Some solo parents are simply finding life tough

Solo mum Jennifer Roberts with her youngest son Alex 10-and-a-half months.
Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ.

Solo mum Jennifer Roberts with her youngest son Alex 10-and-a-half months.

Following poverty-related Budget announcements and a Family First report on family structure, reporter Georgia Forrester spoke to some solo and unemployed mums about their challenging circumstances. 

For some solo parents life can be a struggle, as they juggle their financial situations with the needs of their children.  

Palmerston North resident Jennifer Roberts knows all too well about the challenges single mothers can face.

She lives in a two-bedroom state house with her two children, Lucas, 2, and Alex, 10 months.

"Most days you're trying to get two bottles ready with two screaming children at your feet."

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"It's a struggle. It can be really, really tough at times."

Roberts gets financial support from Work and Income as she is eligible for a sole parent support benefit.

But after accommodation is deducted, power is paid, her phone is topped up and the grocery shopping is complete, she said there is not a lot leftover for herself and her kids. 

"Fruit and veggies are expensive and the power bill - you've got that to worry about."

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She said in the past she has used food bank services, such as Just Zilch, to make sure she had enough food on the table for her kids.

Using the services available was nothing to be ashamed of, she said. She said there were services out there in the community and more awareness needed be be raised of where struggling families could go.

"There are a lot of families struggling to get their fruit and veggies. There are a lot of families struggling to make ends meet," she said.

A Family First funded report released recently described single-parent families as the poorest in New Zealand.

The report, Child Poverty and Family Structure, looked at household income and family structures from the 1960s to the present day.

Written by Lindsay Mitchell, it found a range of areas that contributed to poverty in New Zealand, including unemployment, low wages, high housing costs, social security benefits, and changing family structures.

It found that in 1961, 95 per cent of children were born to married couples. That number had dropped to 53 per cent by 2015.

As of March 2016, the standard rate for people on a job seeker support benefit in Palmerston North is 2,488, Ministry of Social Development data shows. The rate for people on a solo parent support benefit in Palmerston North is 1,268. 

Roberts said she loved being a mother. Even though it was challenging, tiring and stressful at times, she said her kids were the ones who made it all worthwhile. 

Roberts's friend, Christina Leigh, said not only did solo parents have it tough, but also people who were unemployed and struggling to find jobs in a competitive environment. 

Leigh has done a course in early childhood teaching, and has past experience working in a supermarket and photography shop. However she is currently on a job seeker benefit and said the hunt for a full-time job or even work experience was overwhelmingly competitive.

"There are just so many people looking for jobs."

While there are services available for mums and single parent families, Roberts believed there needed to be more support for these families and free activities organised in the Palmerston North community.  

 - Stuff

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