The Commonwealth Government provides a range of benefits and implements social policy through various programs to assist and support family life in Australia. These Government-funded programs and benefits are part of what is sometimes referred to as the ‘social safety net’. It is generally agreed in Australia that families need assistance from time to time to meet their care responsibilities, that some families need more help than others, and that it is a fair and proper use of taxpayer’s money for the government to provide such assistance. The exact nature and extent of the programs and benefits provided under the social safety net at any point in time varies with the politics of the government of the day, and their perception of the needs of different groups.
Government-funded programs for the support of families are provided in a wide range of areas including health, education and early childhood. Many programs are managed by Commonwealth Government departments, such as the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), and by state government departments, such as NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), but actually carried out by community-based organisations, such as Centacare and Relationships Australia, that receive government funding. A current example is FaHCSIA’s ‘Family Support Program’ (FSP) which provides services to vulnerable families to improve family functioning, safety and child wellbeing. The FSP provided both broad-based early intervention and prevention services, as well more intensive assistance in targeted locations where there are multiple indicators of disadvantage. The FSP also provides Family Law Services which funds programs for family dispute resolution, Family Relationship Centres and other important community services that support separating families and particularly, the children involved. The FSP in its various forms has been funded by successive governments since the 1960s.
‘Benefits’ are payments made by government to families that have specific financial needs. They are sometime referred to as ‘social security’ or ‘Centrelink’ benefits. Centrelink is the Commonwealth government agency that administers the payment system. Commonwealth benefits available from Centrelink at the time of writing to assist eligible parents to raise their children include:
|Benefit name||Purpose and payees|
|Family Tax Benefit Part A||for parents or carers to help with the cost of raising children|
|Family Tax Benefit Part B||for single income families or sole parents|
|Parenting Payment||for more needy parents or carers to help with the cost of raising children|
|Child Care Benefit||for families to help with the cost of child care|
|Baby Bonus||for help with extra costs after the birth of a new baby|
|Double Orphan Pension||for people who are raising children who have lost both parents|
|Carer Allowance (Child)||for people who care for a child with a disability at home|
|Dad and Partner Pay||to support dads or partners caring for a newborn or recently adopted child|
|Schoolkids Bonus||an automatic payment each January to help eligible families with education costs|
|Fares Allowance||to help eligible students who have to live away from home in order to study|
Centrelink payments are authorised legally under a range of social security and family assistance laws, featuring the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) and A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) specifically.
See Centrelink on Department of Human Services website for all payments to families, children, carers etc.