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Superannuation a must for SA’s foster and kinship carers

Providing government-funded superannuation for foster and kinship carers remains a political hot potato, writes Fiona Endacott, but it is the best way to ensure the financial security of dedicated carers and the future of many kids.

Mar 12, 2024, updated Mar 12, 2024
Nearly 80 per cent of South Australian family-based carers say they have reduced their work commitments to provide the level of care their child needed.

Nearly 80 per cent of South Australian family-based carers say they have reduced their work commitments to provide the level of care their child needed.

Financial insecurity is taking its toll on South Australian foster and kinship carers, with more giving up their roles faster than those taking them up.

Governments save millions of dollars each year by relying on the voluntary services of foster and kinship carers.

All the while, family-based carers are opening their hearts, homes and their wallets to some of the state’s most vulnerable children and young people.

The context for providing this care has dramatically changed since the model was initially introduced in South Australia.

Data indicates most carers are still female and more of them are now working and they are almost always reducing their working hours or moving to lower-paying but more flexible jobs so they can provide the level of care needed.

While the state and federal governments provide payments, allowances and reimbursements to support with care, we regularly hear from carers who are forced to use their superannuation, or funds they initially planned to contribute to their super, to pay for services, activities and daily living needs for the children or young people in their care.

Nearly 80 per cent of South Australian family-based carers say they have reduced their work commitments to provide the level of care that their foster/kinship child or young person needs. As a result, 66 per cent are now concerned about how much superannuation they’ll have in the future.

Carers are dedicated, benevolent and compassionate – they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their long-term financial security for the invaluable service they provide to our community.

Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers SA urges the state government to address this issue, and we reiterate Dr Fiona Arney’s recommendation in her independent inquiry to establish a scheme that enables carers to receive superannuation payments funded by the South Australian government.

This concept has been part of state and federal public policy debate for more than a decade and despite Dr Arney’s recommendation, nothing has changed.

Providing government-funded superannuation for foster and kinship carers remains a political hot potato.

The state government says superannuation is federal law while the federal government’s default position has been “child protection is a state issue”.

For every $8 the state government spends on children under guardianship in residential care, just $1 goes to home-based care.

In 2022-23, the annual cost to care for a child in the government’s care was more than $560,000.

For the past 10 years, each residential care placement has cost the state government at least $350,000 more than a home-based alternative.

With just a fraction of that additional funding, we can better support and retain our existing foster carers.

If we diverted 70 of the children and young people currently in residential care – just 10 per percent of the total number – into home-based care, the savings could fund a $5,000 annual superannuation payment to every active foster and kinship carer in this state.

By contrast, residential care workers earn an income and the accompanying 11 per cent Superannuation Guarantee, for the important role they play.

Superannuation for fosters and kinship carers is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must.

South Australian foster and kinship carers need reassurance that their long-term financial security is safe, so that we can help stem the flow of carers leaving their caring roles.

Fiona Endacott is the Chief Executive Officer of Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers SA

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