14.1 The Commonwealth has provided family allowances since 1941.[1] The current framework for family assistance comprises a range of payments and is primarily governed by two statutes: A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) and A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth). In this Report, these are referred to as the Family Assistance Act and the Family Assistance (Administration) Act respectively.

14.2 Chapter 13 and, to a lesser extent Chapter 11, examine family assistance laws largely in their interaction with child support laws. This chapter discusses the family assistance framework and the ways that it addresses family violence, focusing on the two primary family assistance payments—Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and Child Care Benefit (CCB).

14.3 The safety of family violence victims who are family assistance applicants or recipients should be improved by the reforms targeted at legal frameworks—primarily family assistance, social security and child support—that are proposed in Chapter 4. The recommended reforms in that chapter regarding identifying family violence-related safety concerns (through screening, ‘risk identification’ and other measures), information provision and referrals address, to a large extent, many of the family violence issues that were raised in this Inquiry.[2]

14.4 This chapter recommends further reforms specifically targeted at family assistance law and policy, particularly in relation to CCB. Family assistance legislation provides for increased CCB in certain circumstances. The recommended reforms seek to improve accessibility to increased CCB in cases of family violence (including child abuse). The ALRC recommends that this be achieved by amending family assistance legislation to lower the eligibility threshold for increased rates of CCB where children are at risk of abuse.

[1] P Whiteford and G Angenent, The Australian System of Social Protection: An Overview (2001), 12.

[2] See, in particular, Australian Law Reform Commission, Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws—Child Support and Family Assistance, Issues Paper 38 (2011).