The Commonwealth Government will end the conscientious objector exemption on children’s vaccination for access to taxpayer funded Child Care Benefits, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement from 1 January 2016.
According to a media release from the PM’s office, “Parents who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to child care without the fear that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness because of the conscientious objections of others.”
From 1 January 2016, ‘conscientious objection’ will be removed as an exemption category for child care payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement.
Immunisation requirements for the payment of FTB Part A end-of-year supplement will also be extended to include children of all ages. Currently, vaccination status is only checked at ages 1, 2 and 5 years.
Existing exemptions on medical or religious grounds will continue, however a religious objection will only be available where the person is affiliated with a religious groups where the governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the Government.
This means that vaccine objectors will not be able to access these government payments.
The new policy will tighten up the rules and reinforce the importance of immunisation and protecting public health, especially for children.
Australia now has childhood vaccination rates over 90 per cent, from one to five years of age, but more needs to be done to ensure we protect our children and our community from preventable diseases.
While vaccination rates in Australia had increased since the Childhood Immunisation Register was established by the Howard Government in 1996, vaccine objection rates for children under the age of seven had also increased steadily, especially under the conscientious objector category.
The vast majority of FTB families meet the current immunisation requirement at relevant age points (around 97 per cent).
However more than 39,000 children aged under seven are not vaccinated because their parents are vaccine objectors. This is an increase of more than 24,000 children over 10 years.
The Government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community and says, “The choice made by families not to immunise their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments.”
For more information on child care assistance and family payments, visit www.humanservices.gov.au