A sole parent family consists of one parent
living together with one or more children.
to the ABS, 19.3% of children live in a sole parent
family. These families may exist because of
divorce, separation, death, illness, desertion, or by choice.
However, the majority are the result of divorce, and this number
is steadily increasing, as divorce rates consistently escalate.
Most sole parent families (91%) are headed by a
female and when in this situation the family is more
vulnerable to poverty and crime.
•In 2001, the proportion of single parent families in income poverty was 18% compared
with 6% of couples with children.
•A single parent family with two school age children on social security must survive on just
Financial over $400 per week.
Support •Centrelink provides a parenting payment for sole parent families which is $500 per
•Sole parents may also be entitled to Family Tax Benefit B regardless of their income.
•The Australian Government provides a Child Support Scheme to assist sole parents to
access payments from the parent who is not the primary carer.
•Financial support is a significant need for sole parent families as it is crucial in retaining
necessities such as housing, childcare and access to services. In society, sole parent
families are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to financial support, receiving $400 a
week for Centrelink. After paying bills, rent, food, education costs and other vital
Justification resources, there would not be a sufficient amount left for leisure activities or other luxuries.
This lack of financial support may decrease a sole parent family’s emotional well-being.
The parent may feel that she is not efficiently providing for the family and is in a way, letting
them down, which may induce feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.
•The reduction of income that accompanies being a sole parent increases the likelihood of needing to access
• Socio-economic status restricts their access to most services.
• Sole parent families rely quite heavily on the government, other community services and extended family to
fulfil their needs.
•Emergency accommodation may be needed in the case of domestic violence.
• Childcare provisions are important to assist sole parents to gain and maintain employment
• May need access to external support services and networks such as counsellors to help both the parent and
children cope with changes.
• The National Council for Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) is a self-help group to fight for the basic
and essential rights of all sole parent families
•The Lone Father’s Support Service helps meet the needs of single fathers by providing emotional
support, counselling, budgeting and financial advice and resource information.
• Key resources that assist this group include; The Jobs and Training Program, Parenting Payment, Family
Allowance, Legal Aid, Counselling Services, Women’s Shelters and the Child Support Agency.
•Access to services is a significant need for sole parent families as it includes access to health services,
financial support, accommodation, support services and other services such as legal aid. It is important
that sole parents have access to a broad range of services that help to meet their needs and improve their
quality of life. Separation, divorce or losing a partner may mean that sole parent families require a range of
services to help them cope with stress or grief that may be a result. The government, community services
and the extended family are major groups that help sole parents meet and fulfil their needs. The more
services available, the more likely that sole parent families will experienced increased emotional wellbeing
as they feel valued and secure.
•Experiencing a marriage break up or the loss of a partner can cause serious feelings of
•A child who doesn’t have regular contact with one of their parents may find it difficult to
adjust and this can cause problems at school or in their relationships with others.
Security •Many children of families who have experienced divorce feel that it is in some way their
and Safety fault and may experience guilt and insecurities.
•May find it difficult to provide for family due to financial instability.
•A single mother may feel anxious about protecting her family either physically or
emotionally if there is no father to help perform this role.
•Security and safety is a significant need for sole parent families as it is often difficult to
adjust to change for all involved and so the need for security is high. For the parent as well
as the children, separation, divorce or loss of a partner can cause serious feelings of
insecurity and uncertainty. Also, having little financial support and access to services can
Justification cause feeling of anxiety and can result in feelings of financial, emotional and physical
insecurity. For sole parent families that are a result of domestic violence, the parent may
feel unsafe and may feel that they have placed their children in danger. It is vital that sole
parent families have security and safety so that their physical, emotional and social
wellbeing is maintained.
•Surveys show that most sole parents want to work but have difficulty finding work that fits with their
•They face barriers such as affordable quality childcare, family friendly work places, effective tax rates
Employment is a significant need for
and higher education debt repayments.
sole parent families as it is a means of
•Employment allows single parents to interact with other adults.
income for the family. Without this
• The emotional and physical stress of juggling family responsibilities and work.
income, sole parent families only have
•The cost of working such as transport, clothes, childcare and the by the government and
funds provided reduction of parenting payments have
to be factored into the decisions about the type and number is oftenof employment undertaken.
this of hours very limited.
•The Australian Government introduced a ‘Welfare to Work Program’: From a July 2006, a sole parent
However, though it is 1 crucial need
who has been granted income support will have for sole parent families, youngest child is aged
to seek part time work if their there is all
downfalls to it including, high costs of
between 6-15 years.
•In a survey the following barriers to employment for jobless stress of juggling work and
childcare, single parents were identified:
family responsibilities, and many
•60% have only 10 years of schooling, reducing their job prospects by half.
barriers that prevent sole parents from
•Just over 50% have spent the majority of their working lives caring for children so have limited work
finding employment (e.g. little work
experience. experience and only 10 years of
•Over 20% have experienced physical or sexual violence withinschooling.)
the past year.
•Unresolved family court and child support issues, financial difficulties, the need to move house and the
effects of separation make it difficult for most sole parents to look for a job after separation.
•Sole parents are one of the largest groups in receipt of housing assistance.
•Access to affordable housing is an important factor in the residential location.
•Many are forced to move to low housing cost areas of major cities, to rural towns or to
coastal centres where public housing is more available.
•Emergency accommodation is available through various charities and the Department of
Family and community Services for those parents fleeing domestic violence.
•A family house may be sold in a divorce settlement, causing disruptions to a sole parent
and their children.
• Housing is a significant need for sole parent families as it provides them with
shelter, safety and security. For some sole parent families, housing can be a difficult need
as at time, financial support can limit the range of accommodation that can be accessed.
Justification For example, if a female sole parent family was not employed as her husband was the
source of income and they got divorced, she would probably struggle in finding adequate
and satisfactory accommodation for herself and her children.
- A young mother might not - Having a disability would
have had a full time job seriously hinder a sole parent
previously. from effectively caring for their
- Young parents may not children.
have finished school or - They may be unable to
attended university, which drive, which would lead to
may limit their ability to get a transport difficulties.
job. - May be unable to gain or hold
- Long service leave and sick employment, which would be
leave – haven’t accumulated detrimental to the economic
as much. wellbeing of the family, who are
- Older sole parents may dependent on this sole income.
have to care for their elderly
parents as well, which may
mean they don’t have their
parents to care for their
children or for support.
- Men may find parenting a challenge, and may be
- May not be able to
discriminated against for being a single parent.
- There are more support services for women than men.
- Men may be more inclined to rely on nannies or child
they need to look after
care, while women may attempt to juggle work and
- Some young parents
- Women may find it difficult to raise their children
may need to drop out
without the authority of a man.
of high school to look
- Single women and mothers are often the victims of
scams or theft, due to their vulnerability. For example,
- May take night
tradesmen often overprice services for single mothers,
classes at a university
because they may not know any better.
- Carer’s Payments – some organisations allow
employees to use sick days to care for sick children,
although they may not be as willing to afford the same
privileges to men.
- Stigma attached to single mothers.
- Women are more likely to have lower income
employment than men.
- Sole Parent families located in city or suburban areas - Some cultures/religions may be
may have better access to jobs, schools, child care morally opposed to people being
services and public transport. They may also have unmarried with children.
friends, relatives or neighbours close by, who can help - People of non-English speaking
with child minding or other household duties. Other background may not be aware that
services, like food outlets, may help sole parents who services are available or how to access
do not have the time to cook themselves. them.
- Sole Parent families located in rural or remote areas - Translation may hinder individuals
may struggle to access services like school, jobs, and from effectively accessing services.
child care. Schools for children may be located at a - Discrimination may discourage them
from accessing certain services.
significant distance, which would be difficult, especially
- Some cultures may have a moral
if there is no school bus. The sole parent would have to
opposition to some services
drive their child to school every day, which may not
offered, like professional childcare – it
coincide with work commutes. Many sole parents will
may be customary for the mother to
have to hold 2 or more jobs, which would be especially
rear the child herself. Although, this
difficult for those living in rural areas, where jobs are
may not be possible if the family
scarce, especially in respect to getting to and from
work, and organising child minding. There would be
- Some religions or cultures may be
limited access to local child care, and neighbours are
opposed to health services and
at such a distance it would be an inconvenience.
- A single parent would have to work increasingly harder to maintain
a sufficient income to support their family.
- Sole parents may need to have more than one job to earn an
income, which would be equal to a two parent income.
- Sole parents of a higher socioeconomic status may find their role
easier, as they could afford to utilise services like child
care, nannies, private school, tutors etc.
- Low income sole parent families may struggle to care for their
children because they are working so often, but may not be able to
afford child care etc.
- Access to other services may also be limited because there is no
• The socioeconomic status of a sole
•Location plays a major role in the
parent family will have a major
Gender plays a significant role in accessing of resources for any
influence on their ability to access
the ability of sole parents to access group. It is particularly important
resources. Those families living in resources. Women who are single-
for sole parent families, who rely
relatively impoverished states will handedly raising their children may
on only one parent or public
struggle to manage both work and
greatly struggle to access resources
transport for travelling. Sole Parent
family responsibilities. They are
to satisfy basic human needs. Their
families living in rural areas may
more vulnerable to dangers like
lack of sufficient income will be
scams or theft, and are far more struggle to access services like
detrimental to their efforts to access
likely to enter poverty, as women child-care, schooling or health
basic resources, and especially
are more likely to have lower care, because they are at such a
specialist services like child paying jobs, especially if they were
distance from regional
care, health care, or private the primary carer previously.
centres, and can rely only on one
Men, on the other hand, may
education. Conversely, those sole
person to get them there. If the
struggle with undertaking
parent families of high
sole parent was working or
responsibility as a primary
socioeconomic stress will often
carer, as stereotypically, women otherwise engaged, it would prove
struggle far less to access
are more nurturing and patient. extremely difficult to access
resources, have they have adequate
funds to do so.
Sole Parents in Society.
The following Newspaper Articles relate to real issues affecting Sole Parent
Families in today’s society: