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Greens question 'voluntary' health checks as parents face payment cuts

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 12 May 2011

The Australian Greens says the government needs to get its message straight on child health checks, with families facing the prospect of losing over $700 a child from family tax benefit supplements unless their children attend so-called 'voluntary' health checks.

"Part of the new mental health budget measures includes funding for 3 year old child health checks which the Minister for Mental Health last night claimed were not compulsory," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens health spokesperson said today.

"However, the Government has legislation before the Senate that seeks to make payment of the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement conditional on children undergoing the pre-school health assessment at aged four. It is unclear whether these 4 year old health checks would be moved back one year as part of the mental health program or whether they are separate.

"The Minister has described the checks as voluntary, but the legislation before the Senate ties them to the FTB.

"Such a condition effectively makes the health checks compulsory for families receiving income support payments, so to describe them as voluntary sends the wrong message to parents.

"The supplement for FTB A is currently worth up to $726.35 per child. For many families this money is essential and losing it is not an option.

"The Australian Greens support the provision of health and mental health services to families with children, but these should be provided fairly," concluded Senator Siewert.

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