Fam­i­lies ‘ helped’ by be­ing paid less

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - AN­NIKA SMETHURST

FAM­I­LIES re­ly­ing on the new child care pay­ment promised by a fed­eral gov­ern­ment web­site are about to get a rude shock — they won’t get the full fort­nightly sub­sidy to “pro­tect” them from over-claim­ing.

The gov­ern­ment’s on­line child care sub­sidy es­ti­ma­tor shows the max­i­mum pay­ment each fam­ily will re­ceive but, from July, all fam­i­lies will re­ceive 10 per cent less, which the gov­ern­ment claims will pre­vent bill shock at the end of the fi­nan­cial year.

A dis­claimer in a drop­down menu on the web­site does show how much the gov­ern­ment will with­hold.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of ad­vo­cacy group The Par­ent­hood, Jo Briskey, said the gov­ern­ment had been pro­mot­ing the full sub­si­dies, not the re­duced amount. “Fam­i­lies are in­ter­ested in the im­me­di­ate out-of­pocket costs,” Ms Briskey said. “I think a lot of par­ents will feel like they have been mis­led.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham said the gov­ern­ment was “pro­tect­ing par­ents from over-claim­ing”.

“A small amount of child care pay­ments have al­ways been with­held for fam­i­lies un­til the end of the fi­nan­cial year so they don’t get a shock if they’ve over-es­ti­mated their en­ti­tle­ments,” he said. “That amount is go­ing to get even smaller un­der our changes.”

La­bor’s child­care spokes­woman Amanda Rish­worth ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of im­pos­ing a “tax on fam­i­lies by stealth. The gov­ern­ment is treat­ing all fam­i­lies like they al­ready owe a debt to the Com­mon­wealth, mak­ing clear they don’t trust fam­i­lies”.

La­bor has slammed the sys­tem, say­ing low in­come fam­i­lies bud­get week-to-week and will now be forced to wait a full year be­fore be­ing re­im­bursed.

Mr Birm­ing­ham told a Se­nate es­ti­mates hear­ing last week that 10 per cent of the new child­care sub­si­dies will be with­held from par­ents un­til the end of the fi­nan­cial year, in case fam­i­lies in­cor­rectly es­ti­mate their in­come and work lev­els. The Sun­day Tele­graph un­der­stands the depart­ment will con­sider case-by-case re­quests by some fam­i­lies on fixed in­comes to re­ceive the full amount each fort­night.

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