Child Dental Benefits Scheme – could it be removed?

 In Budgeting, Families

If the Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the opposition, is correct in a little over a month, the Child Dental Benefits Scheme could be removed. If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 17 and have received certain government benefits during financial year, such as parenting payment or family tax benefit part A, this could impact you. So what is the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, when might it be changed and what can you do now?

Background

The Child Dental Benefits Scheme began in January 2014, it provides eligible families with a payment to cover basic dental care. It was introduced in recognition that families on lower incomes often struggle with the high cost of dental care and the medical knowledge that good dental health and early intervention are best for children’s long term health and the well-being of the community at large.

Eligibility for the Child Dental Benefits Scheme

To be eligible a child has to be between the ages of 2 and 17 on any day in the calendar year and they or their family be in receipt of certain government payments for at least part of the calendar year. Payments that trigger eligibility include Family Tax Benefit Part A and parenting payment. Typically families will be notified of their eligibility for the scheme within a month or two of registering for the relevant payment, though if you haven’t been notified and you think you are eligible it would be worth contacting Centrelink directly. For full eligibility details visit DHS Child Dental Benefit Scheme.

What is covered in the Child Dental Benefits Scheme?

The benefit that is payable is capped at $1,000 per child over two consecutive calendar years. If you don’t use all of your benefit in the first year you can carry forward any remaining money into the second year, provided you are still eligible. Benefits can cover procedures such as examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fissure sealing, root canals and extractions.

It is important that you discuss your eligibility with your dentist prior to getting a procedure done so that the relevant costs can be explained and the paperwork completed to make you eligible to claim.

So what might change?

If the Federal Opposition is correct, the government may be looking to abolish the scheme entirely, citing low utilisation rates, though very little has been done to widely publicise the scheme so it’s not that surprising. While the government may chose to keep it, wind it back or change it on some future date, if history is anything to go by chances are they may cancel it from budget night, 3 May 2016. It’s not uncommon for the Treasurer to announce that from that moment on, no claims can be made on the scheme, no warning required.

Don’t want to miss out?

If you are currently eligible for the scheme and your child is in need of dental work, then it would be prudent to see if you can get their examinations done now rather than later. Getting the services provided, and ideally your claim lodged prior the budget night puts you in the best position. With a scheme as useful as this one and the mood from the Government fairly grim, I doubt things would be better on the 4th of May than they are now.

If you can’t get booked in prior to the 3rd of May then keep an eye on the budget commentary in case they provide a window of opportunity.

What else can you do?

Well it is election time and all of the parties are getting nervous about votes, so I would encourage you to speak to your local member and the other potential candidates about it if they come knocking on your door or stop you at the shopping mall. When it comes to public policy there are as few schemes as positive as this one. Children from lower income families are getting health care that they need, preventing long term medical complications and government is preventing costly medical complications down the track. And if they tell you that it wasn’t very well used, you can let them know that a few Facebook ads would have solved that problem in a flash.

 

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