New immunisation requirements affect entitlement to benefits and access to child care

BOSS

Take-home points

  • From 1 January 2016, the new “no-jab-no-pay” policy will mean that parents who do not immunise their children (and keep immunisations up to date) will not be eligible to receive certain Commonwealth government benefits including the Family Tax Benefit part A Supplement, Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit.
  • In Queensland, from 1 January 2016 approved early childhood education and care services (such as long day care, kindergarten, and family day care) may legally refuse to enroll or exclude from attendance children who are unimmunised (or those with immunisation histories which are not up to date).
  • An immunisation history may be obtained from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register or a recognised immunisation provider (such as a GP or immunisation nurse). A personal health record (“red book”) from Queensland Health will not be accepted as proof of immunisation in Queensland for early childhood education and child care services.
  • Centrelink will provide notices to parents from 1 January 2016 which they can take to their general practitioner or vaccination provider so they can access free vaccinations. Parents are urged to speak with their local medical practitioner about options for free catch-up vaccinations if their child is not up to date with their vaccinations. More information is also available at the Commonwealth Department of Health website here.

No-Jab-No-Pay legislation

In November 2015, the Federal Government introduced the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2015 which will mean that parents of children who are not immunised may not be eligible for certain child care subsidies and tax benefits from the government.

The amendments, which take effect from 1 January 2016, mean that in order for parents to be eligible to obtain the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement, and Child Care Benefit, they will need to ensure that their children are up to date with their immunisations according to the early childhood vaccination schedule appropriate for their child’s age, or have a medical exemption (i.e. have a medical reason why they cannot be immunised) from a GP by obtaining a signed exemption form. The immunisation requirements apply to all children and young individuals until the end of the calendar year they turn 19 years old.

What this means is that parents who do not vaccinate their child without a medical exemption (or “conscientious objectors”) will have their entitlement to the Family Tax Benefit Part A reduced or adjusted accordingly.

Generally, in determining the amount to be paid for the Family Tax Benefit Part A to a taxpayer, the ATO will undertake a check of the immunisation register when a tax return is lodged against Medicare records. The ATO will not pay the Part A supplement if the immunisation requirements are not met and will notify tax payers that they have 1 year from the end of the financial year to meet the requirements in order to be paid the supplement.

After the end of the financial year when your family assistance payments are balanced, we will check with the Immunisation Register to see whether your child is up to date with their immunisations. This happens after you lodge your tax return and your income details are confirmed by the Australian Taxation Office, or you tell us that you don’t need to lodge one.

Similarly, If tax payers claim or intend to claim a Child Care Benefit, they need to ensure that their child’s immunisation is up to date. The government will check the child’s Medicare number at the time a claim is made to ensure the immunisation requirements are met on the register.

If a child isn’t up to date with their immunisations for Child Care Benefit, it will also affect the person’s eligibility for the Child Care Rebate, Grandparent Child Care Benefit, Special Child Care Benefit and Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance.

Changes to child care and early childhood education services in Queensland

In tandem with the Commonwealth Government’s “no-jab-no-pay” initiative, the Queensland Government passed the Public Health (Childcare Vaccinations) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 which amended the Public Health Act 2005 which take effect from 1 January 2016.

The amendments to the Public Health Act 2005 mean that early childhood education and care services (ECEC services) approved under the Education and Care Services National Law (Queensland) Act 2011 will be legally entitled to choose to refuse enrolment or attendance of children whose immunisation status is not up to date.

ECEC services include long day care, kindergarten, family day care, and outside school hours care/vacation care. The discretion to exclude or refuse enrollment does not apply to unregulated services such as nannies, babysitters or playgroups.

The discretion to exclude children who are not up to date with their immunisation applies to all children except those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or who are on a recognised vaccination catch-up schedule.

Children who are not vaccinated on the basis that there is a “conscientious objection” will be recorded as not having up to date immunisations and may be excluded from enrollment or attendance at the discretion of the ECEC service.

We strongly recommend parents to contact their local health professional to discuss whether or not your child needs to be immunised to ensure you are not missing out on any entitlements or opportunities for your child.

Centrelink will provide notices to parents from 1 January 2016 which they can take to their general practitioner or vaccination provider so they can access free vaccinations. Immunisation histories are available from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register or a recognised immunisation provider (such as a GP or immunisation nurse).

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