Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

2005-06 Budget: Working for Families

The Howard Government has continued its unprecedented support for Australian families, with more than $1.4 billion committed in the 2005-06 Budget for the Family and Community Services portfolio.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today said strong economic management had allowed the Howard Government to provide significant dividends to millions of Australians.

An allocation in the 2005-06 Budget of $3.6 billion will enable the Howard Government to help people make the move from welfare to employment opportunities.

“One of the most important aspects of the Welfare to Work package will be an allocation of $266 million for additional child care support to allow parents of school aged children to either remain in or re-enter the work force.

“Over the next four years, 84,300 Outside School Hours Care places, 2,500 Family Day Care places and a further 1,000 In Home Care places will be made available. The additional places in the areas of Australia where there is demonstrated need will cost around $210 million.

“The Howard Government will improve the efficiency of the Jobs Education Training Child Care program and support around 52,000 families on low income in meeting the ‘gap’ in child care fees.

“Some parents will also be given practical support to return to the workforce as child carers, which will help address some work shortages and respond to increased demand.

“The base level of participation required to satisfy the Child Care Benefit (CCB) work, training, study test will be altered, so that, to be eligible for more than 24 hours of CCB a week, both members of a couple or a sole parent must demonstrate they have ongoing work, or work related activity, of around 15 hours a week.

“These Budget measures align with the work first approach of the innovative welfare reform package.

“An extra $24 a fortnight will boost around 400,000 families’ Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB A) payments.

“This follows an increase in the lower income threshold level to help low income families earn more money.

“The lower income threshold for FTB A will be increased to $37,500 from 1 July 2006 to allow low income earners to increase their earnings without affecting family assistance payments. This will also result in some 40,000 families becoming newly eligible for a Health Care Card and its associated benefits.

“Assisting families, by automatically updating income estimates, improving debt recovery and reducing the risk of overpayments will also be funded from the almost $1 billion in the 2005-06 Budget for Families.

“Further support for families includes the extension of the Maternity Payment for parents adopting children under the age of two, from either Australia or overseas.

“These families will be eligible for Maternity Payment, from 1 July 2005, a measure supported by Howard Government funding of $6.1 million over the next four years.

“The payment of $3,079 for each family will assist with the costs of settling the child into a new home. The age limit has been extended, for both local and overseas adoptions, to two years of age.

“Over $90 million will assist women in leadership and development, and also help tackle the nation-wide issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Increased support for Healthy Indigenous Housing will see a total of over $100 million go toward supporting a number of ‘healthy housing’ initiatives and further consolidate the Government’s targeting of community housing needs in rural and remote communities.

“A one-off payment to all eligible carers, at a cost of $317 million will be delivered as part of the 2005-06 Budget to recognise the valuable role of carers in our society and better support them in providing care for their relatives and friends who are disabled or frail aged.

“A bonus of $1,000 will be provided to current eligible recipients of Carer Payment and recipients of Carer Allowance will receive a bonus of $600 for each eligible person being cared for. Subject to the passage of legislation, payments will be made to the majority of eligible carers before the end of June 2005.

“Through the 2005-06 Budget, the Howard Government will continue making sure welfare payments go to those most in need, by introducing a number of Budget measures to save Australian taxpayers more than $190 million over the next five years.

“Several Budget measures will assist in continuing the Government’s responsible management of the social security system by helping people to receive their correct entitlement.

“These measures include the more accurate assessment of overseas pensions, more coordination between Centrelink, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Australian Tax Office and projects to research ways to improve control of incorrect payments and fraudulent claims.

“The 2005-06 Budget demonstrates the Howard Government’s continuing support for all areas of Australian family and community life,” Senator Patterson said.