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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5949

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (7:11 PM) —in reply—First of all, I thank all the members for their contributions to this important debate. The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Improved Support for Carers) Bill 2009 provides part of the government’s response to the report of the Carer Payment (child) Review Taskforce, and gives effect to a number of measures aimed at improving assistance to carers from 1 July 2009. The improved support for carers bill will extend qualification for carer payment to around 19,000 more carers from 1 July 2009 by delivering a new, fairer set of qualification criteria for carer payment paid in respect of a child, based on the level of care required rather than the rigid medical criteria currently used to assess qualification for the payment.

This bill, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Improved Support for Carers) (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2009, makes amendments as a consequence of the measures contained in the improved support for carers bill. This companion bill makes minor amendments of a consequential and transitional nature. The amendments made by this bill include removal of references in the social security law that from 1 July 2009 will be redundant, and replaces those references with new terms and references necessary for the proper administration of the changes introduced in the improved support for carers bill.

Amendments made by this bill will provide that carers who qualify for carer payment under the new qualification provisions will be able to take advantage of the 63 days, or the pro rata equivalent, for carers qualified on a short-term or episodic basis on which carers can temporarily cease to provide constant care and remain qualified for carer payment.

This bill provides that nominated visa holders who cannot qualify for carer payment as they do not meet the residency requirement can be granted an exemption from the activity test in relation to special benefit if they are providing care to a child or children who meet the criteria contained in the new qualification provisions.

The bill also amends the provisions that relate to the nomination of the principal beneficiary of a special disability trust under the Social Security Act 1991 or the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to reflect the changes made by the introduction of the improved qualification criteria for carer payments.

Lastly, the bill also provides for the backdating of carer payment for people who qualify for carer payment under one of the new qualification provisions. A person who makes an application before 1 October 2009 will be able to have their carer payment backdated to the date they became qualified for carer payment. The earliest date at which they can become qualified is the date of implementation of the new qualification provision, which is 1 July 2009. We look forward to these provisions becoming law to support carers doing a very important job in our community, caring for children who have very serious illnesses.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.