Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Increasing school attendance in Cannington

Families in the Cannington area in Perth will take part in a trial linking school enrolment and attendance with welfare payments, as part of the Australian and Western Australian Governments’ commitment to help protect children.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and WA Minister for Education and Training, Mark McGowan, said the trial would begin in early 2009, and is aimed at increasing school enrolment and attendance in the selected trial areas.

Around 1,050 parents receiving income support in the Cannington area will be required to tell Centrelink where their children are enrolled and to take reasonable measures to ensure their children attend school regularly.

Parents who fail to enrol their children or take reasonable measures to get their children to school may have their income support payments suspended until the problem is resolved.

“Schooling is key to improving children’s life chances and directly impacts on their employment opportunities, financial independence and social inclusion,” Ms Macklin said.

“This approach is designed to encourage parents to take positive steps towards improving their child’s education.”

Mr McGowan said making sure every child in Western Australia was behind a desk and in a classroom was of paramount importance for the State Government.

“I welcome any initiative which aims to improve attendance rates at schools and I look forward to seeing the results when the pilot finishes,” he said.

Temporarily withholding a parent’s income support will be a last resort. This may occur where the parent has failed, despite help from the school and Centrelink, to exercise parental responsibility.

Full back pay will be provided when parents have met their responsibilities within a 13-week period.

The Australian Government has committed $1.1 million to improve school enrolment and attendance through the welfare reform trial in the Cannington area.

Ms Macklin said Northern Territory communities Hermannsburg, Wallace Rockhole, Tiwi Islands, Katherine and town camps and Wadeye are also taking part in the trial. A further site in another state’s metropolitan area is still to be announced.

In addition to the school trials in Cannington, the Australian and WA Governments are working jointly on the implementation of income management under the child protection initiative in the Kimberley and Cannington area.

The income management trial will give child protection authorities the power to recommend to Centrelink that income support and family payments are quarantined to be used for the benefit of the children.

A bilateral agreement between the Governments for the child protection initiative is expected to be signed by the end of August 2008.

The Rudd Government is committed to a child-centred approach to family policy including ensuring that welfare payments serve the interests of children.