The Senate Inquiry Report from the Community Affairs Reference Committee recommended that ParentsNext not continue in its current form. The Committee found that whilst ParentsNext aimed to be a supportive program that helps parents of young children work towards employment and education goals, there was extensive evidence that the program is causing anxiety, distress and harm for many of its participants. Many argued that it was causing more harm than good. Critical issues included the compulsory nature, its use of a targeted compliance framework to monitor and record participation, the sense of control it places on participants’ lives, gender bias and confusion. You can read the full report here, and the recommendations are listed below:
The committee recommends that the ParentsNext program should not continue in its current form.
The committee recommends that ParentsNext be reshaped, through a process of co-design with parents and experts, into a more supportive pre- employment program which meets the needs of parents and acknowledges and addresses the structural barriers to employment which they face.
The committee recommends that Centrelink, the Department of Jobs and Small Business and all ParentsNext providers review their strategies for communication with ParentsNext participants to ensure that messaging is consistent and clearly sets out what the program is, what is required of participants and participants’ rights under the program.
The committee recommends that the Department of Jobs and Small Business consider sanctions against ParentsNext providers who are found to have pressured or coerced participants into signing the Privacy Notification and Consent form, or have suspended a participant’s payment by recording ‘Misconduct’ for an appointment when they refused to sign the form.
The committee recommends that ParentsNext providers ensure that their employees are trained in areas such as disability awareness, cultural sensitivity and domestic and family violence to ensure that the services they deliver and the activities to which they refer participants are appropriate, sensitive and suitable to the needs of the individual.
The committee further recommends that where a ParentsNext provider does not have the specialised knowledge to provide appropriate pre-employment services to a participant with specific needs, participants should be referred to another ParentsNext provider, or an alternative pre-employment or social service program, which does.