Foster carer support and resources
How to get support, financial allowance and assistance, printable resources and factsheets, and support contact list
Foster care: financial support
Foster carers are volunteers, so they’re not paid a wage. However, there are a number of allowances and payments available to help you ensure a safe and comfortable home for the child in your care, with ample opportunities for learning and personal growth. There are two ways that foster carers can get financial assistance:
- from Family and Community Services (DCJ) or your foster agency
- from the Australian government
1. Financial assistance from DCJ or your agency
Foster carer allowance
Foster carers in NSW receive a fortnightly allowance based on the age of the child. The DCJ Carer allowance 2018-19PDF, 63.47 KB factsheet indicates the allowance rates per fortnight.
The care allowance is provided by the NSW Government to help address the costs of caring for a child. Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and financial institutions don’t count this allowance as income.
A number of other payments and reimbursements are also available for certain children and situations - see the carer allowance PDF, 63.47 KB factsheet for more information.
Communities and Justice (DCJ) carers in receipt of the Parenting Payment or Newstart Allowance are eligible for an exemption from the requirement to seek part-time employment. Scroll down to Mutual Obligations Requirements Exemption below for more information.
The Care Allowance: what’s it for?
The Care Allowance you receive is provided to help you cover the costs of caring for a child or young person. You are expected to use the allowance to cover the day-to-day costs of looking after the child or young person in your care, such as:
- clothing and footwear
- daily travel
- suitable car restraints
- household provisions and costs
- hobbies and activities
- general educational expenses
- general medical expenses
- pocket money
You don’t have to keep receipts to show DCJ how you spent the Care Allowance on everyday items. However, receipts are usually required for out-of-pocket expenses that are part of the child’s Case Plan, for example, the cost of healthcare, childcare and some education services.
Non-government agencies have similar policies. Check with your caseworker for details.
Care Allowances for children and young people who move interstate
Sometimes carers want or need to move interstate and wish to take the child in their care with them to their new home. DCJ will need to approve the move. If you are a carer with a non-government agency, contact the agency and let them deal directly with DCJ. If the child or young person’s parents do not approve the transfer, the case may go to the Children’s Court.
The continuation of the Care Allowance for carers moving interstate depends on whether parental responsibility is held by the carer, the Minister, or is shared between the two. Where the parental responsibility lies with or is shared with the Minister, the Care Allowance will continue until the care order is transferred to the other state.
Sometimes DCJ places children and young people with interstate carers. If you were living interstate or had plans to move interstate at the time the placement was made, then DCJ will pay the Care Allowance until the child in care turns 18 or until the care order is transferred to the other state.
Establishment payments help cover the cost of buying essential items for a child or young person when they first come to live with you, such as school uniforms, bedroom furniture, bed linen, baby capsules, car booster seats, clothing and footwear, nappies and formula and personal items.
There are 3 types of establishment payments:
- establishment crisis payment – $75 may be provided when a child or young person is placed in an emergency placement (this does not include respite arrangements). Any item bought with any type of establishment payment belongs to the child or young person and should go with the child, where practical, if they leave your care. Please keep all the receipts for an approved expense so you can be properly reimbursed.
- establishment short-term payment – up to $350 may be provided to help pay for initial items the child needs that are identified within the first two weeks of a short-term placement of up to six months.
- establishment long-term payment – up to $1,400 may be provided to assist with the cost of items needed by a child or young person in a long-term placement of more than six months.
Establishment payments are not automatic, so talk to your caseworker before you make a purchase. If the purchase is approved, your caseworker will arrange for payment to go directly to the service provider. You will only be reimbursed based on a receipt in exceptional circumstances, such as when it’s not possible to pay a service provider directly.
Any item bought with an establishment payment belongs to the child or young person and should go with them, where practical, if they leave your care.
Extra financial help
Sometimes the child or young person in your care may need services or items that cost more than the Care Allowance covers. You may be able to get help with these expenses through ‘contingency payments’ and ‘exception supports’. This extra financial help can cover the cost of things such as:
- family contact
- ongoing dental services
- optical services
- professional therapy
- additional travel
- establishment costs
- maintaining culture and identity.
Before spending any money that you would like to have reimbursed, talk to your caseworker and get approval. The caseworker should include the expense in the child or young person’s approved case plan. Keep all the receipts for the approved expense so you can be properly reimbursed.
Birthday and Christmas presents
The cost of buying birthday and Christmas presents for the child or young person is included in the Care Allowance. The amount you spend, type of gifts you buy and number of presents you give should be based on what is normally done in your family for children who are close to you.
Teenage education payment
Helping teenagers succeed in education and training can be a challenge for all families. For young people in out-of-home care, these years can be especially tough. To help foster, relative and kinship carers, and guardians keep their children engaged in school or training, DCJ has introduced a new payment to help with the costs of education.
The Teenage Education Payment (TEP) recognises the crucial role carers play in encouraging and supporting the young people in their care, and the importance of education and training in securing a positive future. The TEP is an annual amount of $6,000 paid in instalments of $1,500 at the start of each term to eligible carers to help keep 16 and 17 year-olds in education or training.
The Teenage Education Payment Guidelines contains further information about the purpose of TEP, eligibility criteria and how to apply. You can download the Teenage Education Payment (TEP) application form.
The Teenage Education Payment - questions and answers factsheet also answers some of the more common questions you may have.
Post Care Education Financial Support
Post Care Education Financial Support is a non-means tested fortnightly payment to carers who continue to provide a home and support to young people aged 18 to 24 while they complete their HSC.
Eligibility for this payment does not influence eligibility for continuation of the Teenage Education Payment (TEP) which is assessed separately using the Teenage Education Payment Guidelines.
Find out more information and how to apply.
Financial support for families who adopt
Carers often see adoption as a way of making a lifelong emotional and practical commitment to a child. New adoptive parents may be eligible for financial support including the Out-Of-Home Care (OOHC) Adoption Annual Payment and the Adoption Transition Support Payment.
2. Financial assistance from the Australian government
Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for support from the Department of Human Services which deliver a range of Australian Government benefits and concessions to the general community.
The main ones that may be available to you as a carer of a child in out-of-home care are summarised in this section. For information about the full range of Australian Government help available, including payment rates and eligibility criteria. Check the Human Services website’s Carers section and Indigenous Australians section for more information.
Here is a list of what a foster carer and the child in care could be eligible for:
ABSTUDY assistance is for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kids who are secondary school students aged 15 or under on 1 January in the year of study, or who are primary school students aged 14 or older on 1 January in the year of study. ABSTUDY helps cover the cost of study and living expenses, as well as travel to and from the place of study each term or semester if the place of study is far from home.
The Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) scheme
AIC payments help families of students who cannot go to a state school because of geographical isolation, disability or special health or educational needs. They may be undertaking distance education from home, having approved home schooling, or living away from home to attend school. Speak to your caseworker for more information if you think an AIC payment could be of benefit to your child.
The Carer Allowance is the existing income supplement for people who provide additional daily care and attention to a child with a disability or medical condition. This is different from the statutory or supported Care Allowance that you receive as a foster carer to cover the costs of caring for a child or young person. It is not means tested and can be paid in addition to wages or other income support payments such as a Carer Payment or Age Pension. The Carer Allowance is provided as either a fortnightly payment and a Health Care Card for the child, or a Health Care Card alone. Which of these you receive depends on the care needs of the child or young person.
The disability or condition must be recognised in the Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination 2010 (DCLA Determination). It can apply if you are:
- providing additional daily care for a child under 16, with a disability or medical condition
- providing additional daily care for two dependent children with disabilities or medical conditions, who do not individually qualify for Carer Allowance, but together create a substantial caring responsibility.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may change the arrangements for payments made to those who care for children and young people with disabilities. Speak to your caseworker for more information.
The Carer Payment provides income support to people who are unable to support themselves through paid employment because they are providing constant care to someone with a severe disability or medical condition. The Carer Payment is means tested.
This is different from the statutory or supported Care Allowance that you receive as a foster carer to cover the costs of caring for a child or young person.
The disability or condition must be recognised in the Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination 2010 (DCLA Determination). It can apply if you are:
- providing constant care for a child under 16, with a severe disability or medical condition.
- providing constant care for two to four children under 16 with disabilities or medical conditions, whose combined care needs are equal to that of a single child under 15 with a severe disability or medical condition.
Child Care Subsidy
The Child Care Subsidy assists families with the cost of approved or registered childcare. The Child Care Subsidy that commenced on 2 July 2018:
- replaced the Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) with a single, means-tested subsidy
- is generally paid directly to the child care providers to be passed on to families
- is simpler than the previous multi-payment system
- is better targeted and provides more assistance to low and middle income families.
Approved childcare can include long day care, family day care, outside-school-hours care, vacation care, in-home care and some occasional care services. To find an approved childcare centre near you go to the myChild website or call the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305 (or 1800 810 586 for TTY service for the hearing or speech impaired).
Registered childcare can include care provided by grandparents, relatives, friends or nannies who are registered as carers with Centrelink. In some cases, it can also include care provided by individuals in private preschools, kindergartens and outside-school-hours services, including before and after-school care, vacation care and holiday programs. Payments for registered care are made as a lump sum payment only. You need to provide all original receipts for the period you are claiming, and you must submit your claim within a year of the care being provided.
To be eligible, the child in your care must be immunised, on an immunisation catch-up schedule, or exempt from immunisation for medical reasons. If you are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy, it will be paid directly to your childcare service. If childcare is not part of your child’s approved Case Plan, then you will have to cover the remainder of the fee, or the ‘gap’, yourself. However, if it is part of the approved Case Plan, DCJ or your agency may cover the ‘gap’.
Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS)
The Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) is a payment on top of the Child Care Subsidy that provides targeted fee assistance to families and children facing barriers to accessing affordable child care.
ACCS (child wellbeing)
The vast majority of carers with children under care arrangements in NSW will be eligible to receive an additional payment through the ACCS (child wellbeing). In most cases the full cost of child care will be covered.Whether or not there will be a gap depends on how much the provider charges.
Eligible families will receive a subsidy equal to the actual fee charged, up to 120% of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, for up to 100 hours per fortnight. The family will not have to meet activity test requirements.
Your child care providers will apply for the ACCS (child wellbeing) on your behalf. In order to do this, they should be made aware of your child's care arrangements. You will need to liaise with your caseworker to ensure your provider receives the necessary document to assist with the application or provide it yourself directly. This may include a letter from your agency, your child's case plan or a court order.
Carers receiving the ACCS (child wellbeing) for a child in their care will have it paid directly to the approved childcare service. If childcare is not part of your child’s approved Case Plan, then you will have to cover the remainder of the fee, or the ‘gap’, yourself. However, if it is part of the approved Case Plan, DCJ or your agency may cover the ‘gap’.
The ACCS (grandparent) will provide up to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight for grandparents who:
- receive income support
- are the principal carer with 65% or greater carer responsibilities
- have substantial autonomy for the day-to-day decisions about the child's care, welfare and development
Eligible families will receive a subsidy equal to the actual fee charged, up to 120% of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, for up to 100 hours per fortnight. These grandparents will not have to meet activity test requirements.
ACCS (temporary financial hardship)
The ACCS (temporary financial hardship) will provide short-term increased child care fee assistance to families who are experiencing significant financial stress due to exceptional circumstances, to ensure continuity of care.
Eligible families will receive a subsidy equal to the actual fee charged, up to 120% of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, for up to 100 hours per fortnight. The family will not have to meet activity test requirements. This support will be provided for a maximum of 13 weeks per event.
ACCS (transition to work)
The ACCS (transition to work) will provide support to families who are transitioning to work from income support by engaging in work, study or training activities.
To be eligible for Transition to Work, families need to:
- receive one of the following payments:
- Parenting Payment
- Newstart Allowance
- Disability Support Pension
- Youth Allowance
- a payment prescribed by the Minister's rules.
- have a Job Plan in effect (employment pathway plan within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1991(Cth), or a participation plan under section 94B of the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth).
Transition to Work provides a subsidy of 95% of the actual fee charged up to 95% of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap. Hours of assistance will be determined by the Child Care Subsidy activity test. Individuals may continue to receive the subsidy for 12 weeks after they gain employment and their income support payments cease.
Keeping on top of payments and entitlements can be hard for some grandparents. In NSW, Grandparent Advisers support grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren. They offer tailored information about payments and support services, arrange appointments with specialist staff such as social workers, and help provide access to government services including Centrelink and Medicare. They can also arrange referrals to other federal, state and community service providers who can help. Call the Grandparent Adviser Line on 1800 245 965 (or 1800 810 586 for TTY service for the hearing or speech impaired).
Family Tax Benefit
The Family Tax Benefit is an income-tested payment that helps with the cost of raising children. It is made up of two parts: Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B.
- Family Tax Benefit Part A is paid per child. The amount you get depends on your family’s circumstances.
- Family Tax Benefit Part B is paid per family. This payment gives extra help to families and single parents with one main income.
Newborn Upfront Payment
If a child under the age of one comes into your care and you are eligible for a Family Tax Benefit Part A payment, then you may also be eligible for a Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement.
- If you receive Family Tax Benefit Part A as a lump sum, both the Newborn Upfront Payment and the Newborn Supplement will be included in that lump sum.
- If you receive Family Tax Benefit Part A fortnightly, you will receive the Newborn Upfront Payment as a lump sum and the Newborn Supplement in your regular Family Tax Benefit Part A payments for 13 weeks from the date you become eligible.
Paid Parental Leave
The Paid Parental Leave scheme can support you if you’re a primary carer taking time off work to care for a newborn or recently adopted child. If eligible, you could get up to 18 weeks Parental Leave Pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage. Parental Leave Pay is taxable and may be paid by the government or by your employer, depending on your circumstances.
The Parenting Payment is income support for parents and carers to help cover the costs of raising small children. It is paid to the primary carer. The amount of Parenting Payment you get depends on your family situation. You may qualify for the parenting payment if:
- you are single and care for at least one child aged under eight years
- you have a partner and care for at least one child aged under six years
- income and assets for you and your partner (if you have one) are below a certain amount
- you meet residence requirements.
Mutual Obligations Requirements Exemption
You may be exempt from your Mutual Obligation Requirements for up to 12 months at a time if you are caring for a child as a family or community member, but not a parent, under a:
- Family Law Parenting Order, or
- formal state or territory Protection Case Plan or Care Plan
You may be exempt for up to 16 weeks at a time if you are looking after a child under an informal arrangement that has the support of state or territory authorities. You will need to provide us with proof of your care arrangements. Examples include the original or certified copies of the Order or Plan, and evidence of your relationship to the child.
Health Care Card
A Health Care Card provides help with the cost of prescription medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), Australian government funded medical services, and access to state, territory and local government concessions. Having a Health Care Card will give you concessions on healthcare costs. This means you can get cheaper prescription medicines through the PBS and medical services funded by the Australian Government.
This card can also give you access to concessions provided by state and local governments as well as some private businesses, including household, education, and public transport costs. If you are receiving certain Centrelink payments or supplements or the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit (Part A), you will automatically receive a Health Care Card. Partners and children may also be covered by the card. Not all card types get the same concessions, and the concessions available to cardholders may be different between states and territories.
Foster Child Health Care Card
A Foster Child Health Care Card can be claimed by a person caring for a foster child, to give them access to concessions through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and medical services funded by the Australian Government. The foster care arrangement can either be an informal agreement (for example, where family members have come to a private arrangement about who cares for the child such as a grandparent, a sibling who is an adult, or another relative), or formal care (for example, where the care of the child is being managed by a state welfare authority).
The Foster Child Health Care Card is issued in the child’s name and sent out every six months depending on the foster care arrangement. Foster carers are required to tell us of any change in circumstances that may affect the foster child’s eligibility. This card is not means tested. The Foster Child Health Care Card can be claimed when you claim Family Tax Benefit for your foster child, or online if you are registered for Centrelink Online Services. Go to humanservices.gov.au/onlineservices for more details on how to register for this service.
More information about financial support is available from Caring for kids: A guide for foster relative and kinship carers which is also available in website form.
The following contacts may also be helpful: