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Government assistance for families

The Australian Government provides payments and services to help you when you’re having a baby and raising children. Keeping yourself informed will ensure you don’t miss out on any payments and entitlements.

As these entitlements change (usually at Budget time), it is recommended to stay up to date via the Department of Human Services website. You can also visit a Human Services centre in your state, or call 13 61 50, Monday to Friday, from 8am – 8pm.

The Department of Human Services Centres deliver social and health-related payments and services. Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services are now located under one roof in most states. You can find your closest one here – and a new online claim service is available as well.

Most families will get some Government support in the form of tax breaks or direct payments. Many of the financial payments are “means tested” (determined by your household’s income level), but they can add up to a significant amount of money. This can be helpful when you’re raising a family and managing a tight household budget.

Below is a summary to the common payments.

It’s important to create a myGov account as this is the only way you will be able to access your Centrelink online account. It will also enable you to access a variety of government online services including Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support with one username and password. It will save you valuable time in terms of having to go into the offices and you will be able to do most of your claims and paperwork online. You can access this here.

Note – This information is of a general nature and should not be relied upon to prepare your application to the Department of Human Services and/or Centrelink. Each case has its individual merits and should be treated as such. In most cases, residents of New Zealand living in Australia are entitled to the same benefits as Australian residents.

Topics Covered

  1. General Information
  2. Family Tax Benefit Part A
  3. Family Tax Benefit Part B
  4. Paid Parental Leave
  5. Dad and Partner Pay
  6. Australian Childhood Immunisation Register
  7. Child Care Subsidy
  8. Other benefits
  9. Medicare benefits for families

1. General Information

Becoming a Centrelink customer – when you will be issued with that all-important Centrelink Customer Number – is your first step. To do this you will need to visit a Centrelink office and provide Proof of Identity for you and your partner. Be aware, you will need original copies of the required documents, as photocopies will not be accepted.

Here is a checklist of the information that will be required:

  1. Either proof of Birth in Australia (Original Australian Birth Certificate) or a document proving your arrival in Australia. If born overseas, or other documents that show your legal residence status.
  2. Other documents that will meet the 100-point checklist (This list can be found on the Centrelink website Proof of Identity). It is similar to the paperwork for opening a bank account.
  3. You must have a current bank account to receive your payments.
  4. Your rental details (if appropriate).
  5. Birth Certificate or adoption papers of your child.
  6. If your child is under 2 – their Medicare number or record of immunisation status.
  7. Tax File Numbers (TFN) for you and your partner.
  8. Your family Income estimate.

Note – You will need to provide a fairly accurate estimate of your household income so that your payments are calculated as close as possible to the final amount you are entitled to. If in doubt, it may be better to overestimate your income so that you are not left with a big debt to Centrelink when your tax return is processed.

What Is Income?

Your income is calculated during the financial year, i.e., 1 July to 30 June of the following year. Your taxable income includes all the money you have earned through every source, less any allowable deductions. For more information on estimating your income visit, “What is adjusted taxable income?” on the Depart of Human Services website.

Be aware that your assessment is matched to your tax return when lodged at the end of the financial year; if you have under-estimated your family income and have received a higher payment than you are eligible for, you will be required to repay the full amount of the over-payment. However, if you have over-estimated the family income, you will receive the additional amount in a lump sum payment after your tax return has been lodged.

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2. Family Tax Benefit Part A

Family Tax Benefit Part A is an annual tax benefit based on your income, and is paid per child. It is designed to assist with the cost of raising your children. These rates vary depending on their age and your income. You can check your eligibility and review the income limits here.
It is important to be aware that if your child is turning 4 years old and you receive an income support payment, your supplement may be withdrawn if your child does not have a health check before commencing school.

In addition, there are immunisation requirements in order to receive Family Tax Benefit A or Child Care Subsidy. You will need your child to either be fully immunised, or alternatively on a recognised immunisation catch up schedule, or have an approved exemption.

The Family Tax Benefit A can be paid to you on a fortnightly basis or annually if you prefer, based on the total household income estimate that you provide to Centrelink.

Be aware that if you underestimate your income you will be overpaid and you will be hit with a bill at the end of the year. However, if you overestimate your income, you will receive a top up payment at the end of the financial year – after your tax return has been processed.

You may also be entitled to the Family Tax Benefit Part A Supplement. This is an increase in the annual rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A per child to be paid as a lump sum after the end of the financial year after you lodge your tax return (if required).

Please be aware the information here is a guide and your personal circumstances may be different, so you’ll need to check directly with the Department of Human Services or your tax accountant.

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3. Family Tax Benefit Part B

The Family Tax Benefit Part B is paid per family, and is designed to provide extra financial assistance if you’re a single parent or non-parent carer, a grandparent carer, or if you’re a member of a couple with one main income. It is income tested and there are eligibility requirements, so check the Department of Human Services for more information.

Family Tax Benefit B Supplement is available at the end of the financial year after you have lodged your tax return (if required).

For more information, contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) Service Centre on call 13 61 50 or visit the Dhs website.

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4. Parental Leave Pay

The Parental Leave Pay is a short term payment for new parents, while they are on leave from work to care for your new baby. Parents must be the primary carer of the newborn or adopted child. Currently the paid leave period is 18 weeks. In most cases, the person will receive the payment through their employer. Alternatively, it may be paid direct to you from the Department of Human Services.

There are eligibility requirements for this payment.

  • The primary carer must be in paid work and
  • have done enough work in the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child
  • An income test of $150,000 will apply based on the primary carer’s adjusted taxable income in the previous financial year.

The scheme is available to employees, casual workers and self-employed individuals.

Read more about Parental Leave Pay here.

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5. Dad and Partner Pay

Dad and Partner Pay provides eligible working dads or partners with up to two weeks pay at the rate of the national minimum wage.
Full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers may be eligible.

Read more about Dad and Partner Pay here.

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6. Australian Immunisation Register

Your child must meet immunisation requirements if you get Family Tax Benefit Part A or child care fee assistance through the Child Care Subsidy.

How your child’s immunisation status is checked is via the Australian Immunisation Register.

The Australian Immunisation Register is a national register that aids parents and carers in monitoring their child’s immunisation history and keeping them up to date. If any of your benefits are not paid, or are reduced because you have not met the immunisation requirements, you will be given a timeframe to meet those immunisation requirements before your payments cease.

You must make sure your child is up to date with their vaccinations to meet the requirements. Your vaccination provider will update the AIR.

More information and forms here.

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7. Child Care Subsidy

Child Care Subsidy is assistance to help you with the cost of child care, for families who use approved and registered childcare. Child Care Subsidy is income-tested and depends on your situation. It is paid to the provider who passes it on to families through reduced fees.

Types of care that may be covered by the Child Care Subsidy include:

  • Long day care
  • Family day care
  • Occasional day care
  • Outside school hours care
  • Vacation care
  • Pre-school and kindergarten
  • It may also help cover the cost of childcare provided by grandparents, relatives, friends or nannies provided they are registered care.

Note – Check with your child care service to find out if they are an approved provider, or go to www.childcarefinder.gov.au, or call the Child Care Access Hotline, on Freecall 1800 670 305, between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm, nationally, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

To be eligible you must:

  • Use an approved child care service
  • Be an Australian resident living in Australia or meet other residency requirements
  • Your child must meet immunisation requirements
  • Be responsible for all your child care fees (check this with your employer if you use salary sacrificing or salary packaging to pay for child care)

Some families can get the Additional Child Care Subsidy, paid on top, to provide extra support with child care fees. This applies to three scenarios:
- grandparents
- Transition to work
- Temporary financial hardships.
Check the website for eligibility.

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9. Other benefits to help parents and carers

There are a range of benefits covering special circumstances; if you are not sure what you are entitled to, make an appointment with your nearest Centre for Human Services / Centrelink office to get specific information.

A few of the other benefits for parents include:

Newborn payment

If you have a baby or adopt a child, you may be eligible for an increase in the Family Tax Benefit A via the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement.

Parenting Payment

This is main income support while you are a young child’s main carer. This payment is both income and asset tested. You need to contact the Department of Human services and register your intent to claim the Parenting Payment. To be eligible to claim the Parenting Payment you must be:

  • Single and care for at least one child aged less than eight, or
  • Have a partner and care for at least one child aged less than six.
  • Your income and assets of both you and your partner (if you have one) are below certain amounts
    There are a number of other requirements, so contact your local DHS service centre for more information, or check the website here.

Multiple Birth Allowance

Not available for twin parents, unfortunately; but if you have had triplets (or more) and you receive Family Tax Benefit, you will automatically receive an extra payment.

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10. Medicare benefits for families – Medicare Safety Net

If you spend over a certain threshold on out-of-hospital medical services in one calendar year, you will be eligible for additional Medicare rebates. Once you reach the threshold, your doctor’s visits will still cost the same, but Medicare will give you a higher benefit back.

For a Family Safety Net, confirmation of who the family members are needs to occur before Medicare can pay you the higher benefits.

You must register all of your family members for the Medicare Safety Net.

You can do this online at www.medicareaustralia.gov.au so that the medical costs for each person can count towards the family’s Medicare Safety Net threshold.

If all family members are on the same Medicare card, you still need to register. You only register once.

To register for the Medicare Safety Net download a Medicare Safety Net couples and families registration and amendment form, or call the Medicare general enquiries line on 132 011.

For the latest Medicare Safety Net thresholds, check the Government’s Department of Human Services website here.

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For more information see Parenting advice or Parenting.

Last updated June 2019.