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Transcript of interview: 891 ABC, Adelaide with Sonya Feldoff: 20 March 2012: Healthy Kids Check



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Healthy Kids Check 20 March 2012 Press Conference Location: Adelaide Interviewer: Sonya Feldoff Program: 891 ABC Adelaide

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SONYA FELDHOFF: Families Minister, Jenny Macklin joins me now. Thank you for your time Minister.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure Sonia.

SONYA FELDHOFF: These four year old health checks. First of all, what’s the purpose of them and are they mandatory?

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much Sonya. They are important. I think any of us as parents know how important it is to make sure that our children start school healthy, particularly that their sight has been tested, their hearing tested, make sure that all the things that are going to help them learn are checked before they start school. And so we’ve put in place a Healthy Kids Check for children starting school and we do want to make sure that this is happening. Many families of course have had the health check done and have let Centrelink know, but there are many others who either need to get the health check done or as you mentioned, just need to give Centrelink a call and let them know that it has been done.

SONYA FELDHOFF: So is it mandatory for all four year olds to undergo this health check?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s mandatory for everybody receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A which of course is a vast majority of families. So most families would be in the system and I think more importantly Sonia, all of us know it’s a good idea to have this check done.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Sure, but is this in some way tied to either a reduction in what they may get through Family Tax Benefit A, or is there a bonus system that applies to getting this check?

JENNY MACKLIN: There’s a supplement that’s paid at the end of every financial year which at the moment is worth around $726 for each child and so that supplement will be withheld if parents don’t get the health check done or don’t let Centrelink know. We do want the health check done, so this is an incentive for people to make sure that it’s done. We expect there are around 90,000 children who should be getting these health checks done.

SONYA FELDHOFF: How long has this been required?

JENNY MACKLIN: Just started last year, so it is the first time so it’s not surprising you’re asking questions and some parents are still getting used to it.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Jenny Macklin would it be wiser perhaps to, when these parents get the health checks on their four year old to advise them that they need to notify Centrelink because I’ve spoken to a couple of parents who suggest that they’ve had the check done but have no idea of their obligation to Centrelink?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well they’ve had a letter, an SMS, an email, so we’re trying to make sure we let people know, so certainly we’ll keep doing that. There’s another letter to go out in May. We know that it’s important to let people know and thanks for the opportunity this afternoon through your program to encourage people to either get the health check done if they haven’t done that already. If you have had the health check done all you need to do is call the Family Assistance Office.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Now, I’m speaking with the Federal Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin. If you’re in this situation and have a four year old or perhaps a grandchild and you’d like to have some information, feel free to give us a ring 1300 222 891. You can also text us on 0467 922 891, you may have a question about how this all operates. We’ve had one caller Minister that says the initial letter she got never stated that you need to talk to Centrelink, just that the health check needed to be done.

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve got the letter in front of me and it actually it says in two places that you need to let Centrelink know and if you don’t the end of year financial payment will be withheld. That said, I can understand people are busy. I know how busy parents of young children are, but that’s why we’ve since sent an SMS and an email making clear people’s obligations. But we’ll keep reminding people and of course I’d just say again, if your child’s at kinder or at pre-school now, one of the good things in South Australia is that you can get the health check done at kinder or at your pre-school.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Sure. And is there any particular information that you need to have when you call the office? I mean is there a certificate that you’re given when this check is done?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, no. You just need to let Centrelink know or the Family Assistance Office know that it’s been done.

SONYA FELDHOFF: So you don’t actually even have to verify that it’s been done?

JENNY MACKLIN: You just need to tell them.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Wow.

JENNY MACKLIN: People are generally honest. Obviously it would be fraudulent not to tell the truth but we just want people to give Centrelink a call or give the Family Assistance Office a call. Let us know it’s been done. Most parents of course, I can’t imagine a parent not wanting to get this done. It’s a good thing to get your child’s hearing and sight check for example. I know when my child was three years old there was a hearing problem. It got checked, it got fixed, and he of course learnt better as a result. So it’s a good idea.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Now, we’ve been focussing on those that receive Family Tax Benefit Part A. If you receive Family Tax Benefit Part B, are you still eligible for that supplement with the check?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well most people who are on Family Tax Benefit Part B are also getting Family Tax Benefit Part A. So they’ll fall into the same system.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Okay, all right. So what number do people call if they have had this check and want to notify Centrelink?

JENNY MACKLIN: So the Family Assistance Office is 13 61 50.

SONYA FELDHOFF: So in a sense is this sort of following the line of how we encourage people to get vaccinations for instance?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it’s a similar approach. We of course want to make sure that children are getting vaccinated, it’s good for the child, good for other children in the community to make sure that children are properly vaccinated. The same applies, there are requirements to let Centrelink know and of course there are even more stringent checks done to make sure vaccinations are carried out.

SONYA FELDHOFF: We’re speaking to the Federal Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin. You mentioned that it’s the parents’ responsibility to get these checks done, but Andrew at Marion raises the question, why can’t the Medicare visit be linked to Centrelink so that it’s I guess automatically notified when Medicare pays for that, that check to be done?

JENNY MACKIN: Well I suppose that may be another option, but we’re just asking parents to make a phone call. I don’t think it’s a big thing and it really is important when you’re in the system receiving Family Tax Benefits. This is one of the conditions now so I’d encourage parents to make the call.

SONYA FELDHOFF: And I guess just finally, Jenny Macklin, when, if people don’t notify before this tax year ends, and they’ve had the check done in this health year, can they notify you next year and it would still be retrospective?

JENNY MACKLIN: They can, and it will be fixed up in the next year.

SONYA FELDHOFF: Fantastic. Look, thank you for making time for us today.

JENNY MACKLIN: No problem.

[ends]