The government is putting up changes to reduce the amount which new applicants for Carer’s Allowance can claim in back payments. I wrote about them in this entry. Some of the comments to that post also contain extra information.
The legislation goes by the title of the Family Assistance, Social Security and Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2005 Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2006. The Committee report into the legislation was tabled last Friday. The report, along with submissions and transcript of evidence, can be accessed through the Committee’s website by clicking here.
Whilst there are other measures contained in the Bill, the Carer’s Allowance change is the only major or contentious one. The government Senators on the Committee have come up with a recommendation that the legislation be amended to allow a discretion for the backdating of Carer’s Allowance for a period in excess of 12 weeks where:
(a) it would have been unreasonable in all the circumstances for a claimant to have made an earlier claim for the Carer’s Allowance, and
(b) a failure to backdate would occasion significant financial hardship.
Whilst this is welcome as far as it goes, I really don’t think it goes far enough. Many carers struggle enough as it is, and when we have a multi-billion dollar surplus I can’t see how a measure that reduces the amount of initial payment for thousands of carers can be justified.
NOTE: The legislation passed around 6:45pm on Thursday evening. The provision regarding Carer’s Allowance was passed unchanged, with no Coalition Senator even supporting any amendment that reflected the recommendation put forward by Government Senators on the Senate Committee.