Professor Croucher said the program, with its compliance measures that cut mothers and children off from payments, contravened the right to social security.
The Human Rights Commission also raised human rights concerns regarding equality and discrimination due to the way the program predominantly affected women and Indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 19 per cent of participants in the program, but are 24 per cent of those who had their payments suspended.
«The Commission is seriously concerned about the discriminatory impacts of the program,» Professor Croucher said.
If parents could not afford to provide for their families, Professor Croucher said their human rights were compromised.
«How can human rights be realised? How can there be human dignity?» she said.
Advocates, recipients and providers all expressed frustration with the program, with many individual stories recounting the ways in which the program caused stress to participants.
One mother had appointments with a doctor other than a normal GP made for her by a service provider without her knowledge, making long trips to a hospital far away from her home in order to stop her payment being suspended.
The committee heard that 19 per cent of participants overall had experienced a payment suspension, although the bulk of those had re-engaged before it impacted on a scheduled payment date being missed.
Another woman received a message saying her payment would be suspended because her provider forgot to record she had attended swimming lessons with her child.
One woman had her payment suspended after she wasn’t able to participate in an activity after being rushed to hospital at 33 weeks pregnant.
Ella Buckland, a participant in the program who has received more than 34,000 signatures on a petition to dump the program, said many women were forced into signing privacy waivers allowing service providers to contact other agencies like doctors on their behalf.
While the privacy waivers are not compulsory, the committee heard many participants didn’t know this and they felt compelled to sign them by providers.
Later in the hearing, Greg Manning from the Department of Jobs and Small Business described that as «not acceptable».
The committee also heard the Department of Human Services was referring people to the program who should have been exempted, either because they were soon to give birth or their child was younger than six months, or they were escaping domestic violence.
Once on the program, it was incredibly difficult to be removed, the committee heard.
While providers said they supported the aim of the program, many said the compliance aspect negatively affected their ability to help participants.
When ParentsNext was rolled out nationally and combined with the targeted compliance framework, workers felt more like the «cop on the beat» ensuring that parents were keeping up with their plans, and felt more like administrators than case managers.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert described the evidence as «distressing and depressing».
Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.