THE parents of children who live with their grandparents or other family members will be compelled to pay child support in the same way as divorced parents under a new state government initiative.
The Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, will today announce that birth parents will be expected to make a financial contribution to the upbringing of their children who are in long-term out-of-home care with a relative.
Ms Goward says the policy will give much-needed financial assistance to relative carers and allow children to know their parents were making a contribution to their upbringing.
But a grandparents group says some will not want to apply for child support, believing it could worsen rifts within the family.
Ms Goward saidWe are asking no more of relinquishing parents than we are asking of other parents, including those who have been through separation and divorce
Letters will be sent to relative carers in the coming weeks advising them to apply to the federal Child Support Agency, which calculates the payments based on the parents' income.
A parent on the Newstart allowance would pay about $14 a fortnight, while a parent on an income of $45,000 would pay $276 a fortnight.
The agency collects payments on the carers' behalf and can enforce them if necessary.
Birth parents will also receive a letter notifying them of their responsibilities.
But Ms Goward said she believed most grandparents would want to apply.
Paul Bickford, from the Grandparents As Parents Again support group saidGrandparent carers were frequently under financial strain and many would welcome the extra assistance.
I know many others who would not want to apply because of fear of causing greater rifts with their children, some whom he said already ''stood over'' their elderly parents.
It could make life very, very nasty for some grandparents,
Ms Goward said the child support would not lessen the care allowance paid by Community Services.
Ms Goward saidI'd be very surprised if grandparents didn't recognise that this is for their grand children's sake. It isn't a matter for their relationship with their son or daughter, it's about making sure those children get what they can.''
The state government is also in talks with the federal government to change the laws so that birth parents whose children are in foster care with non-relatives can also be compelled to pay child support.
Tristan Reed the Section Manager, Family and Child support Policy Branch, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs saidWe would like to reassure you that no changes have been made to the child support legislation in relation to child support for relative carers of a child.
Under the child support legislation, relative non-parent carers can apply for child support from the child's parents. However, the Australian Government does not compel non-parent carers to apply for a child support assessment.
Family circumstances in these cases can be complex and it may not be in the best interests of the child or the carers to seek child support from the parents. The best interests of the child is the most important consideration in such matters.