For the love and the money

By Brooke Logan, Advice Technical Consultant, UniSuper Advice

Family members—especially grandparents—often play a big role in caring for the children of busy parents. But some may not be aware that their role as a carer might make them eligible for Centrelink benefits.

People who care for children, including relatives, friends or neighbours, can apply to be ‘registered carers’, and receive Centrelink payments in addition to any payments made by parents or guardians.

The current registered care rate for a non-school aged child for up to 50 hours of care per week is $0.719 per child per hour, or $35.95 per child per week. Payment rates for school aged children are 85% of the non-school aged rate.

To become a registered carer, you must:

  • provide care to one or more children on a regular basis, and
  • be aged 18 or over, or 
  • be aged under 18 and have relevant qualifications in child care, home-based help, or as a nanny.

Application processes differ between states and territories—visit the Australian Children's Education and Care Authority to find your local authority. Most require criminal checks, a Working with Children Check (WWCC), or in some cases, a ‘Blue card’ (effectively a WWCC ‘licence’).

Once you’re a registered carer, you can apply to the Department of Human Services (DHS) by completing a Registered Carer Application form.

Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part B, commonly paid to parents or guardians, can also be paid to eligible grandparents and great grandparents (biological, adoptive or step relationships to the child) who care for a child at least 35% of the time. You’ll find the payment rates in the table below.

Payment rates - Family Tax Benefit Part B*
Age of youngest child Max. rate per fortnight Max. rate per year
 0-5  $155.54 $4,412.65
 5-18  $108.64  $3,190.10
Source: Department of Human Services

To receive this benefit, the children must:

  • be aged 16 or younger, or
  • be a full-time secondary student up until the end of the calendar year in which they turn 18.

Home schooling children aged 16-19 is not included as part of the FTB requirements.

FTB Part B is means-tested. Generally, grandparents or great-grandparents are ineligible if an individual or member of the couple’s income exceeds $100,000 per year. For couples with one partner earning $100,000 or less, the second partner must earn less than $27,613 when caring for at least one child under five years old, and $21,499 for 5-18 year-old children.4 Speak to the DHS to check your eligibility.

The DHS’s Grandparent Advisers service provides information on the benefits available to eligible grandparents. To find out more, call 1800 245 965.