Financial allowances and resources - advice

This advice provides information regarding the financial reimbursements and other resources available to kinship and foster carers.

Introduction

See procedure Care allowances for tasks that must be undertaken.

The following financial allowances and resources may be available to clients of the department, their family and kinship or foster carers.

It is important for practitioners to assist clients and carers in obtaining the financial allowances or benefits available to them. In order to do this practitioners must be aware of the financial and material assistance offered by the department, community agencies, private companies and state and federal governments.

With regard to victims of crime, the exploration of compensation should occur in a timely manner. Claims must generally be made within two years of the offence occurring. Practitioners should assist clients in obtaining compensation or seeking advice about eligibility.

Carer allowance (previously known as caregiver reimbursement)

Approved kinship and foster carers are entitled to receive a care allowance for each child placed in their care, once the placement is endorsed. Payments are made fortnightly by the Department of Health and Human Services. The allowance is a contribution to the ordinary costs for caring for a child.

Sometimes it may be appropriate for the caregiver to apply through the Commonwealth Child Support Agency for a parent to contribute toward the costs of caring for the child, especially if this is a long term situation. Young people aged 16+ are entitled to apply for the Youth Allowance.

Care allowance rates are not affected by Centrelink or Commonwealth child support agency payments, or payments made by parents to the carer or Youth Allowance payments.

The care allowance is from the date of endorsed placement of the child and is provided for each child in care.

Initiating a care allowance

Where a kinship care placement is made, child protection practitioners are responsible for initiating the care allowance by filling out the 'Commencement payment form for caregiver reimbursement', in CRIS. The team manager must approve this form having first sighted and reviewed the national police records check for all relevant persons.

It is important that the allowance is initiated as soon as possible after the placement is endorsed (not more than three days after the commencement of placement). The allowance is commenced once the practitioner has completed the 'Commence payment form' and forwarded it to the Care Allowances Helpdesk at caregivers.mgt@dhhs.vic.gov.au. At the time of completing this form the carer should be given an ‘Application for Direct Debit form’ available at Kinship care forms with a self addressed, stamped envelope for the carer to return the completed direct debit form to the Care Allowances Helpdesk, Level 6, Department of Health and Human Services, 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

There may be a lag time between completion of the paperwork and the initial care allowance payment, however once the 'Commence payment form' is received, a cheque will be generated to the carer if there has been a delay in the return of the direct debit form to the Care Allowances Helpdesk. Consideration could also be given to payment of a placement support grant if carers require immediate financial assistance. Payments cannot be made to kinship carers until the placement has been endorsed according to relevant policy processes.

It is important to note that when a kinship care placement ceases, the child protection practitioner must complete a 'Cease payment form' and forward it to the Care Allowances Helpdesk via email (caregivers.mgt@dhhs.vic.gov.au) within three days of the placement ceasing.

Where a kinship care placement becomes a permanent placement through an order of the Children's Court (a permanent care order) or the Family Court (a residency order) then the care allowance continues until the child achieves 18 years or ceases to be in the legal care of the permanent carer. The child protection practitioner must complete the Form C ‘change of details’  at the time of the order being made and submit this to the Care Allowances Helpdesk via email.

When a foster care placement is changed to a permanent care placement through a PCO the child protection practitioner must completed the Form C ‘Change of details’ and Form ‘Commence Payment’ form and submit both forms to the Care Allowances Helpdesk.

For caregiver enquiries the Care Allowances Helpdesk can be contacted on 1300 552 319.

In a situation where extra expenses are incurred, beyond what is considered the ordinary costs of care, additional financial support may be available.

Clients

Client support funding

On 1 July 2016 the department introduced a new Client Support Funding Framework.

Client support funding is financial support in addition to the service funding the department provides to community service organisations and separate to the care allowance home-based carers receive to meet the needs of children and young people in their care.

Client support funding is organised into two streams:

  • placement support – to help address the needs of the placement or care arrangement to provide carers with assistance to commence, maintain or sustain a placement
  • client expense – to help address the individual needs of the child where the expense is directly related to the support of the child.

The scope of the framework relates to children and young people placed in statutory foster care, kinship care and lead tenant arrangements.  Client expense funding is however more broadly available to provide additional support to children, young people and families involved with child protection and children and young people placed in out-of-home care.

The department, service providers and care teams have a shared-role in the Statewide Client Support Funding Framework to help carers identify and access the full range of financial supports available to deliver the things vulnerable children need to thrive and participate fully in their lives and in their community.

Further information is available on the department’s intranet and is also available to the public at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/carersupport.

Educational and medical payment

The educational and medical payment (ed and med) is available to foster and kinship care placements to contribute to the educational and health needs of a child or young person in home-based care. The education and medical payment is paid through the Department of Health and Human Services’ care allowance system on a fortnightly basis, ensuring a more immediate contribution to meeting the education and health needs of children.

School attendance allowance

The school attendance allowance is paid to foster and kinship carer placements to contribute to education expenses for children and young people in home-based care subject to statutory involvement by the Victorian child protection system. The school attendance allowance is paid through the Department of Health and Human Services’ care allowance system quarterly in arrears with the care allowance. Carers will receive the school attendance allowance pro rata if the child is in placement for seven days or longer.

Brokerage HRI and HRY

High-risk infant (HRI) brokerage

These brokerage funds may be used to purchase expert parenting capacity assessments as well as baby goods and services for high-risk infants and their families. Access to funding from the HRI program must be applied for and approved by the authorised divisional delegate.

High-risk youth (HRY) brokerage

HRY brokerage is provided to tailor a direct service response to meet an individual's specific needs. Brokerage funds may be used to:

  • identify and purchase services that will meet the specific needs of high-risk youth
  • purchase individualised services not available through mainstream services
  • enable individuals or groups of young people to access mainstream community services to assist their integration and participate in structured activities.

Brokerage funds will be provided in the context of the young person's current endorsed case plan and individual program plan.

Access to brokerage funding will be determined by whether the young person is or has been on the high-risk schedule. Funding from HRY brokerage must be applied through the authorised divisional delegate. Team managers or the area manager for divisional services will have information regarding the allocation of funds in the division.

Flexible funding

Flexible funding is available for children in new permanent care placements, or children in established placements with permanent care parents.

Flexible funding can be provided to permanent carers to help meet the additional needs of a child in their care, beyond those met by the carer allowance and over available funding sources. The funding is specific to the child and should promote the child’s attachment and continuity of care, and help address issues which may be a result of abuse and neglect.

Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal

The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) was established by the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 to provide assistance to victims of crime by:

  • providing financial assistance to victims for expenses incurred as a direct result of an act of violence (a crime) and
  • allowing victims of crime to obtain financial assistance where compensation for the injury cannot be obtained from the offender or other sources; and
  • providing financial assistance to certain victims as an expression by the State of the community's sympathy and condolence for, and recognition of, grief, distress or trauma experienced or suffered by them as victims of crime.

VOCAT consists of the chief magistrate and magistrates.

To be eligible the act of violence must have:

  • occurred in Victoria
  • be punishable on conviction by imprisonment and involve assault or
  • injury or threat of injury to one or more persons.

Applications must be lodged with VOCAT within two years of the act of violence occurring, although it may be possible to gain an extension of this time from VOCAT.

Before lodging an application with VOCAT, attempts should be made to recover costs that have been incurred as a result of the act of violence from other sources (for example, Medicare or WorkCover).

For further information contact the Legal Services Branch for advice on client's eligibility for compensation. See Services for victims of crime including VOCAT.

Payment and hardship assistance

Department of Health and Human Services concessions

The department provides qualifying Victorian families with a one-off grant for household expenses for water and sewerage, energy, municipal rates and transport. Details of the concessions available and a list of the larger welfare agencies that provide financial and material aid are listed on the department’s concessions website.

Utility companies

Most utility companies offer a payment plan for customers experiencing hardship including:

  • concessions
  • payment extensions
  • instalment plans
  • hardship relief grants (one-off)
  • financial counselling referrals.

Welfare agencies

There are a number of non-government welfare agencies that offer financial and material aid to people in need. Contact the agencies in your division for details of any financial assistance they may offer.

For a list of other non-government welfare agencies see the Community Information Victoria website.

Federal funding (Abstudy, Health Care Card, TILA, Youth Allowance)

ABSTUDY

A young person may qualify for ABSTUDY if they are:

  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian
  • an Australian Citizen
  • enrolled in an approved course (includes secondary school, TAFE, university and apprenticeships.

The available level of funding will be affected by various factors and assessed on a case by case basis.

Medicare

A child placed in out-of-home care remains eligible for services funded through Medicare on presentation of a valid Medicare card (or a valid Medicare number). If parents are either unwilling or unable to provide a Medicare card or Medicare number, placement agencies and child protection can obtain these, provided the child is either already registered with, or eligible to be registered with Medicare

Health Care Card

Since 1 July 2001, Commonwealth policy has determined that all children and young people in home based care are entitled to a health care card, either in their own name or by being added to the health care card of their carer.

A health care card can be claimed by or on behalf of children and young people in home based care, with a range of acceptable evidence as eligibility. This evidence does not necessarily include a court order or a birth certificate. This policy applies to children and young people whether they are on a child protection order or not and therefore, includes voluntary placements and Specialist Homelessness Services.

Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA)

TILA is a one off support from the Federal Government to help young people who are leaving care to meet some of the costs involved in moving to independent living. See Transition to independent living allowance.

Youth Allowance

A young person (including young people in out-of-home care) may qualify for a Youth Allowance if they are between 16 and 21 years or up to 25 years if they are a full-time student.

They may be considered independent for the purposes of eligibility for Youth Allowance if they are aged 15-24 and:

  • are above school leaving age in their state (in Victoria the school leaving age is 17 years as of 1 January 2012) or territory and
  • are a refugee without parents living in Australia, an orphan or it is unreasonable for them to live at home or
  • are in state care or only stopped being in state care because of their age
  • have or have had a dependent child
  • are or have been legally married, in a registered relationship, or living in a de facto relationship
  • have parents who cannot exercise their parental responsibilities.

The available level of funding will be affected by various factors and assessed on a case by case basis. Young people may require assistance from their case worker or carer to apply for the Youth Allowance.

For full details go to the Youth Allowance webpage.

Centrelink financial assistance

Centrelink offers clients financial assistance through: 

  • advance payment scheme
  • financial information service
  • bereavement payment
  • refuge or asylum seeker assistance.

Related procedures

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