Welfare Mum

Reporter: David Richardson

On the lounge and on government handouts for 18 years before this single mum realised she was a shocking role model to her children

A single mother at 16…two kids at 26…Sheree was surviving on a single parent's pension…and some part time work… She could so easily have sat back and continued living on handouts…

"I had to get into the mindset where I could either sit on the lounge and watch TV, or I could show my children that I was made of more." Said Sheree

She has -- and now wants to send a clear message to others on the welfare cycle.

Sheree Hayden has taken herself from welfare…to wealth …. from a couple of hundred dollars a week to a full time home business as a property conveyance. Sheree says her business is now grossing $200,000.

"I went to the park. And I sat in the park and I close my eyes and I thought where do I want to be? Am I satisfied with what I've got and no I wasn't." Said Sheree

Three years later she has a booming business…money she never dreamed of making… and a future without hand-outs.

And she's not the only one. Mat Stillone is another incredible rags to riches story. From a single parents pension and a bleak future…to a thriving nationwide business providing health food to more than 300 retailers across the country.

"I went from earning roughly $400 a week now I'm turning over well over 2-million dollars." Said Matt

Mat readily admits he was in a dark place. His relationship collapsed…he had a baby boy to look after…and no future in sight. "I used to beat myself up emotionally a lot, bouts of depression. Like I said I was in some really low places in my life. Four years ago I woke up one day and said to myself I didn't want any more of this, I wanted to get out of it and change my life." Said Matt

Sheree and Mat turned to a national program called NEIS -- the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, a mentoring service that helps people get their small business ideas off the ground and sees them through the rocky first 12 months.

"Certainly the NEIS program has helped transform the lives of thousands of people. In fact, since the commencement of the program, there have been close to 130,000 unemployed people who have been able to start a small business across Australia." Said Jodie Gilliland.

Jodie runs Mission Australia's employment programs in New South Wales and it was her NEIS scheme which got Sheree and Mat started. "NEIS's success is really about the individual, the individual coming up with the idea and seeing it though." Said Jodie

More than 100,000 single parents have been forced to find work after successive government tightened up the rules. In 2006 more than 432,000 depended on a single parents payment down to 326,000 last year. Single parents now have to start looking for work when their child turns 6 and the Federal Government is going to get even tougher.

The parenting support payment of $648.50 a fortnight will be axed entirely when a child turns 8 and tens of thousands of other single parents will be moved over to the dole.

"If affects everything. As soon as someone hears I'm on Centrelink payments someone has their two cents worth -- why haven't I got a job; why are you doing that? It's not that easy though" said Suzie Simpkin.

The 23 year old single mum is trapped in the welfare cycle. She's been there for more than five years and can't break out because her daughter Ella is constantly sick. A minimum wage job won't be enough for Suzie to survive so she remains welfare dependent. "As much as I want a job, half the time I think well if I do get a full time job and do what I want to do and make a difference, I lose my pension card therefore medication goes up from $5.80 to $25 plus! And Ella's on medication at least once a month", Suzie said.

Mat Stillone goes from success to success. His days as a welfare recipient are like a bad dream; Sheree also hopes to soon open her own office and employ her own staff and both hoping their examples will push others to kick the welfare habit.

Contact details

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme - www.missionaustralianeis.com.au

Sheree Hayden Conveyancing - www.shconveyancing.com.au