Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Better access to family payments

Legislation passed by the Parliament today will make access to family payments more convenient for Australian families.

The Australian Government is delivering on its election commitment to help families cope with pressures on their household budget from unexpected expenses.

From 1 July this year, families will have access to more flexible advance payments of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A, giving them more options to choose the amount and timing of advances.

Having access to more flexible payments of FTB Part A will give families facing unexpected costs, such as the family car breaking down, more certainty. It will provide families with more options and means they could avoid resorting to high-interest loans or credit cards when unforeseen costs arise.

Families will be able to advance a maximum of 7.5 per cent of their total rate of FTB Part A payment, up to $1000. For example, a low income family with two young children will be able to receive an advance payment of up to $644, and a low income family with four children will be able to advance up to $1000.

All families applying for advances will be assessed to ensure they are able to repay the advance without falling into financial hardship.

Currently, the maximum advance amount is fixed at around $330 every six months and families are only able to get an advance twice a year – one 1 July and 1 January. This means that families do not have the flexibility to request advances when they actually need them.

The Australian Government is committed to supporting families meet the costs of raising children so they are healthy, safe and happy, to give them the best start in life.

The new flexible family payment advance arrangements will cost $62.4 million over five years, including $5.1 million in 2010-11.