Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Page: 1754


Mr TEHAN (WannonMinister for Education) (09:55): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Improving Assistance for Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Families) Bill 2020 makes a number of improvements to the operation of the additional childcare subsidy (child wellbeing), the childcare subsidy and some other technical drafting improvements.

The government is committed to improving access to child care for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families. The changes in this bill will streamline access to the additional childcare subsidy (child wellbeing) by cutting red tape for families and childcare providers. The changes will also further support vulnerable and disadvantaged families to access quality and affordable early learning and child care by enhancing a childcare provider's ability to provide early access to the additional subsidy to vulnerable and disadvantaged families where appropriate. Notably, the amendments continue to maintain appropriate safeguards to support the integrity of the payment.

Just over 18 months into implementation of the childcare package and it is clear that the government is delivering on its goals to create a more affordable, accessible and flexible childcare system.

We have been listening to stakeholders regarding areas for improvement, and the key measures contained in this bill are in direct response to feedback received from the childcare sector on the operation of the additional childcare subsidy (child wellbeing) payment.

This bill makes amendments to the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 by extending the backdating of additional childcaresubsidy (child wellbeing) certificates and determinations from 28 days toup to 13 weeks in defined exceptional circumstances. This will mean gapsin subsidy entitlement will be avoided where a child has been identified as'at risk' and it takes longer than 28 days to be able to provide a certificateor apply for a determination, due to circumstances outside the provider'scontrol.

The bill also extends the period from 13 weeks to up to 12 months that additional childcare subsidy (child wellbeing) determinations can be made for certain defined classes of children, such as children on a long-term child protection order, including those in foster care. This will reduce unnecessary red tape for providers, families and state and territory governments by no longer requiring them to reapply for subsequent determinations with supporting evidence every 13 weeks for such children whose circumstances mean they will continue to be 'at risk' for longer periods of time.

A further amendment will clarify that a provider is eligible for additional childcare subsidy (child wellbeing) in respect of certain defined classes of children, such as foster children. This will mean that providers can receive the additional subsidy in respect of a foster child who is at risk of serious abuse or neglect (for a maximum of 13 weeks) while the foster family confirms its childcare subsidy eligibility. This will ensure these children have immediate and streamlined access to child care.

The measures in this bill will enhance the Australian government's commitment to provide additional support to children at risk of serious abuse and neglect by streamlining access to ACCS (child wellbeing). In particular the bill will enhance a childcare provider's ability to provide early access to the additional subsidy to vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

The bill also makes some other amendments that are more technical in nature, including an amendment to the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 to modify the calculation used at childcare subsidy balancing for individuals that changed their relationship status through partnering, separating or bereavement during the year. The changes will bring the calculation into line with other government payments.

The calculation method proposed in the bill will ensure families' childcare subsidy entitlements are fair, consistent and accurate to reflect their financial circumstances throughout the year by recognising periods and the actual incomes associated with those periods when they were single with their own income or partnered with a combined income.

Lastly, the bill makes two minor technical amendments to add clarity to previously drafted matters. These will:

provide exceptions to when the secretary may vary the approval of a childcare provider to remove a service; and

correct the omission of the civil penalty amount in section 204K(5).

In conclusion, this bill demonstrates that the government remains committed to making life easier for providers and vulnerable and disadvantaged families and continues to make improvements based on feedback on how the childcare package is operating.

The changes in this bill will reduce regulatory and administrative burden on families and childcare providers, support vulnerable and disadvantaged families to access quality early learning and child care, and help parents to access financial assistance.

I commend the bill.

Debate adjourned.