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3.5.1 Case management costs - basic subsidy provisions

Last Modified: 31-Jan-2019 Review Date: 19-Aug-2022

Purpose

This entry explains the payments available to approved Department of Communities (the Department) foster, family and significant other carers (carers), special guardians and adoptive parents and the processes for ensuring that these payments are made.

Practice Requirements
  • Subsidy payments must only be made to approved Department carers to cover the normal, ongoing costs of maintaining a child in their care.
  • A subsidy must be ceased by the child protection worker (CPW) immediately when a child leaves a care arrangement. 
  • If a new care arrangement has occurred that requires a new subsidy, Assist must be updated correctly before 5pm on the Thursday before the Tuesday payday. 
  • When a child in the CEO's care reaches 15 years old they must have their current and future financial entitlements and income from employment discussed and reviewed.
  • Child protection workers must assist the child to claim all state and Commonwealth entitlements and record all payments received by them in Assist.

 

Process Maps

Not applicable

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Subsidies for carers
  • Basic subsidy
  • Short break care
  • How subsidy payments are made
  • Other government allowances for children in the CEO's care and eligible carers
  • Prevention of overpayments
  • Recovery of overpayments
  • Offsetting or writing off overpayments
  • Overview

    The Department provides payments to carers for the care of children in the Chief Executive Officer's (CEO's) care  from a central fund. Payments can include the basic subsidy (which includes pocket money for the child), clothing allowance and the special purpose subsidy. Case support costs paid from district budgets are also available, This  can be for counselling, day care, entertainment, furniture, legal costs, medical and dental treatment, mentoring, recreation and leisure activities, school fees, books, to support contact, travel and tuition. 

    Subsidy payments can also be paid where a child is placed in an urgent placement under s.79(2)(b) of the Children and Community Services Act 2004.

    Community sector organisation carers receive subsidies through the organisation they are engaged by.

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    Subsidies for carers

    Subsidy payments are paid to carers fortnightly in arrears from the first day the child enters the care arrangement until the day the child leaves that arrangement.

    Payment is initiated when placing a child with the approved carer and recording the living arrangements in Assist.  Refer to Chapter 3.5: Procedure for initiating a subsidy payment for further information. .

    Within the overall category of subsidies there are several sub-categories:

    • basic subsidy
    • subsidised adoptions
    • subsidised guardianship (note: this does not refer to a protection order (special guardianship).Refer to chapter 3.3: Protection order (special guardianship) for further information)
    • special needs loading, and
    • special purpose subsidies.

    Different levels of delegation are attached to different types of subsidy payments. The delegated approval levels for subsidies are:

    • commencement of a care arrangement - district director or assistant district director
    • variation of a subsidy payment - team leader
    • cessation of a care arrangement - child protection worker
    • subsidised adoptions - executive director
    • subsidised pre-adoptive foster care – team leader, Adoptions
    • Special Needs Loading - district director
    • Special Purpose Subsidy - executive director, and
    • offsets or write-offs of overpayments - executive director.

    For the current carer subsidy rates, child protection workers should refer to Subsidy Rates and Payments (in related resources).

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    Basic subsidy

    The basic subsidy payment is expected to cover the following:

    • food and accommodation
    • electricity, gas and water
    • local transport (20km return trips)
    • outings and entertainment
    • hair cuts
    • small toys
    • general expenses related to personal hygiene items, basic general medical treatment and pharmaceutical requirements (non-prescriptive), and
    • incidental expenses for education, leisure and hobby activities, which may be reasonably considered to be met by the payment of the standard age related subsidy.

    The rate of subsidy increases when the child in the CEO's care reaches 7 and 12 years of age.  The subsidy is automatically increased through Assist from the first of January in the year the child turns 7 or 12 years.   

    The Coordinator Client Support Services reviews the subsidy rates in May each year against the Consumer Price Index rate contained in the published Budget Estimates (Economic Forecasts) for the following financial year. Any increase is introduced from 1 July of the year in which they are reviewed.  The increase is automatically made through Business Support and Coordination.  Refer to Subsidy Rates and Payments (in related resources).

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    Short break care

    Please refer to Chapter 3.1: Short break care for details.

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    How subsidy payments are made

    Subsidy payments are made fortnightly and the funds are transferred by the Department on alternate Tuesdays by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to the carer's bank account.  

    If a new care arrangement has occurred that requires a new subsidy, Assist must be updated correctly before 5pm on the Thursday before the Tuesday payday.  The Subsidies Processing Unit will endeavour to process all changes updated before a subsidies run, however, it requires several days before the pre-run report generation to process subsidy payments.

    The subsidy payment commences from the date of the care arrangement and ceases on the date the child leaves that arrangement. For further details, refer to the schedules showing the pay and pre-run report dates in the Subsidy Dates documents (in related resources).

    In the event that Assist has not been correctly updated by the cut-off time in order to commence the subsidy, payment will take place on the next pay date and will include any arrears due.

    Refer to Chapter 3.5: Procedure for initiating a subsidy payment for further information.

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    Other government allowances for children in the CEO's care and eligible carers

    Many children in the CEO's care are entitled to assistance from other state and Commonwealth departments.  This is especially relevant to children with disability and those eligible for Youth Allowance (YA). 

    Carers may also be eligible for assistance from the Commonwealth Department of Human Services (DHS), as they are providing for the child.

    The subsidy payment is not affected if a carer is in receipt of one of the following allowances or benefits:

    • Family Tax Benefit
    • Child Care Benefits
    • Parenting Payment
    • Carer Payment
    • Carer Allowance
    • Youth Allowance, and
    • ABSTUDY Allowance.

    The Double Orphan Pension (DOP) does affect a carer's subsidy payment;  it decreases by the amount of DOP they receive.

    All DHS benefits or allowances paid directly to the carer must be recorded on the subsidy review forms.

    When a child in the CEO's care reaches 15 years of age they must have their current and future financial entitlements and income from employment discussed and reviewed. DHS entitlements such as the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and YA typically start at 16 years of age; however, in certain circumstances a child in the CEO's care may be eligible for  payments at 15 years of age. Child protection workers must assist eligible children over 15 years to apply for entitlements and open an appropriate bank account to receive such payments (refer to Chapter 3.4: Leaving the CEO's care for further information). 

    Youth Allowance or Disability Pensions for children in the CEO's care

    A claim for YA or a DSP will affect carers who are in receipt of the Family Tax Benefit, so it is important to talk about this early with the carer and the child before a claim is made. This discussion should occur as part of the preparation phase of leaving care planning, which commences when a child reaches 15 years of age.

    The subsidy will continue to be paid to the carer when an eligible child receives YA or a DSP. However, the clothing allowance and pocket money paid to carers will cease once a child reaches 16 years of age. This is based on the assumption that the child protection worker has assisted the child to apply for a DSP or YA (whichever is applicable).

    If the cessation of clothing allowance disadvantages the child, the child protection worker can prepare a submission to continue the allowance. This is particularly relevant if a child is not eligible to receive ABSTUDY or the DSP. The submission should describe how the child will be disadvantaged, be approved by the district director and forwarded to Client Services for consideration.

    As part of the child's transition from care preparation (which commences at 15 years of age), child protection workers and carers/residential care staff should discuss with the eligible child how some of their YA, ABSTUDY or DSP could be used to buy personal items such as clothing, and pay for other living costs (for example recreation and leisure activities and mobile phone usage).   

    Child protection workers should clarify with the carer that the child's YA, DSP or ABSTUDY payments should not be used to replace an allowance they are no longer eligible to receive.

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    Prevention of overpayments

    If there are time lags in updating the living arrangements screen in Assist with care arrangement changes, overpayments to carers can occur.

    To prevent or limit the amount of overpayments to carers, the following processes must be followed:

    • When a child leaves a care arrangement the child protection worker immediately updates Assist.
    • Where the child protection worker is not available, the carer may contact the Subsidies Processing Unit to inform them of the need to cease the subsidy.

    When the carer contacts the Subsidies Processing Unit directly, an e-mail will be sent to the child protection worker informing them of the notification and the termination of the subsidy payment.

    The responsibility for identifying and calculating an overpayment lies with the Subsidies Processing Unit based on information in Assist. 

    Sometimes an overpayment is discovered by the carer before it is identified by the Subsidies Processing Unit. In these cases, if the carer offers repayment it must be accepted and receipted by the officer who receives the repayment.  The repayment can be made by cash, money order or cheque and a receipt must be issued to the carer and the monies banked the same day by the district administration officer.

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    Recovery of overpayments

     
    Once the level of overpayment has been established, the following courses of recovery action will occur:
    • The Subsidies Processing Unit advises the case manager that an overpayment has occurred and asks for confirmation of details.
    • The policy is to seek repayment at the weekly rate of $100.  Once an invoice has been raised, a letter will be sent to the  carer advising them of their repayment options.
    • Where the carer has other children in their care, the recovery of the overpayment will be deducted from the current subsidy payments unless the carer contacts their case manager to renegotiate.
    • Where a  carer is no longer in receipt of a subsidy, they will be required to repay in full or by instalments of $100 per fortnight.  Payments can be made to local offices by cash, money order or cheque, or directly to Head Office (Financial Services) via EFT. 
    • When a repayment is received, the  carer must be given a receipt and the money banked by the district administration officer on the same day.
    • An overpayment is a legal liability under the Financial Management Act 2006 which the Department is obliged to pursue.  In the event that full recovery does not occur, it is likely that the Department will pursue recovery through the legal system. Before this action the district will be consulted.
    • If there is no chance of recovery and the overpayment is due to negligence, officers can be charged under the Public Sector Management Act 1994 and the Financial Management Act 2006.

     

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    Offsetting or writing off overpayments

    Child protection workers have the capacity to seek to have overpayments either:

    • offset against legitimate costs, or
    • written off.

    In such cases, a formal submission must be submitted through the district director to the Subsidies Processing Unit.  This will be forwarded to the Coordinator Client Support Services and the relevant Executive Director for approval to offset or write-off.

    The submission must describe the circumstances justifying the overpayment being offset or written-off.  Where a child has left a care arrangement and an overpayment has occurred with that carer, it is not possible to offset the costs. 

    Where clothing allowance has been paid to a  carer where the child was not in their care on the date of the payment, the monies will always be sought to be recovered.

    The fact that an overpayment was the Department's error is not considered a justification for write-off.

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