would otherwise been hospitalised have been moved onto the Supported Living Payment.

Of course, it's good news that there are 12 percent fewer sole parents on welfare since December 2007. The employment rate of sole parents has steadily increased. But as my previous post illustrated, the core behaviour that drives long-term  welfare dependency and child poverty is relentless. Beneficiaries continue to add 'newborn' children to existing benefits, most commonly, Sole Parent Support. 35 every day in the six months to March 2015.

I reserve my excitement for the day that steady trend line, which dates back to at least 1993, starts to decline.


Brendan McNeill said...

Thank you for your continued vigilance in this area Lindsay. It may appear to be a thankless task, but it is one that many of us appreciate.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

I appreciate your saying so Brendan.