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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2235

Senator GILES —I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Social Security. Is the family income supplement reaching all the households qualified for that assistance? Is it a fact that the take-up rate is dropping? If that is the case, can the Minister suggest why this should be? What is expected to be the outlay on this assistance in the coming financial year?

Senator GRIMES —Ever since the family income supplement was introduced on 1 May last year there has been concern in the Department and in the Government as to whether it is adequately reaching all those who would qualify. The maximum rate, as Senator Giles would know, is $12 a week, and it is available to low income earners other than those on pensions and benefits. Peak payments were actually reached in September last year when about 29,600 payments were being made. It is now about 27,600 but it has been lower than that. Back in April it got down to around 26,800. The reasons for the fall are unclear. What is also unclear is the number of people in the community who would be eligible. Statistics on this are not available.

It has been suggested that advice be sent to all family allowance recipients who receive their family allowance by cheque as response to this advice in terms of take-out would enable the Department to determine whether it should go to the expense then of contacting family allowance recipients who receive payment through direct credit. Such an exercise would cost about $400,000 in postage alone, let alone the cost of clerical follow-up. If the initial survey indicated that there was a high percentage of eligible family allowance recipients not receiving the family income supplement then other information strategies could be considered.

Payments like this-income tested payments and payments with tight eligibility like this-frequently in this country and other countries have, as part of their features, an unsatisfactory take-up. Various advertising methods have been used. The media was used extensively initially. We would intend to advertise availability of the benefits through work places and unions. But one of the problems in the first place is a lack of statistical data on how many people in the country are likely to be eligible for the benefit. I think the original estimate made when Senator Chaney introduced it was about 35,000; but that is, at best, probably a guesstimate. We will probably conduct the survey or look at other means of surveying the population to see, first of all, how many people are not taking it up, and why, in an effort to improve the take-up.