Financial support to grandparent carers

Parliament house flag post

Financial support to grandparent carers

Posted 24/03/2014 by Luke Buckmaster

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee is currently inquiring into the needs of grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren when parents are unable or unwilling to do so. An important issue raised by many grandparents in this situation is the stark difference between levels of financial support available to those whose caring role is formal and those caring under informal arrangements. There are also substantial differences between jurisdictions.

Grandparents as carers

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, in 2009-10, there were 16,000 grandparent families in which the grandparents were guardians or main carers of resident children aged 0 to 17 years, a number which has decreased since 2003 when there were 23,000 grandparent families.

Grandparents assume fulltime parental care of their grandchildren for a range of (often interrelated) reasons, including mental illness and/or drug addiction of the biological parent(s), child abuse or neglect and family violence. This is part of an international trend towards fulltime parental care of children by biological relatives (kin).

Kinship care can be either formal or informal. Formal arrangements include those where the care of the child is being managed by a State or Territory, welfare authority or with a family law parenting order in place. Informal arrangements are those where family members have come to a private agreement about who cares for the child. In 2012, 47% of children in Australia who were living in formal out of home care were in relative/kinship care arrangements.

Financial assistance to grandparent carers

The type and extent of assistance available to grandparent-headed families can depend on a range of factors including type of care arrangement (informal or formal), characteristics of the placement and family income. It includes both financial and non-financial assistance. Financial support may be accessed from the Australian Government and State and Territory Governments.

Australian Government assistance

Australian Government payments are not dependent on the legal status of the carer: eligibility is based on ongoing day to day care and responsibility for the child. The care may be a formal or informal arrangement.

As such, there is no difference between Australian Government financial assistance available to grandparent carers based on whether the arrangement is formal/informal or based on jurisdiction.

Types of Australian Government financial support available to grandparent carers (such as Family Tax Benefit) can be found at the Department of Human Services website.

State and Territory Government financial assistance

In contrast, State and Territory payments to out of home carers vary considerably within and between jurisdictions. As outlined in the Department of Social Services (DSS) commissioned report, Financial and non-financial support to formal and informal out of home carers:

  • all jurisdictions graduate payments according to the age and needs of the child and have a base rate of allowances, which is supplemented for those who have additional needs
  • types of expenses that are covered by the base allowance and those expenses that are eligible for additional financial support vary between jurisdictions and all jurisdictions support formal carers with extraordinary expenses and
  • most States and Territories do not provide financial support to informal carers.

The table below is based on the most recent available information from State and Territory governments. It shows some significant differences between rates of payment to formal carers across the jurisdictions. For example, the rate available to those caring for children with the highest needs in the highest age band in South Australia is nearly three times that for the similar category in Queensland.

In relation to informal care, it shows that New South Wales is the only jurisdiction in which informal carers receive support (Supported Care Allowance) at equivalent rates of payment to formal carers.

State and Territory carer payments (per fortnight)


Lowest age band/needs

(formal care)

Highest age band/needs

(formal care)

Payments to informal carers







(March 2013)



Eligible carers may receive equivalent rates of payment to formal carers


(July 2013)





(January 2014)





(October 2013)





(July 2011)



Some receive Relatives Care Allowance of $1, 696 per child per year (plus contingencies). However, new applications ceased in 2011







(July 2013)



Grandcarers Support Scheme (GSS) entitles eligible grandparent carers to annual payment of $400 for every first child aged less than 16 years, and $250 for each additional child. Ineligible informal carer receive no state allowances

It is also worth noting that in most cases informal carers are also ineligible for State and Territory government services provided to formal carers.

These gaps in support available to formal and informal carers are particularly striking given that, as the DSS report notes, ‘the day-to-day responsibilities for care, the characteristics of children in care, and the need for services, supervision and information are identical for foster and informal carers’.


  • 29/04/2015 1:53 PM
    Cassie Forrest said:

    I am a working grandparent carer. I pay the full going rate of child care fees; $380 per fortnight for before and after school care. Free child care is only available for pensioner grandparent carers. If I didn't work, I would get free child care. I wouldn't need to send my little girl to Childcare if I wasn't working!!! Would it really break the government's budget to give working grandparent carers the same subsidies as their retired counterparts? Remember, too, that grandparent carers don't get the foster care allowance.

  • 31/03/2014 12:10 PM
    Luke Buckmaster said:

    Hi Martin. My understanding is that they are not. This is most likely because they are regarded as assistance (or reimbursement) for the extra costs associated with looking after children in their care, rather than income. See the explanation of this on page 12 of the report, 'Financial and non-financial support to formal and informal out of home carers' (linked in the post).

  • 25/03/2014 12:35 PM
    Martin Butterfield said:

    Is it safe to assume that these benefits are all means tested?

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Parliament Australian foreign policy elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Australian Public Service income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations industrial relations constitution transport politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour public service reform environment aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health governance regulation food Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme Human rights crime China leadership Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry food labelling Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion paternalism nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top