Single parents don’t have it easy

So we’ve asked the experts for their top tips


Breaking up is hard to do. But when kids are involved, it can be even more complicated.

And if you’re getting out of an unsafe relationship, it can be overwhelming to even consider where to start.

As well as the emotional trauma of separation, the cost of setting up a new home and living off one income can make it much harder.

Mining engineer and blogger Julia Hasche split with her partner when their daughter was just two months old.


“[It was] very, very tough because you don’t really know what you’re doing,” Ms Hasche says.

“Especially when you have a baby, you’re already in this sleep-deprived fog, so then working out all the other stuff is quite challenging.”

Ms Hasche felt isolated as a single parent, so she started her blog in 2016 to share tips and resources to help single parents get by.

As well as asking for Ms Hasche’s advice, the ABC’s personal finance project spoke to three financial counsellors who had their own advice for single parents.

Here are their top four tips.

1. If your situation has changed, know what you’re eligible for

Now that you’re a single parent, you may be eligible for different types of support from Centrelink.

The main income support payment if you have younger children and are on a low income is the parenting payment.

It’s important to contact Centrelink and let them know you’re now single, says financial counsellor Tracey Grinter, who works at Anglicare.

“People may have been on ‘parenting payment partnered’, but they’ll transition across to ‘parenting payment single‘ which is a higher rate of pay,” she says.

And if you receive the ‘parenting payment single’, you’ll automatically get a pensioner concession card, which means you’ll get special discounts.

“There’s a range of concessions for people — from utility relief grants to allied health like glasses, dentists and reduced rates of car registrations,” Ms Grinter says.

Even some restaurants, shops or movie theatres offer concession card discounts.

The other main government payment for parents is the Family Tax Benefit — it’s meant to help families with the cost of raising children.

You may already get Family Tax Benefit A, which is targeted towards all families.

But as a newly single parent, it’s likely you’ll be eligible for Family Tax Benefit B, which is for families with only one income.

If you earn up to $100,000 you can receive support for children up to 18 years old, says financial counsellor Sonia Mete-Smith, who works for Good Shepherd.

“The other thing is, if they’re renting, they can get some rent assist … if any of their children have any disabilities they can also get the carer’s allowance,” she says.

The parent who lives with the child is also likely to be eligible for child support payments from their ex, either privately or through the Department of Human Services.

2. Find out if your kids are eligible for a priority childcare spot

For most parents, getting a spot at your local childcare centre can feel near-impossible.

But most people don’t realise that both private and community childcare centres have to give priority to single parents.

“Ask about those priority places,” Ms Grinter suggests.

“The way the priority system works is a child at risk of abuse or neglect is priority one, a child of single parents priority two and any other children priority three.”

When Ms Hasche was looking for childcare there were two-year waiting lists at all of the childcare centres she contacted.  Getting bumped up the list made all the difference.

“It meant I could go back to work and earn an income,” she says.

“I think it’s very important because [for single parents]. There’s no other choice.”

If you need help paying for childcare, you may be eligible for a childcare subsidy.

“There’s also a temporary financial hardship element to the childcare subsidy which not many people are aware of,” Ms Grinter says.

“It’s an additional payment on top of the childcare subsidy to further reduce their childcare costs. People are often eligible for that soon after their separation.”

3. For school-aged kids, see if you can get assistance

Most state governments offer some sort of assistance scheme to assist with school expenses.

It’s worth checking with your school or your state education website to see what help you can get.

For instance, Victoria offers State Schools’ Relief, which helps with the cost of school uniforms, and the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, which helps pay for activities.

“There are contributions for things like school excursions, uniforms. Each school will have slightly different schemes available to them,” Ms Grinter says.

It’s important to let the school know you’re a single parent.

“If you have a child going into prep [or Year 7], make sure you speak to the school because if you’re on a healthcare card you have the option of getting one free uniform set for the year for the child,” Ms Mete-Smith says.

Another way to help pay for school costs is the Saver Plus scheme, run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

If you’re able to save up to $500 for educational expenses, they’ll give you another $500 on top of that.

And don’t forget about school welfare officers if you’re needing some extra support for your child.

“If your child is experiencing difficulties adjusting after the separation, then they’re a good resource for parents to utilise,” Ms Grinter says.

4. When setting up your home, look at loan options for essentials

Getting a rental property as a single parent can be tough.

“Especially for me, I wasn’t working at the time either,” Ms Hasche explains.

“So I had to demonstrate I had savings. It’s very, very challenging.”

Ms Grinter encourages writing a letter to agents, telling your story.

“Put a cover letter with [your] rental application, talking about where [you’ve] lived before or what’s changed with [your] circumstances,” she says.

Setting up house is expensive — whether it’s furniture, whitegoods or moving costs.

The worst thing you can do is go to a loan shark and get whacked with high interest rates and fees, says Sharon Trebes, a financial counsellor with Better Place Australia.

“It can be quite a trap for people if they don’t have the capacity to make the payments and they default and it spirals into something quite big and awful,” she says.

But there are loans out there that don’t charge any interest.

One of the biggest is Good Shepherd’s no-interest loans scheme.

If, like most single parents, your after-tax income is less than $60,000, you can apply to borrow up to $1,500 to put towards essential goods and services.

Repayments are set up over 12-18 months and there are no fees or charges.

Centrelink also offers some people an advance of up to $1,200, but it must be repaid within six months.

Then there are loans that are low interest, like StepUp, where people on low incomes can borrow up to $3,000 with three years in which to repay it.

And don’t forget community organisations which offer some emergency relief, suggests Ms Trebes.

For those experiencing family violence, there are emergency payments available through Centrelink and the big banks.


“We will refer a client out to a family violence worker and they will do the assessment to see if potentially there is a grant for these particular clients,” Ms Mete-Smith says.

There’s also a website called ‘Ask Izzy’, which lists all the housing, health and other support available in your area.

“They can offer food vouchers, fuel vouchers, taxi vouchers, sometimes even Telstra vouchers,” Ms Trebes says.

More tips:

  • Create a budget — make sure you’re earning more than you spend
  • Focus on paying down debt — see a financial counsellor from the National Debt Helpline if you need help
  • For legal help, see the Women’s Legal Service or Legal Aid
  • Change your super binding beneficiary
  • Check whether you’ve got enough insurance if something goes wrong

For Ms Hasche, the past six years have been a steep learning curve.

But her message to newly single parents is a positive one — life does get easier.

“I think as single parents we often feel quite pressured to give [the kids] everything because we feel like we’ve let them down in some way just by being a single parent,” she says.

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