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INCOME SUPPORT AND OTHER COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROGRAMS
Most allowance types are adjusted once or twice a year in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to maintain purchasing power. Pension payments are adjusted in line with the CPI and male total average weekly earnings, ensuring the maximum single pension rate does not fall below 25% of male total average weekly earnings. Many income support payments are subject to income, assets and activity tests, to ensure benefits are targeted to those in greatest need. Details of the rates in effect at 30 June 2006 are listed in table 7.10.
Since September 1997 Centrelink has delivered most of the income support payments on behalf of Australian Government departments. Centrelink is a statutory agency established to deliver a range of Australian Government services to the Australian community. It operates under the Services Delivery Agency Act 1997 (Cwlth). Centrelink provides advice about payment entitlements, provides referrals to Centrelink specialist staff for additional assistance, and may refer customers to other departments, agencies or community organisations where appropriate.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) delivers various income support payments and pensions to eligible veterans and their families. Medicare Australia and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) also support the delivery of Family Assistance programs, with Medicare Australia also supporting the delivery of Aged Care payments.
Numbers of income support customers referred to in this section generally relate to June of the reference year. These numbers are taken from extracts of administrative data as close to 30 June as possible. The dates of extracts, however, can vary between payment types. All financial data refer to the full financial year.
Family assistance policies are formulated to provide income support to families to assist with the costs of raising children, including newborns, in a way that recognises the needs and choices of both single and dual income families.
Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB Part A) helps families with the cost of raising dependent children. It is paid to families with dependent children up to 21 years, and young people between 21 and 24 years who are studying full time. Payments are made for each dependent child who is not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment. FTB Part A is subject to a family income test and provides access to a number of supplementary payments. These are Rent Assistance, Large Family Supplement and Multiple Birth Allowance. There is also an end of year supplement.
Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB Part B) provides extra assistance for families with only one main income earner. Payment to a family is based on the age of the youngest child, and is assessed on the income of the family’s second income earner. It is paid per family, not per dependent child. Families must have at least one dependent child aged under 16 years, or aged 16-18 years who is studying full-time. The child must not be receiving Youth Allowance or similar payment. FTB Part B has a higher rate of payment where the youngest child is under 5 years of age. There is also an end of year supplement.
FTB Part A and Part B payments are administered by the Family Assistance Office (FAO), which is located at Centrelink Customer Service Centres, Medicare Australia offices and ATO shopfronts. They are available as a direct payment from the FAO, either fortnightly or as a lump sum, or via tax instalment deductions or an end of year lump sum payment through the tax system. Some FTB recipients can receive fortnightly payments for part of the tax year with the balance as a lump sum at the end of the tax year. As at the end of June 2006, 1.8 million families with 3.5 million children received FTB Part A and 1.4 million families received FTB Part B via fortnightly payments from the FAO.
Maternity Payment is a one-off lump sum payment made to families following the birth (including stillbirth) or adoption of a baby up to the age of two years. Maternity Payment recognises the extra costs incurred at the time of a new birth or the adoption of a very young child and is not income tested.
Maternity Immunisation Allowance is a one-off lump sum payment paid for children fully immunised to the level recommended for an 18-month-old child. It must be claimed on or before the child turns two years of age and is not income tested.
The Double Orphan Pension is not means tested and is a payment for children aged under 16 years or full-time dependent students aged 16-21 years who do not receive Youth Allowance. It is available to children/young people who have at least one deceased parent and who cannot have contact with the other parent (e.g. because that parent is a long-term prisoner or their whereabouts is unknown).
Table 7.11 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on family assistance.
Child care support
To help families with children to participate in the economic and social life of the community, the Australian Government supports their access to child care.
Child care services include centre-based long-day care, family day care, in-home care, before and after school hours care, vacation care, occasional care, and Multi-functional Aboriginal Children’s Services. Flexible services that can combine various models of care are also available to meet the needs of families in rural and remote areas.
There are two main forms of Australian Government payment for child care support: the Child Care Benefit (CCB) and the Child Care Tax Rebate (CCTR).
CCB helps families with the cost of child care, with financial assistance proportionally higher for lower income families. Eligible families can have the benefit paid directly to the child care service to reduce their ongoing fees. Alternatively they can receive the benefit as a lump sum refund at the end of the financial year.
CCTR is a tax offset available to families using approved child care with parents undertaking work, study or training. Families can receive up to 30% of out-of pocket child care expenses up to $4,000 per child, per year, after CCB entitlements have been reconciled.
In addition, Jobs Education and Training (JET) Child Care provides flexible child care assistance to parents receiving certain Centrelink payments who wish to undertake study, work or job search activities and are aiming to enter or re-enter the workforce.
Table 7.12 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on CCB.
Support for carers
There are two forms of Australian Government financial assistance that may be available in a caring situation - Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.
Carer Payment provides income support to people who, due to the demands of their caring role, are unable to support themselves through substantial workforce participation.
Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment that is available to people who provide daily care and attention in a private home for an adult or child with a disability, severe medical condition, or who is frail aged. It can be paid in addition to a social security income support payment.
In 2004, 2005 and 2006 a 'one-off' Carer Bonus of $1,000 was paid to eligible recipients of Carer Payment and a 'one-off' Carer Allowance Bonus of $600 for each eligible care receiver they provide care for. These bonus payments are non-taxable and do not count as income for social security or family assistance purposes.
Table 7.13 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on support for carers.
Support for the aged
The principal form of support for the aged is the Age Pension. Age Pension age for men is 65 years and for women is being progressively raised to 65 years by 2014. The qualifying age for women depends on their date of birth, with the minimum age increasing by six months at two-year intervals until it reaches 65 years for those born on or after 1 January 1949.
Other payments available for older Australians include Wife Pension and Widow B Pension. However, these payments have been closed off to new claimants, so the population on and expenditure for these payments have decreased over time. These payments were designed to provide financial assistance to women below the pension age who are either the partner of an age pensioner or who have lost the financial support of a male partner through death, separation or divorce. There are now payments administered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) for women in these circumstances.
DVA provides support for the aged through the Age Service Pension and Partner Service Pension, which are components of the Service Pension and are described in a later section.
Table 7.14 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on support for the aged.
Working age income support payments
Working age income support programs help people of working age (15-64 years) by providing income support to those seeking work or undertaking other activities such as training or community work or caring for children.
The main working age income support payments are: Newstart Allowance (NSA), Parenting Payment (Single and Partnered), Disability Support Pension and Youth Allowance (other).
In the 2005-06 Budget, the Australian Government announced a number of Welfare to Work measures aimed at addressing the specific needs of parents, mature-aged people with disability and the very long-term unemployed that encourage these people to (re-)enter the workforce. Welfare to Work measures aim to increase workforce participation and reduce welfare dependency, while maintaining a strong safety net for those who need it.
NSA provides income support for eligible job seekers aged between 21 years and Age Pension age. Youth Allowance (other) is a means-tested income support payment available to eligible young people aged 16-20 years who are seeking or preparing for paid employment or are temporarily unable to work. NSA and Youth Allowance (other) recipients must satisfy an activity test by seeking work or participating in an activity designed to improve their employment prospects. Recipients must also accept offers of suitable employment.
Most activity-tested job seekers aged 18-49 years on NSA or Youth Allowance (other) are required to start an approved Mutual Obligation activity in addition to their normal job search requirements. Mutual Obligation is based on the principle that unemployed people have an obligation to improve their job prospects in the labour market or to contribute to the community that supports them in return for unemployment payments. Eligible job seekers can satisfy their Mutual Obligation through a range of activities: Work for the Dole, Community Work, the Voluntary Work Initiative, Green Corps and Green Reserve. On successful completion of Work for the Dole and Community Work, many job seekers qualify for a Training Credit of between $500 and $800, which can be used to buy approved training. Prior to 1 July 2006, people aged 50 years and over on NSA were not subject to Mutual Obligation but had a Personal Adviser to ensure that their requirements were appropriate, and that they had access to appropriate services.
Under the Welfare to Work measures, from 1 July 2006 the same job search requirements apply to mature-aged people aged 50 years and over receiving NSA as they do for other job seekers. Job seekers aged 50-54 years are no longer able to fully satisfy the activity test by undertaking voluntary work or a combination of voluntary and part-time work. However, job seekers aged 55 years and over may satisfy the activity test by undertaking a minimum of 15 hours per week of voluntary work, part-time work or a combination of the two. Job seekers aged 40-49 years have Work for the Dole as their default Mutual Obligation activity.
Currently, Parenting Payment is paid to single and partnered low-income parents with primary responsibility for the care of at least one dependent child aged less than 16 years. Under the Welfare to Work measures, parents applying for Parenting Payment on or after 1 July 2006 will receive Parenting Payment until their youngest child turns six (if partnered) or eight (if single), subject to meeting other eligibility requirements. Parents who require assistance after this will usually receive Newstart Allowance and be subject to participation requirements of 15 hours per week. Parents receiving Parenting Payment prior to 1 July 2006 will be able to remain on Parenting Payment under the current entitlement until their youngest child turns 16 years, subject to meeting other eligibility requirements. These parents will have participation requirements of 15 hours per week from 1 July 2007 or when their youngest child turns seven, whichever happens later. Assistance for preparing for work is provided to these recipients through the services of Centrelink, the Job Network and specialist services, where appropriate.
Other non-activity tested payments for people of workforce age include Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance and some Special Benefit customers. Special Benefit provides assistance to people in severe financial need and for whom no other pension, allowance or other support is available. There is also a Bereavement Allowance, which is a short-term payment for recently widowed people without dependent children, payable for up to 14 weeks. Since 20 September 2003 the Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance have been closed to new entrants. Since 1 July 2005, new claims for Widow Allowance have been limited to women born before 1 July 1955.
Table 7.15 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on working age income support.
Youth and student support
Youth Allowance is the main income support payment for young people aged 16-20 years who are actively seeking employment and for full-time students aged 16-24 years. It is subject to a personal income and assets test. If the person does not meet the Youth Allowance independence criteria then parental income, family assets, and family actual means tests also apply. If the person is independent and partnered, a partner income test applies and the couple’s combined assets are assessed.
The rate of Youth Allowance is determined on the young person’s age, whether they are single or partnered, whether they have children, whether they live at home or need to live away from home, and whether the person is a student who has been a long-term income support recipient.
Austudy payment is paid to students aged 25 years and over whose financial circumstances are such that without financial help, full-time study would not be possible. The rate of Austudy is dependent on whether the person is single or partnered, whether they have children, and whether the person is a student who has been a long-term income support recipient. An individual and (if applicable) partner income and assets test applies.
ABSTUDY payment is paid to students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent according to the ABSTUDY definition of Aboriginality who are studying an approved course at an approved educational institution and who are not receiving other government assistance for study.
Eligible students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or Pensioner Education Supplement, who live away from home to study, can receive a Fares Allowance which contributes to their travel costs.
FTB is an alternative payment to Youth Allowance. It may be available to help families with the cost of raising a young person who is not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment. It may be payable for a young person up to 21 years of age, or aged 21-24 years who is studying full time (see Family assistance (for more information).
Table 7.16 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on youth and student support.
Support for people with disability
Prior to 1 July 2006 Disability Support Pension (DSP) was the main form of income support for people with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment that prevents them from working for at least 30 hours per week for wages that are at or above the relevant minimum wages, or being retrained for such work, for at least two years.
However, as a result of the Australian Government's Welfare to Work measures which were announced in the 2005-06 Budget and passed into legislation in December 2005, from 1 July 2006 the hours threshold has been reduced to 15 hours per week for new claimants. This means that people with disabilities claiming income support who have a part-time work capacity of 15-29 hours per week will not be eligible for DSP. Instead, these people will generally be eligible for Newstart or Youth Allowance, with modified activity requirements tailored to reflect their assessed level of work capacity. The Welfare to Work measures also included substantially increased funding for the provision of vocational rehabilitation and employment assistance to help people with disabilities to maximise their ability to work. These changes do not affect people who are permanently blind.
DSP is income and assets tested. However, recipients who are permanently blind are exempt from the income test as well as the Work Capacity Test. DSP for people aged 21 years and over is paid at the same rate as Age Pension. Youth rates apply to those aged under 21 years. These are largely tied to Youth Allowance rates, but include a supplement of $94.70 per fortnight in recognition of the additional costs faced by people with disabilities. DSP youth rates are not subject to parental income or assets tests.
Other support for people with a disability includes Mobility Allowance and Sickness Allowance. Mobility Allowance is intended to help those who are involved in paid work, vocational training or voluntary work or a combination of these, who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance. The current rate is $71.40 per fortnight. From 1 July 2006 a second tier of Mobility Allowance at $100 per fortnight is available. It aims to meet the higher travel costs of those already in work for more than 15 hours per week at award wages and those seeking work. Sickness Allowance may be paid to people aged between 21 years and Age Pension age, who are temporarily unable to work or continue with their full-time study due to illness or injury but who have a job or study to return to. Wife Pension (DSP) is for female partners of DSP recipients who were on payment as at 30 June 1995. It has been closed to new entrants since 1 July 1995.
Table 7.17 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on support for people with disability.
Compensation and income support provided to veterans and their families
Compensation Pension is paid to veterans for the effects of war-caused injury or disease resulting from eligible war or defence service. The injuries or diseases must have been caused or aggravated by war service or certain defence service on behalf of Australia. Disability pension is paid at varying rates depending on the person’s incapacity and lifestyle.
General Rate Disability Pension is payable to a veteran as compensation for the impairment and lifestyle effects of war or defence service. The general rate of pension is payable according to the degree of impairment of the person in increments of 10% up to 100%.
Extreme Disablement Adjustment is payable to a veteran who is severely incapacitated due to war-caused or defence-caused injury or disease, has reached 65 years of age and is not eligible to receive the Special or Intermediate Rate.
Intermediate Rate Pension is payable to a veteran suffering incapacity from war or defence-caused disabilities in which the veteran is only able to undertake part-time or intermittent employment up to 20 hours per week.
Special (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) Rate Pension is payable to a veteran whose incapacity from war or defence-caused disabilities prevent the veteran from working more than eight hours per week. Any veteran who is blind because of war or defence-caused conditions is also eligible for a special rate pension.
War Widow(er)’s Pension is payable to compensate widowed partners of veterans who have died as a result of war service or eligible defence service or before his or her death received a certain rate of disability pension or was an Australian prisoner of war.
Various ancillary benefits may also be provided and dependent children of defence force members who have been killed or severely injured have access to educational guidance and counselling from the Veterans' Children Education Boards.
Table 7.18 shows the number of disability and war widows' pensioners and total expenditure in pensions.
The Veterans' Children Education Scheme provides financial help, guidance and counselling to certain students up to 25 years of age (table 7.19). To be eligible a student must be the child of a veteran, an Australian mariner, or a member of the Forces, who is (or has been) in receipt of a Special Rate or Extreme Disablement Adjustment Disability Pension. Children of former prisoners of war, of veterans, or of Australian mariners whose death has been accepted as war-caused, are also eligible.
The main income support pensions payable to veterans and their dependants are the Age Service Pension, Invalidity Service Pension, Partner Service Pension and the Income Support Supplement.
Age Service Pension (ASP) is payable to male veterans with qualifying service at 60 years of age. The ASP is similar to the age pension paid by Centrelink but is granted five years earlier than the age pension paid by Centrelink. The Government has introduced changes to the minimum age at which a female veteran can be granted an ASP. Under the changes, the minimum age is to be progressively lifted from 55 to 60 years in six-monthly increments every two years over the period 1995-2013.
Invalidity Service Pension is payable to veterans with qualifying service if they are permanently incapacitated for work.
Partner Service Pension is payable on the basis that the person is the partner or widow(er) of a veteran with qualifying service.
Income Support Supplement (ISS) is payable to war or defence widow(er)s of service pension age. ISS may also be paid to a widow(er) under service pension age if he or she has a dependent child, is caring for a severely handicapped person or is permanently incapacitated for work.
All recipients of income support payments are eligible for supplementary benefits, provided by the Australian Government, including some medical and hospital treatment, pharmaceutical benefits and the payment of a telephone allowance. They are also entitled to a range of concessions provided by state/territory and local governments.
A number of additional supplementary benefits and allowances are also available to eligible veterans and their dependants including the Defence Force Income Support Allowance, Rent Assistance, Remote Area Allowance, Utilities Allowance, Seniors Concession Allowance and Bereavement Payment.
Table 7.20 shows the number of recipients of and the expenditure on service pensions.
OTHER COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROGRAMS
In addition to the direct monetary support provided to individuals, governments also support the community through the provision of services, either directly or by subsidising the activities of third parties. These services are provided by the Australian Government, state and territory governments, and local governments. The main services that the Australian Government has responsibility for are described in the remainder of this section.
National Strategy for an Ageing Australia
Recognising the significant implications of population ageing across a number of public policy areas, the Australian Government has developed the National Strategy for an Ageing Australia. It provides a framework to address current issues facing older people and to prepare for the ageing of Australia’s population over the next 50 years.
The main themes of the National Strategy are:
Aged care programs
Aged care programs support healthy ageing for older Australians, provide quality, cost-effective care for frail older people, and give support to their carers. Australia’s aged care programs include residential care and community care, as well as a range of associated programs.
Assessment for aged care
Using a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach, Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) assess people’s care needs and their eligibility for residential aged care and some community aged care services. Clients’ medical, physical, social, psychological and restorative care needs are assessed before they are referred to the care they need. A person must be assessed as eligible by an ACAT before he or she can receive subsidised residential care, a Community Aged Care Package, an Extended Aged Care at Home Package, or some other forms of flexible care.
In 2005-06 the Australian Government provided $55.6m to state and territory governments for the operation of 115 ACATs throughout Australia.
Care in the community
Home and Community Care (HACC)
The HACC program is a joint initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments. The Australian Government contributes approximately 60% of HACC funding and maintains a broad strategic role. States and territories contribute approximately 40% of program funding and manage the program on a day-to-day basis. Australian Government funding available for HACC in 2005-06 was $857.8m. Total combined Australian, state and territory funding for 2005-06 was $1.409b.
The HACC program aims to provide a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated range of maintenance and support services for frail aged people, people with a disability and their carers. It helps people to be more independent at home and in the community. This enhances their quality of life and may prevent inappropriate admission to long-term residential care.
The HACC program funds care services, including nursing, personal care, domestic assistance, delivered meals, day care, transport, home modification and maintenance, and respite care. These services may delay or prevent the need for residential care.
Community Aged Care Packages (CACPs)
The CACPs provide care in the home for frail older people who have complex care needs requiring care planning and case management. CACPs are tailored to meet the needs of each individual. Services may include personal care assistance, assistance with meals, domestic assistance, and transport to help the person shop or visit a medical practitioner. To be eligible for a CACP, the care recipient must be assessed by an ACAT as requiring low level residential care, have a preference to remain at home, and be able to do so.
Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH)
EACH packages provide care to frail older people who have been assessed by ACAT as eligible for high level residential care, but have expressed a preference to live at home and are able to do so. An EACH package typically provides about 18-22 hours of assistance each week, tailored to meet the needs of the individual. Packages are flexible in content but generally include nursing input, particularly in their design and management. Services provided include clinical care, personal assistance, meal preparation, continence management, assistance with leisure activities, emotional support, therapy services, and home safety and modification. Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia packages, introduced in 2005-06, provide care in the home specifically for people with dementia.
Residential aged care back
The residential aged care program seeks to enhance the quality of life of frail older Australians through a cohesive framework of high quality and cost-effective residential care services.
The Australian Government subsidises the costs for each person in residential aged care. The level of funding depends on the care needs of the resident. Residents can be asked to pay fees and charges, some of which are based on the resident's assets and income.
To receive Australian Government funding, each aged care home must meet specific care and building standards and be accredited by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency.
Transition care provides short-term support and active management to help older people complete their recovery process after a hospital stay, before they return home or enter an aged care home. Delivered in collaboration with state and territory governments, transition care can be provided in either a residential or community setting. The first transition care places were allocated in 2004-05, many services began to deliver care in 2005-06 and a total of 2,000 places will be allocated by June 2007.
Other aged care programs
Other aged care programs include the National Respite for Carers Program, Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged, Commonwealth Carelink, Day Therapy Centres, a range of dementia care, education and support programs, and programs to assist in the management of continence and the provision of continence aids. All of these programs are directed towards assisting frail aged people and younger people with a disability to remain in their own homes.
Places and funding
Aged care places are allocated in proportion to the number of people aged 70 years and older. At 30 June 2006, there were 105.8 operational aged care places per 1,000 Australians aged 70 years and over. Table 7.21 shows the number of operational aged care places at 30 June in each of the years 2002 to 2006.
Younger people with disabilities in residential aged care
The Helping Younger People in Residential Aged Care program was announced by the Council of Australian Governments on 10 February 2006 as part of a $1.1b package of reforms to Australia's health system.
The new $244m program commenced in July 2006 (subject to the signing of the bilateral agreements) with funding of up to $122m coming from the Australian Government and up to $122m coming from state and territory governments.
The program is being developed jointly with state and territory governments and the Australian Governments through bilateral agreements.
Once implemented, responsibility for the day-to-day management of the program will rest with state and territory governments while the Australian Government will retain an ongoing monitoring role.
Australian Government expenditure on residential aged care is shown in table 7.22.
Table 7.23 shows Australian Government expenditure on selected other aged care programs.
Family assistance and community support
The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is an Australian Government initiative giving families, their children and communities the opportunity to build a better future. The Strategy has an appropriation of nearly $500m (for the period 2004-09) and builds on the achievements of the first Strategy (2000-04).
The renewed Strategy has a specific early childhood focus and has been aligned with four key areas identified in the developing National Agenda for Early Childhood (the National Agenda) - healthy young families with young children; early learning and care; supporting families and parenting; and child-friendly communities. The National Agenda is a policy framework to guide current and future activity across Australia which supports optimal child development during the first eight years of a child's life, including before birth. The National Agenda promotes early intervention and prevention as an important strategy for improving the life chances of all children, including addressing underlying social and economic factors that affect children's lives.
The strategy comprises four initiatives:
Local Answers funds the Volunteer Small Equipment Grants initiative.
A longitudinal study of child health and development is also funded by the Strategy.
The Early Childhood Programs include both the Responding Early Assisting Children (REACh) Program and the Indigenous Children Program (ICP). REACh and ICP are early intervention and prevention measures working towards meeting the Australian Government's objective of supporting families and children in disadvantaged communities, to provide positive experiences for children in their early years. The Early Childhood Programs are funded on a continuing basis. Funding for 2006-07 is approximately $10.8m.
There are a range of youth and community support programs to help disadvantaged young people to improve their level of engagement and to overcome barriers to participation with their families and the community including:
Other initiatives to help create opportunities for and promote the engagement and greater participation of young people in community activities include the National Youth Roundtable, the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group and National Youth Week.
Youth programs and initiatives aim to raise the profile and positive image of young people in the community. This is largely done through research on families and young people to inform policy and program development, and liaison between Australian Government agencies to help improve services for young people on a range of issues affecting them including mental health, education and work.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the agency that manages the assessment, collection and enforcement of child support liabilities. It aims to ensure that parents continue to financially support their children after separation, according to their capacity to do so. Parents may transfer their assessed liability privately, or have it collected and transferred through CSA.
The total amount transferred between parents in 2004-05 was $2.38b, an increase of $190m over the previous financial year. This includes child support assessed by CSA and transferred directly between parents, as well as child support assessed and collected by CSA. In addition, Child Support associated with parents who elect to transfer payments privately amounted to approximately $1.5b in 2004-05.
Housing support policies are in place to assist low and moderate income householders to access appropriate affordable housing, and provide supporting initiatives to assist homeless people. Housing assistance programs are discussed further in the Housing chapter.
Volunteering is an essential part of the Australian Government’s objective to promote social and economic participation, and to strengthen connections within communities. The Australian Government supports volunteering through a number of programs such as:
Retirement planning assistance
The National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI) is an independent body funded by the Australian Government to provide the public with free information on financial investments, financial industry services and saving for retirement. NICRI can assist customers to provide for their retirement and to make the investment choices that are best for them.
The Financial Information Service (FIS) provided by specialist Centrelink officers, is an education and information service available to everyone in the community. FIS is independent, free and confidential, and helps people make informed decisions about investment and financial issues for their current and future financial needs.
The Australian Government produces a range of booklets which provide practical and easy-to-read information on topics such as investment options, accommodation choices, and government programs and services to assist seniors and those planning for retirement.
Working age assistance
The Australian's Working Together initiative provides assistance to people of workforce age including job seekers, parents, people with disabilities, the unemployed, mature-age people and Indigenous Australians. Initiatives include a Working Credit to encourage people on income support to take up full-time, part-time or irregular casual work; Training Credits; the Language, Literacy and Numeracy supplement; more places in employment services; and initiatives to assist Indigenous Australians.
Other programs include the Personal Support Program and JET. The Government also funds Personal advisors who provide extra help to a range of eligible customers including those at a high risk of long-term dependency on income support.
Many of these initiatives will be superseded by the Australian Government's Welfare to Work measures announced in the 2005-06 Budget that took effect from 1 July 2006.
Support for people with disability
The Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement provides the national framework for the provision of government support to services for people with disability. Under the three agreements signed so far (the first in 1991), state and territory governments have responsibility for the planning, policy setting and management of accommodation support, community support, community access and respite care services for people with disability. The Australian Government has similar responsibilities for specialised employment assistance. Both levels of government are responsible for support for advocacy and print disability services.
The Disability Employment Assistance Program provides funding under the Disability Services Act 1986 (Cwlth) for services that help people with disabilities to find employment. The target group is people who have an intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological or physical impairment that is likely to be permanent and results in the need for ongoing support in employment.
Support for people with disabilities is also provided through rehabilitation services to improve function and independence in people with a disability so they can gain or retain suitable employment, or live independently. In addition, assistance is provided through the following programs:
Support for carers
The 2004-05 Budget provided $72.5m over four years for additional services for older parent carers of people with disability, subject to matching by state and territory governments. The additional respite for older carers measure is implemented through bilateral agreements with state and territory governments under the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement.
From January 2005, young carers have been able to access targeted services, including respite and age appropriate information, referral and advice to help them stay in education while also providing care.
In October 2005, the Australian Government announced a $230.5m package to assist parents wishing to make private financial provisions for the current or future care and accommodation for their son or daughter with severe disability. The major component of the package allows parents and immediate family members, from 20 September 2006, to place up to $500,000 into a trust for the current and future care and accommodation of the person with severe disability without being affected by social security means tests and gifting rules. Other assistance provided in the package includes access to mediation and counselling services for families, financial information kits and more research.
From 1 July 2006, the Government will start to establish a number of new peer support groups specifically aimed at parents of young children with disabilities at a cost of $9m over four years. This will improve outcomes for these parents by giving them the opportunity to socialise with and learn from other people in similar family situations.
Services provided to veterans and members of the ADF and their families
Defence Service Homes (DSH) Scheme
The DSH Scheme provides financial benefits to recognise the contribution of certain men and women who have served Australia in either peacetime or wartime. The benefits include housing loan interest subsidies, comprehensive homeowners insurance cover at competitive rates, and home contents insurance (table 7.24).
Military Compensation (MC)
The objective of MC is to ensure that current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), who suffer an injury or disease which is related to service in the ADF, are provided with compensation and rehabilitation benefits and services. The DVA is responsible for providing benefits through the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) (Cwlth) for injuries and diseases related to service prior to 1 July 2004 and through the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) (Cwlth). Table 7.25 summarises activities under these Acts for 2005-06.
Health-care treatment is provided to people whose disabilities have been accepted by DVA as service-related, and for pulmonary tuberculosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and malignant neoplasia whether they are service-related or not. Vietnam veterans with anxiety and depression and Gulf War veterans with undiagnosable conditions are also eligible for health-care treatment whether the conditions are service-related or not.
In addition, and subject to certain conditions, health-care treatment in Australia is provided to certain veterans of Australia's defence forces for all health conditions. War widow(er)s and certain other dependants of deceased veterans are also entitled to treatment for all conditions.
Other services include:
The VVCS provides counselling to veterans of all conflicts and their families, as well as working with the ex-service community to promote understanding and acceptance of veterans' problems.
Access to counselling services for rural veterans and their families was greatly improved with the establishment of the Country Outreach Program in 1988, followed soon after by a toll-free 1800 telephone link to all VVCS centres. Table 7.26 shows use of the VVCS.