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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Ms Hoare asked the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, in writing, on 10 October 2006:

(1)   Is he aware that, under sub-sections 13(1) and 13(2) of the Family Assistance Act 1999, people electing to receive annually in the form of a lump sum are excluded from rent assistance payments, while those receiving fortnightly payments remain eligible for rent assistance payments.

(2)   Is he aware that among claimants who fulfill the same rent assistance eligibility criteria, some are deemed ineligible because of their selected method of payment of Family Tax Benefit Part A; if so, what is the policy basis for this apparent inequity.

(3)   Will he seek to have the House amend the legislation to remove the apparent inequity contained in sub-sections 13(1) and 13(2) of the Family Assistance Act 1999; if not, why not.

Mr Brough (Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Current policy requires people who wish to receive Rent Assistance as part of their Family Tax Benefit (FTB) to claim fortnightly FTB payments through the Family Assistance Office (FAO), rather than a lump sum payment through their tax return. This generally reflects the need for these families to receive Rent Assistance on a fortnightly basis, as well as the need for the FAO to administer rent verification procedures.

The FTB tax claim instructions make it clear that Rent Assistance must be claimed directly from the Family Assistance Office (FAO), not through a tax return. An individual may initially receive a lump sum of Rent Assistance for a past period, through the FAO, as long as they claim fortnightly payments of Family Tax Benefit at the same time. This ensures people who may have been unaware that Rent Assistance is not available through their tax return are not disadvantaged when they first claim FTB.

No amendment to policy is required as the current policy is still appropriate.