To provide instruction to child protection workers in relation to the process for claiming special needs loading that is payable to carers as recognition for the care of a child with high care and high cost needs.
Special needs loading is a subsidy which should be paid to Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division carers who care for children who have extra care needs which create additional, regular and ongoing costs to meet these needs. The child might have special needs due to a medical issue or behavioural/emotional issues.
Child protection workers need to consider the eligibility of carers for the special needs loading and this must be approved as part of the child’s case plan.
Special needs loading is paid to recognise the ongoing requirement for extra care and the regular, ongoing costs that are required to meet an individual child’s special needs.
Special needs loading may also be paid for short-term special needs such as hospitalisation and recovery time that may require extra care and expenditure by the foster carer/agency carer for the period of the child’s incapacity.
Special considerations for eligibility
In exceptional circumstances, subsidised guardianship and subsidised adoption arrangements may be eligible for consideration of a special needs loading payment. They are not eligible for automatic payment of special needs loading without the approval of the district director.
It is anticipated that the new guardians will use their own resources or seek assistance from community resources available to all families with a child with disabilities. Any subsidy along with special needs loading paid in these circumstances is based on an assessment of the income of the guardians.
Any claim for an exception to the eligibility criteria must be made to the relevant Executive Director.
The responsibility for approval of all special needs loadings lies with the district director following endorsement by the team leader.
Before recording on Assist, child protection workers must complete the Submission for Funding Approval for a Child (Special Needs Loading, Special Purpose Funding, Leaving Care Funding) which can be accessed via the ‘Templates’ tab in the child’s ‘360 Degree View’. The application must be submitted to the Coordinator Client Support Services for consideration and endorsement.
The Coordinator, Client Support Services endorses the application. The application is saved as a PDF and sent to the child protection worker. The child protection worker completes the Assist data entry, raising it as a cost type (subsidy) which leads to the special needs subsidy component. Once this is completed and the case plan is endorsed by the team leader, Coordinator Client Support Services and approved by the district director, it is processed by Client Support Services.
Further details can be found in the Assist User Guide – Special Needs Loading.
Special needs loading comprises of two components:
Either or both of these components may be paid according to the child's special needs. If the placement changes, a review must be completed using the above formula.
Part A is not payable in conjunction with a one-to-one subsidy payment, as the subsidy rate already includes a loading to recognise the extra care and skills required of the foster carer.
Where the special need is related to a medical condition, physical disability or intellectual disability, a report from a medical practitioner or a recognised agency (for example, Perth Children's Hospital, Disability Services division, etc.) should accompany the special needs loading application.
For applications related to behavioural special needs, there may not always be a specialist report available. In these cases, consultation must occur with a Child Protection and Family Support division psychologist or funded agency psychologist as part of the assessment process to determine the extra care requirements and strategies to meet these needs.
The specialist should endorse the application. The application should consider what supports/activities will be provided by external agencies, or by funded agencies where appropriate.
The special needs assessment records the child’s management needs, and identifies management strategies to facilitate progress towards reducing the special needs (with timelines) and measurement indicators.
This may not be possible in every situation, but it is especially relevant to loading paid for behavioural special needs. The calculation of Part A of the special needs loading will equate to the number of hours per week that are necessary to provide the extra care required by the special need.
Refer to the resource document Special Needs Loading: Part A Loading for the basic formula rates.
Part B records the regular, ongoing costs resulting from the special care that carers provide to meet the child’s specific and defined needs.
The special needs loading application Part B should contain full details of areas where expenditure is related to the child’s special needs that are not covered by case support costs. Examples might include regular transport costs to medical appointments, or the cost of special dietary requirements above normal food costs covered by the basic subsidy.
The way in which the expenditure will benefit the child and the fortnightly cost must be included in Part B.
Ongoing costs should relate to the defined special needs. These costs will be averaged out and paid fortnightly (for example, if an item costs $30 per month, payment will be $15 per fortnight). This reduces the need for child protection workers to process regular reimbursements to foster carers.
When a child changes placement, the special needs loading automatically ceases. Child protection workers must review the payments and re-apply if these will be required in the new placement by recording the needs and the costs in the case plan and seeking approval.
Child protection workers may refer to the resource document Special Needs Loading: Part B Loading.
Once formal approval has been received, payment of special needs loading will commence from the date of the formal provisional care plan/care plan recommendation. Special needs loading will automatically cease after 12 months.
The commencement and cease date must be included in the application for special needs loading, and child protection workers should ensure that they are aware of cease dates for children on their case loads.
After the application has been checked by the Coordinator, Client Services to ensure that it is in compliance with the policy, it is approved by the district director.
Payment will be initiated by Client Services for inclusion in the fortnightly subsidy payment.
The child protection worker and team leader will be informed of the commencement date and the amount by email.
If the application is not approved, the child protection worker and team leader will be informed by email, giving the reasons for refusal.
It is an audit requirement that Client Services advises the foster carer/agency carer in writing of the amount of loading being paid to recognise the extra care and items the loading is to purchase.
The advice must also specify that if the care needs of the child change, the level of the loading will change accordingly. The foster carer/agency carer must sign the advice to acknowledge that they are aware of the details.
Client Services will mail the advice to the foster carer/agency carer with a request for them to return it to the child protection worker. A copy of the advice will be attached to the e-mailed notification of approval.
Child protection workers must verify that the advice is completed by the foster carer/agency carer and that the case support costs are not used to pay for items covered by the special needs loadings.
It is also an audit requirement that subsidy payments are reviewed quarterly and any changes in circumstances should be recorded on the subsidy review form. The special needs loading should be included in this review.
Approval for special needs loading is for a maximum of 12 months. To continue the loading a new application must be completed and submitted based on the day-to-day care arrangements current at the time.
Client Services will automatically cease the special needs loading after 12 months, unless a new application is received before the cease date. However, the basic subsidy will continue unless Client Services is advised that it should cease through a new case plan.
Child protection workers must review the special needs loading as part of the quarterly subsidy review process.
As the special needs loading automatically expires after 12 months, it must be reviewed before that point and, if necessary, a new application should be forwarded through the case plan in Assist to Client Services before the cease date. As the special needs loading is paid to meet day-to-day care needs and expenditure, timely reviews and applications for continuation will minimise hardship to foster carers and children.
The team leader may approve any downward variation of the special needs loading through the case plan within the 12 month approval period.
Any request for a variation to increase the special needs loading within the 12 month approval period must be accompanied by a new application.
Child Disability Allowance is paid by the Commonwealth Government to the foster carer of a child with disabilities. The allowance is not means tested or considered as part of the recipient's taxable income.
Where foster carers are in receipt of a Child Disability Allowance, eligibility for payment of a special needs loading will not be affected. However, this information should be included in the completion of the special needs loading application.
Refer to the Strategic Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Child Protection and Family Support and Disability Services Commission - SBMOU CPFS and DCS (in related resources).
Some children in the CEO’s care will need a managed response from the foster carer. This may include overseeing medication regimes or infrequent but regular visits to medical appointments.
These will not attract an ongoing special needs loading. Rather, these costs are to be met from case support costs from district budgets or the incidental budget included in the funding of non-government agencies. These costs should be included in the funding requests in the child's case plan.
Special needs loading aims to cover a foster carer’s expenses, not to pay other third party service providers.
Payment to other service providers for medical expenses, day care, professional fees, recreational programs etc should be paid out of case support costs.
A foster carer should not be given the responsibility to pay third parties for services provided to the child. For example, if the child's special needs require the foster carer to provide regular transport for a child to attend specialist medical treatment, the cost of the transport should be included in the special needs loading. However, any fees paid to the medical practitioner would be covered by case support costs from the district budget. The child protection worker should ensure that any case support costs provided to the foster carer do not include payment for costs that are already included in the special needs calculation. For example, if a foster carer had the cost of heavy wear and tear of clothing included in the special needs loading calculation, they should not also be assisted with case support costs for the same purpose.