The Coalition Government's No Jab No Pay policy is encouraging parents to do the right thing for their children and public health, with a sharp rise in the number of children being immunised against preventable diseases.
This is great news for Australian children and our community.
The spread of many dangerous diseases can be prevented, and we must do all we reasonably can to protect all children. The benefits for the broader community from high rates of immunisation are vital.
The Commonwealth Government is aiming to increase this number to at least 95 per cent to ensure Australia has heard immunity for diseases like measles, whooping cough and chicken pox.
Babies under six months are at the greatest risk of severe whooping cough disease and death. High vaccination rates help to protect our most vulnerable, including young babies and those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Parents who fail to fully immunise their child according to the National Immunisation Program, are putting their child and the community at risk of infectious diseases.
Scientific research confirms immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.
The No Jab No Pay policy reflects this fact, and is designed to lift the national immunisation rates by providing a stronger financial incentive for parents to immunise children.
At the end of 2014, there were 39,523 Australian children registered as conscientious objectors. Twelve months later, that figure had dropped to 30,092.
Following the announcement of the No Jab No Pay policy, the percentage of 12 to 15 month year old fully-immunised children rose from 90.69 per cent in 2014 to 92.28 per cent by the end of 2015.
Families currently receiving Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate have just over a week left to get their child’s immunisations on track by 18 March 2016 to avoid missing out on child care payments.
The overwhelming number of Australian families who have immunised their children before the March 18 deadline has put pressure on state and territories processing these records and this has caused slight delays. Some jurisdictions need extra time to add all the records into the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register.
This is a positive challenge to have.
To protect families who have done the right thing and because the delay in records is beyond the control of parents, the Department of Human Services will continue to pay Child Care Benefit beyond that date until the immunisation register is up to date.
While some jurisdictions have excellent immunisation rates, others are disturbingly low. The south coast of Tasmania has a vaccination rate of just 73 per cent and Fremantle has a vaccination rate of 78 per cent. This is a terrible outcome for the children of those areas.
Under the Commonwealth Government’s No Jab, No Pay laws, which began on 1 January 2016, children must be up to date with their vaccinations, have a valid medical exemption or be on a catch-up schedule for parents to keep receiving Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate and the FTB Part A supplement.
Parents whose children do not meet the requirements by the end of their grace period will start incurring a debt for any child care payments they receive from that date, which they’ll have to repay.
Parents who do not intend on vaccinating their child can ask the Department of Human Services to stop their child care subsidies straight away, to avoid incurring a debt.
Now is the time for parents to get their child fully immunised. It is the right thing to do for their child and the right thing to do for their community.
We know the devastating consequences vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough can have.
As part of the full immunisation package, the Government committed a further $26 million for incentive payments to GPs and other immunisation providers to help children in their practice overdue for vaccinations. The Government’s approach has included: improving public vaccination records and reminder systems and greater public awareness of the benefits of vaccinations.
While parents have the right to decide not to vaccinate their children, taxpayers should not have to endorse a choice that compromises public health.
Parents whose children are not vaccinated, or do not have a valid medical exemption or are not on a catch-up schedule by 18 March 2016, will start incurring a debt for those child care payments and they will have to repay that debt. Parents should check the letter they received from the Department of Human Services to confirm when their grace period will end.
The No Jab, No Pay policy also applies to the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A supplement, but the delay will not affect the FTB Part A supplement, as it is paid after 30 June.
For more information about the changes to immunisation requirements, go to www.humanservices.gov.au/immunisation