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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14921

Schoolkids Bonus

Dear Mr Vasta

Thank you for your letter of 20 March 2017 to the Minister for Human Services, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, regarding Petition EN0109 Schoolkids bonus. Your letter has been referred to me as the matter raised falls within my portfolio responsibilities. 1 regret the delay in responding.

The Australian Government acknowledges the challenges all Australian parents experience in the care of their children and so maintains a range of programs and payments to support them. Currently, the Government spends a substantial amount of taxpayer money in three main areas of family support each year: around $19 billion in Family Tax Benefit; around $8 billion in Child Care payments; and around $2 billion in Paid Parental Leave.

The Government remains committed to helping parents balance their work and family responsibilities through a range of programs and payments but this must necessarily be balanced with the responsibility to ensure family assistance and social security payments are well targeted and sustainable into the future.

As you are aware as part of the 2013 Federal Election, the Government pledged to end the Schoolkids Bonus as a way of ensuring the sustainability in the family payment system. The Schoolkids Bonus was originally established using anticipated revenue from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, which was repealed in 2014. This tax, proposed by the former Government, didn't raise as much revenue as expected and as such the Schoolkids Bonus was never properly funded.

In September 2014, parliament passed legislation to abolish the Schoolkids Bonus with the last payments made in July 2016. It is also important to note that during the 2016 election, Labor ultimately acknowledged the importance of budget repair and confirmed they would not reinstate the Schoolkids Bonus.

The Government is offering a more targeted and efficient approach to improve educational outcomes for students through effective education policies, rather than bonus payments to individuals.

The Government is committed to ensuring families and children have the opportunities they need to succeed, and that is why the Government is boosting support for school students by an average of $2,300 per student. In addition, the Government's reforms to the child care and early learning system are set to make the system affordable and accessible with an additional investment of $2.5 billion. For more information on the early learning and child care reforms go to, www.education.gov.au/early-childhood-and-child-care, or for more information on the Government's needs-based funding changes for schools go to, www.education.cov.au/quality-schools.

If individuals are experiencing financial difficulties. I would encourage them to access an accredited community-based financial counselling service. Financial counsellors are funded by the Government and provide free and independent advice and assistance. They are available in every state and territory. Individuals can phone the National Financial Counselling Helpline on freecall 1800 007 007 which is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, to locate their nearest free financial counselling service and to make an appointment. When they call this number they will be automatically transferred to the phone service in their state or territory.

It is also possible for individuals who are having difficulties to contact a Centrelink social worker. Centrelink social workers are a free service and available to provide counselling, support and referral services as needed. Centrelink social workers in their area would also be familiar with other services available locally which may be able to assist them. Centrelink social workers can be contacted by phone on 13 2850 for the cost of a local call.

It should be noted that families facing unexpected costs who are receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A by fortnightly payments can ask for an advance payment which is part of their future entitlements for a period of up to six months. Their ongoing Family Tax Benefit Part A payments will be reduced as repayment for the advanced payment. If an individual wishes to test their eligibility for an advance payment, they can phone Centrelink on 13 6150 for the cost of a local call. Please note that calls made from a mobile to the numbers listed above may incur additional costs.

Individuals may also wish to call Centrelink to discuss their situation. They can also visit www.humanservices.gov.au for more information on a range of payments available to families.

Individuals could also consider approaching their child's school about alternative payment arrangements for school related expenses such as excursions_ Some schools allow for fortnightly payments through Centrepay. Centrepay is a free voluntary bill paying service. Deductions come from your Centrelink payments and can be used to pay many types of bills, such as child care, electricity bills or rent. More information is available at: www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/centrepay.

Thank you for raising this matter with the Government. I trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Social Services, Mr Porter(Petition No. EN0109)