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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 888

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the family income supplement which is paid to low income working families. What are the reasons for the 35 per cent lift in outlays on this item in the Budget? How many families with how many children will benefit from the family income supplement compared with last year? Are any special measures taken to promote the scheme to the target group of low income working families?

Senator GRIMES —The expenditure on the family income supplement was increased by $12.9m between 1983-84 and 1984-85, which is a 35.6 per cent increase from the $ 36m spent in 1983-84. This increase in expenditure mainly reflects the increased rate of payment in November 1984 from $12 to $14 a week and the full year effect of the November 1983 increase from $10 to $12 a week. The number of families benefiting from family income supplement in 1983-84 was 26,530. At the end of August 1984 there were 26,784 families benefiting and the estimated number for the end of this financial year is 27,500. That represents 74,000, 75,000 and 77, 000 children respectively.

The Department has been examining ways of increasing awareness of this payment. All payments of this type in the past have had a very variable take up largely because of the difficulty of contacting families who are eligible and in most need. A sample group of family allowance recipients were recently surveyed to find out about their awareness of family income supplement publicity. They were sent publicity on the supplement. The results of this survey are currently being evaluated. We are trying to investigate ways of increasing the take up. In particular, we want to see whether this method of increasing the take up can be justified in the light of postal costs and other administrative costs. I am to be advised after this survey of methods of promoting the family income supplement to see whether we cannot improve the take up. But there has been a steady, if slow, increase in the take up of this supplement since it has been introduced. We certainly hope that we are getting to as many people who are eligible as possible.