Super push for SA foster carers

The state’s Child Protection Minister wants a federal law change to let foster and kinship carers receive superannuation payments, with reports some are dipping into retirement savings to look after children in care.

Mar 27, 2023, updated Mar 27, 2023
Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Minister Katrine Hildyard. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Minister Katrine Hildyard. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Minister Katrine Hildyard told InDaily that she had spoken about the need for foster and kinship carers to receive superannuation payments at a national meeting of state and territory child protection ministers last month.

She said her interstate colleagues had expressed “openness” towards the idea, but ultimately it would be up to the federal government to amend the Superannuation Act to ensure the change could be made.

“It’s something that we should discuss at the national level,” Hildyard said.

“I do think we need to review and consider the remuneration that carers receive in whichever form that comes.”

South Australian foster and kinship carers currently receive fortnightly payments to help cover the costs of caring for children in state care.

Fortnightly base rates range from $417.20 for newborn babies to children aged up to four, to $792.20 for young people aged between 18 and 21, with loadings added for children who have special needs.

A state government-commissioned report into foster and kinship care in South Australia by child protection expert Dr Fiona Arney, handed down in November, recommended that the state government also pay foster and kinship carers superannuation.

Arney argued that the costs of caring for children in care could be “significant” and were “likely being underestimated significantly”.

“Many carers who are paying these out-of-pocket costs are already financially disadvantaged due to reducing their work fraction, and they shouldn’t be out of pocket for a voluntary role,” Arney wrote.

“The impacts of reduced superannuation contributions on carers are significant in retirement.”

Fiona Endacott, who heads South Australia’s peak carer advocacy group Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA (CFKCSA), told InDaily that many carers reduce their working hours or turn down higher-pressure roles to look after children in care.

She said carers had told her that they also dip into their superannuation to modify their homes or purchase larger cars to accommodate children in care.

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“That’s distressing and worrying,” she said.

“They (the state government) are asking family-based carers to open their homes and carers are doing this quite willingly at the expense of their financial safety and security later in life.

“When carers do find themselves in the position of retirement and needing to draw upon superannuation, they are effectively being penalised for providing care to children and young people.”

Endacott said CFKCSA had been calling for foster and kinship carer superannuation payments since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but state and federal governments had repeatedly hand-balled responsibility.

“In the past, when we’ve raised it at a state level it’s been defaulted to a federal level and when it’s raised at a federal level, it’s been defaulted to a ‘this is a state jurisdiction and child protection is a state issue’,” she said.

“It’s this hot potato that just keeps getting pushed back and forth, but at the centre of it is carers and their children and young people.”

Hildyard said while the state government supported Arney’s recommendation, it didn’t have the “levers” to change the Superannuation Act as that was a federal law.

“Superannuation legislation is a federal instrument, so it’s not something that we can completely have an impact on,” she said.

“However, I certainly raised it at a national level.”

It comes after the state government last week tabled a report in parliament summarising the findings of a state-wide consultation on child protection legislation.

More than 900 South Australians made contributions, with a draft Bill likely to be released in May.

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