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7.2.7 Child care
Child care can be regarded in specific circumstances, as meeting the definition of a household services that may be “required for the proper running and maintenance of the person's household”.
As a general principle, the criteria outlined in section 7.2 Criteria for assessing what is reasonable in this chapter must be considered when determining whether support may be provided to assist the client to care for children. One of these criteria is that the client must have had responsibility for caring for the child/children prior to their accepted service injury or disease. However, in some situations, short-term and time-limited support may be provided to address crisis or unexpected situations, regardless of whether this specific criteria has been met. This approach recognises the impact that a service injury or disease can have on the client's family.
Delegates are expected to utilise a whole-of-person approach which acknowledges that mental health and physical health conditions can have a similar impact on a person's ability to manage household activities. For example, if a client's accepted depressive disorder symptoms have flared, this can make managing caring for children and undertaking other household activities as challenging as an accepted back condition which is causing chronic pain.
Managing unexpected situations
DVA recognises that a lack of child care can create a barrier to a person being able to access treatment, crisis assistance such as hospitalisation, psychiatric or psychological support, urgent and unexpected surgery, brief intervention counselling programs or undertaking illness/injury self-management programs. For this reason, time-limited child care can be provided through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan where this would remove a major blocker to the person being able to access this support.
It is essential that where a client is at risk due to a change in their mental or physical health, a pro-active approach is taken and urgent requests for assistance are considered and approved as quickly as possible. This is particularly important where a client has experienced a flare in their health symptoms, needs to access treatment or medical support and is experiencing difficulties in managing their child care responsibilities. In these cases, Rehabilitation Coordinators are asked to utilise the psychosocial policy guidelines and provide appropriate time limited assistance through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan to ensure that the client is able to access they support they need as quickly as possible. Where a lack of child care is creating barriers to the client accessing unexpected or urgent treatment or medical support, it is not necessary for a Rehabilitation Coordinator to request policy advice before making a decision to approve this support.
The policy guidelines for child care as part of a psychosocial rehabilitation plan can be found in section 6.5.2 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library.
Working with children checks
A Working with Children check is a requirement for people who work or volunteer in child-related work. It involves a national criminal history check and a review of findings of workplace misconduct.
It is mandatory that in all cases where DVA funds child care, that the person providing the care has passed a Working with Children or equivalent check in their relevant state or territory. The responsibility for ensuring that carers have passed with check lies with the DVA client. This is because while DVA is responsible for considering whether child care is reasonably required and approving the level of service, it is the DVA client who is responsible for choosing and "contracting" the service provider and ensuring that they meet all of the necessary requirements to be able to fulfil their contract. More information about this can be found in section 7.3.1 of this library.
In many cases, particularly where a child will be cared for in a child care centre, clients can be confident that the carer's employer will have ensured that the necessary requirements have been met. However, where child care is being provided by a nanny or a family day carer, either in the client's or the provider's home, it is important that clients ensure that they sight the provider's current and valid Working with Children or equivalent state or territory card before any care is provided.
Clients may find the links to state and territory child care information on the mychild.gov.au website useful for finding out more about these checks.
Ongoing assistance cannot be provided
It is not considered reasonable for ongoing child care costs to be met in instances where a client with severe accepted conditions remains at home with a child/children, but is unable to care for them, while the client's partner returns to work. This is because child care costs are considered to be part of the usual costs that a family need to manage when one partner returns to employment.
The only exception to this would be where short term/crisis care was needed because usual child care arrangements were disrupted. An example would be where the client's partner is taken to hospital for emergency medical treatment on a day when he/she would usually be caring for the child/children.
Child care costs are generally regarded as part of the costs associated with undertaking training or employment. Therefore, where a person is undertaking a work trial, studying as part of their rehabilitation program, or has successfully gained employment, they would usually be expected to cover their own child care costs. The exceptions to this would occur where unexpected situations arise, for example, a person has been working part time as part of a work trial and their employer asks them to work an additional day for a limited time. If the person was unable to secure child care for their child for this additional day, and there were no family members who could reasonably be expected to provide assistance, then the household services provisions may be utilised to assist with caring for the child for that specific time only.
Planning for change is an important part of learning to self-manage the impact of a service injury or disease. It is therefore important that the rehabilitation provider discusses potential child care issues with the client at the beginning of the rehabilitation program, and at any other appropriate times during the program. This is particularly important at times of transition, where for example, maternity leave entitlements are coming to an end, and a decision needs to be made about how ongoing child care will be managed, or where the client begins to actively seek employment. Planning ahead will help the client and their partner to put strategies in place to ensure that the client is able to effectively manage their health and wellbeing into the future, or if they are job seeking, so that they can take up employment opportunities that may arise.
At times a flexible approach may be required, for example, where a client secures employment and needs to start immediately. In this situation, depending on the client's living circumstances and support network, it may be reasonable to provide a short period of household services assistance (for example, 2-4 weeks or a similar reasonable period) where a person has no family or friends that could provide child care support, and needs to secure a child care place. It is important that the client understands that ongoing assistance cannot be provided. In this instance, this support could be provided regardless of whether the client was responsible for caring for the child/children prior to their service injury or disease.
It is the role of the DVA delegate and not the rehabilitation provider, or the health professional who undertook the home/activities of daily living assessment, to inform the client of the issues that were considered, and the outcome of their request for household services assistance.
Payment of child care costs
The administration of Child Care Benefits through the Department of Human Services require that all child care costs approved by DVA are to be paid on invoice from the service provider, that is directed to DVA, indicating DVA is the party liable for the costs.