ACCS next in line to see amendments as Tehan presents new Bill to Parliament
The Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, has introduced a new Bill to the Parliament of Australia that aims to address feedback received from the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector regarding access to Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) (child wellbeing) in the context of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) package legislation introduced in July 2018.
The Bill, called the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (improving assistance for vulnerable and disadvantaged families) Bill 2020 seeks to make changes to improve the provision of assistance to families accessing ACCS and is similar in intent to the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Building on the Child Care Package) Bill 2019 which sought to address certain areas of the CCS that required amending or adjusting to improve impact and useability and was passed by the Senate in December 2019.
Commenting on the proposed Mr Tehan said in his speech to Parliament that the changes in the bill will “reduce regulatory and administrative burden on families and childcare providers, support vulnerable and disadvantaged families to access quality early learning and child care, and help parents to access financial assistance.”
The key areas of change proposed are as follows:
- Children in formal foster care arrangements will now be included in a ‘prescribed class’ category which will enable them to be eligible for ACCS (child wellbeing) in instances where the provider is not able to identify an individual (family member or carer) who is eligible for CCS
- ACCS (child wellbeing) certificates and determinations will be able to be backdated from the current 28 days up to 13 weeks in exceptional circumstances thus avoiding “gaps” in ACCS payments in instances where it takes longer than 28 days for a provider to present the relevant certificates or obtain determinations.
- ACCS (child wellbeing) determinations will be in place for up to 12 months for select classes of vulnerable and disadvantaged children up from the current 13 weeks that is in place. Children on long term protection orders and children in foster care will likely be beneficiaries of this change as will the providers as it will remove the obligation to represent documents every 13 weeks.
A separate amendment to the Bill makes provisions for those receiving CCS who are in situations where they have been in a couple for some of the CCS fortnights in an income year, and not in a couple for others. This amendment will address problems arising from claimants hitting annual cap limits, despite no longer being in a couple. The amendment will allow for changes with respect to which member of a couple is the claimant for a child/children.
The Bill has now been presented and a second reading has been moved, with a second reading debate expected in due course. Assuming the Bill progresses through the second debate, a third reading will be scheduled after which, assuming it is passed, assent will be be provided.
While no timeline has been provided as yet, it is expected to take between four to six weeks for the Bill to progress to completion.