Lack of Government Support For Teenage Parents
When you are experiencing pregnancy and are still a teenager it is extremely difficult because of all the 'obstacles' you face and finances are usually just one of these obstacles. It would be extremely difficult to try and finish your education, raise a baby, be a teen and maintain a job (shout out to all the mothers doing it!). Prioritising education should be a teenagers number one goal, after the health and happiness of them and their baby.
When I fell pregnant at 15-years-old I continued to work and study up until I was about 37 weeks pregnant but after my baby was born I found it hard enough to maintain my education let alone thinking about working on top of that. That is why Australian citizens are so lucky to be supported by the government financially when we are unable to work for whatever reason (studying with a baby being just one).
But all the paperwork, interviews and endless hours on the phone to social services can be very complex (to say the least). When Ruby was about four weeks old I decided to apply for welfare payments to help with the costs of raising her so I could finish year 10 (high school). The lady on the phone was shocked to know that I had no clue that I was 'entitled' to this income, as I had been relying on my savings from working at the bakery and family support to pay for nappies and all things baby. It was so overwhelming to me as a 16-year-old and definitely not a friendly experience but nonetheless I am so grateful as I wouldn't have made it this far without the assistance.
The biggest help I had was something called JET (Jobs, Education and Training) which allowed me to send Ruby to daycare for $1.10 a day so I could continue my education. But this only lasted 24 months which only got me half way through year 11 and after that the expense went up and up and up! I was told over the phone (incorrectly) that you could not receive JET for the same child twice, rendering me ineligible. So as a 17-year-old living out of home with a one-year-old trying to finish my education I budgeted my little heart out because I did not want to stop money from getting in the way of my education.
I met my now husband and we had another baby and the costs of daycare doubled (obviously). You're probably thinking 'well you did that to yourself' and yes I did (for reasons you can read in my other blog post). So we were spending hundreds of dollars on daycare whilst Shane was woking (apprentice bakers wage) and I was studying, we struggled at times and our daycare bill was over $1,000! Thankfully our daycare let us pay it off when we could (and we still are).
But little did we know all this time we were eligible for JET, I was misinformed and when I confronted welfare about it there was nothing they could do even with our $1,000 bill because it was a subsidy and not a 'payment'. Now we wouldn't be eligible because my husband earns over the threshold, things are better and we aren't struggling anymore (thankfully). But the experience has taught me that welfare is a self help system and if you ever need extra help or need to know what you're eligible for don't rely on the government for that. Do your research and be informed! Because it could save you a lot of stress, money and tears.
Teenage mothers face enough barriers when trying to finish their education, it makes me so sad that we have to struggle to pay our bills (at times), especially when it can be prevented. It does not help that the system is unfortunately full of red tape, bureaucracy and complex terminology but if you put your mind to it and stay informed nothing can stop you! Studying while parenting definitely has its challenges but it is all worth it in the end! (I can only hope!)
P.S. I have a feeling this is all about to change! Stay tuned x