Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Helping children get a healthy start

From today, new requirements will help make sure more Australian children get a healthy start to school.

The Government is delivering on its election commitment to introduce new requirements for families on an income support payment to ensure their four year old child gets a health assessment prior to starting school.

The payment of the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A end of year supplement for these families will now be conditional on the completion of a health assessment, such as the Healthy Kids Check or state and territory health checks.

Families on income support with a child turning four in 2011-12, will be the first to meet the new requirements. Affected families will be contacted by Centrelink.

This new requirement will help make sure about 92,000 children each year get a pre-school health assessment.

Pre-school health assessments check to see if children are healthy, fit and ready to learn when they start school. These checks help identify any physical health issues such as hearing or sight impairment, as well as developmental conditions and delays prior to starting school.

The Government wants to see more children, particularly from low income households, starting school healthy and ready to learn.

Evidence shows that children from low income families not only begin school less well prepared, but that early gaps persist and even widen as children progress through school.

These new requirements are part of the Gillard Government’s reforms to Australia’s welfare system to create opportunity and require responsibility.

The FTB Part A end of year supplement is about $726 per child. These new requirements will not affect the fortnightly payments of FTB Part A.

This will cost $12.1 million over five years, including $4.8 million in 2010-11.