Rural and Remote
Education Inquiry Briefing Paper
Assistance for Isolated Children
Summarised from Centrelink's
Assistance for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book and Centrelink's
of Centrelink's Assistance for Isolated Children 1999 Information
and evidence received
Families of primary,
secondary and under 16 year old tertiary students who do not have reasonable
daily access to an appropriate government school primarily because of
geographic isolation can receive assistance under the AIC scheme.
AIC provides four
types of allowances
- Distance Education
Allowance (primary and secondary rates)
- Second Home Allowance
- Boarding Allowance
(basic and additional)
- AIC Pensioner
Education Supplement (for eligible pensioner students).
The AIC Scheme does
not provide assistance for students who live at home and travel to school
daily, or for travel costs between the family home and a boarding institution.
AIC cannot be paid
for a student at the same time as benefits from another Commonwealth education
or training assistance scheme, such as Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY.
from other sources, such as state or territory governments, does not affect
No AIC allowances
is eligible for AIC?
AIC is paid to a
student's parent or guardian. The student must be under 19 years of age
at 1 January the year in question. Benefits may be paid for an extra year
in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that the student's educational
progress has been seriously disrupted, for example because of illness
or language difficulties.
AIC is available
for tertiary students (including TAFE students) under 16. Students 16
and over may apply for Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY.
A student who is
receiving a Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment (single) and
studying at primary level, may be eligible for the AIC Pensioner Education
Supplement (PES) up to age 21.
studies - The student must undertake a full-time workload in an
approved course in Australia offered by an approved institution, either
- primary, secondary
or ungraded (eg living skills) studies or
- be under 16 and
undertaking tertiary studies (including TAFE). Such students must be
geographically isolated from secondary schooling in their grade or year
as well as isolated from the tertiary course they are attending.
AIC cannot be paid
for a student who is in a custodial institution (such as prison, detention,
remand or training centre) or State authorised care which is financed
wholly or substantially by the State or Territory government.
isolation - Geographic isolation is normally determined in terms
of the distance or travel circumstances between the principal family home
and the nearest appropriate school. In addition, there are a few specific
circumstances where a student may be deemed isolated. (For details refer
to the Centrelink Assistance for Isolated Children 1999 Information
Book, page 8.)
The 'nearest appropriate
government school' is normally the nearest government school offering
tuition at the grade or year in which the student is qualified to enrol.
- Where the student
requires a special school program or special facilities due to a health
related condition or special educational needs, the 'nearest appropriate
government school' is the nearest government school providing the required
program or facilities.
- Where the application
is for an under 16 year old tertiary student, the 'nearest appropriate
government school' is the nearest government school offering the appropriate
grade of secondary tuition for the student had he or she continued to
study at a secondary school.
- Where there is
more than one appropriate government school within 56 kilometres of
the principal family home, the 'nearest appropriate government school'
is the one with a transport service pick-up point nearest to the principal
A student may be
regarded as geographically isolated from schooling if
- the distance between
the principal family home and the nearest appropriate government school
is at least 56 kilometres or
- the distance between
the principal family home and the nearest appropriate government school
is at least 16 kilometres AND the distance between the principal family
home and the nearest available transport service to an appropriate government
school is at least 4.5 kilometres or
- the student does
not have reasonable access to an appropriate government school for at
least 20 days of the school year because of adverse travel conditions
or other circumstances beyond the family's control.
rules apply as to the evidence required. Refer to Centrelink's Assistance
for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book, page 6, for details.
In addition, the
principal family home must be geographically isolated from the school
the student actually attends unless the student is living in a special
AIC benefits are
not available for reasons such as
- factors within
the family's control such as choice of lifestyle or work commitments
make it inconvenient or difficult to transport the student to and from
- the local school
does not offer particular subjects that the student wants to study
- certain subjects
are not available by traditional face-to-face teaching but are available
through distance education methods or
- the student wishes
to attend a specialist or selective school, or one which the parents
believe will maximise his or her academic potential or career prospects.
Under certain circumstances
a student may be eligible for AIC without meeting the distance or travel
circumstances rules outlined. This might be the case where
- the student is
living in a special institution
- the student was
previously eligible for AIC
- the student is
living in a second home with a geographically isolated sibling
- the student's
parent(s) have an occupation which involves frequent moves.
Refer to Centrelink's
Assistance for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book, page 8,
for further details.
AIC provides four
types of allowances.
Allowance (basic and additional)
- AIC Pensioner
Only Additional Boarding
Allowance is subject to a parental income test. All other types of AIC
allowances are free of income and assets tests.
Education Allowance - The Distance Education Allowance is for
isolated families whose student children are living at home and studying
by State or Territory approved distance education methods (eg School of
the Air). In 1999 the primary rate (less than 13 years old) is $1,000
a year and the secondary rate (greater than 13 years old) is $1,500 a
Home Allowance - The Second Home Allowance is for isolated families
who maintain a second home so that their student children can attend school
daily. The rate for 1999 is $2,500 a year for each eligible student (up
to a maximum of three) living in the second home and attending school.
- at least one student
living in the secondary home must meet the eligibility conditions under
'Geographic isolation' or 'Circumstances where the student need not
be geographically isolated' and be eligible to receive AIC or be a secondary
student eligible to receive Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY, and
- the second home
must be maintained primarily to provide a student with a daily access
to an appropriate school, and
- the principle
home must be capable of providing adequate accommodation for the student
and his or her family, and
- the family must
not receive income or other benefit from another person or persons living
in the principal home during the school year, and
- normally, at least
one parent must be residing and/or working full-time at the principal
home. If not, it will be necessary to prove that the home claimed as
the principal home is in fact the family's main residence and the centre
of the family's employment or business activity.
Allowance - The Boarding Allowance is for students who board away
from home in order to attend school daily. The student must board at a
boarding institution (such as school or hostel) or privately. The Boarding
Allowance consists of two components
- Basic Boarding
Allowance, which is not means tested.
- Additional Boarding
Allowance, which is subject to parental income and the student's actual
The 1999 maximum
rates (Basic + Additional) are $167.88 per fortnight ($4,377 per year).
The Basic Boarding
Allowance is $3,500 a year.
Basic Boarding Allowance
is payable regardless of parental income and student's boarding costs.
Entitlement to Additional Boarding Allowance is, however, subject to both
parental income and the student's boarding costs. In 1999 the maximum
Boarding Allowance (Basic + Additional) is payable if the adjusted parental
income is no higher than $23,550. The maximum allowance payable for a
student drops by $1 for each $4 by which the adjusted parental income
exceeds $23,550. Once the adjusted parental income exceeds $27,057, only
the Basic Boarding Allowance is payable.
For details about
calculating the adjusted parental income see Centrelink's Assistance
for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book, page 13.
In rare cases students
may qualify for Additional Boarding Allowance without income testing.
For details see Centrelink's Assistance for Isolated Children 1999
Information Book, page 12.
Claim forms are available
from any Centrelink office and can be lodged at any Centrelink office.
Claim forms should be lodged by 31 March the year in question. According
to Centrelink claims normally take three weeks to process.
The information available
on the Internet through Centrelink's
homepage is fairly comprehensive and easy to understand. However,
the rules are complicated and the information on the Internet is insufficient
in order to determine whether one is eligible for AIC. The Assistance
for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book is also available on the
for Isolated Children 1999 Information Book
The 17 page Information
Book offers more detailed information than the homepage. In most cases
the Information Book will provide sufficient information to determine
whether one is eligible for any of the AIC allowances. Customers are advised
to contact Centrelink for full details of any entitlements and services
for which one may be eligible. It is difficult and time consuming to reach
Centrelink on the phone as one has to wait for a very long time.
The Claim Form is
comprehensive and is supplemented by The Notes to the Claim Form. This
is a document explaining how to fill in the Claim Form correctly. In some
cases the documents the applicant has to provide are numerous, and this
might cause some difficulty to some applicants. However, all required
documents seem relevant and reasonable to require.
The NSW Branch of
the Isolated Children's Parents' Association submitted:
Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) is payable for these students,
who are geographically isolated and need to board away from home, to access
school on a daily basis. Primary students in NSW are no eligible for the
NSW Living Away from Home Allowance although they may be in receipt of
the Federal AIC.
"Parents do not
willingly choose to send their children away, especially at Primary
age but there is no consideration given, in NSW, for the problems that
may be faced by the parents who cannot cope with Distance Education.
They cannot access the NSW Living Away from Home Allowance, even if
they meet the adjusted family income requirement.
"For some families
this means they are placed in a very difficult financial position trying
to access an appropriate education for their children.
set down in 'Assistance for Isolated Children Information Booklet' for
approving Serious Educational Disadvantage are very prescriptive.
the eligibility of students, with significant disabilities or learning
difficulties, to receive the AIC Allowance if they cannot receive an
appropriate education and support at their local school. It seems ironical,
however, that students of outstanding ability whose reasonable expectations
cannot be met locally do not receive recognition by the NSW Education
and Training Department of their need to bypass."
from the Isolated Children's Parents' Association (Aust) states, among
was originally set at 55% of the average boarding fee in 1973 and has
only been at that level once since 1991. At present it is slightly below
the 55% and with anticipated increases of at least 5% in boarding fees
next year, unless there is a corresponding increase in the AIC, this allowance
will erode once again and many isolated rural and remote families will
have difficulty in coping with the added financial costs of getting their
children to the school gate." (Isolated Children's Parents' Association,
Submission #18 from
South Australia explains how the income support schemes AIC and Austudy
prevent regional and rural students from attending tertiary education.
The main problems are that AIC is not available for tertiary students
and that Austudy (now Youth Allowance) is income and means tested.
"We do not
want handouts. Justice and equality in access to education will only be
reached when all students who must live away from home for the purpose
of education are given the difference in cost, between living at home
- and away.. In effect, the current policy says that the Government considers
our rural children should be limited to careers and futures for which
only a secondary school education is required."
Submission #21 from
Queensland explains how the families in Quilpie are disadvantaged by the
rules of the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme. In her opinion the
distance rules are out of touch with reality. Quilpie is situated 200kms
from the nearest town to the east and 1,000kms west of the capital. The
town population is 700 and there is a similar number in the surrounding
of our geographical isolation, people have sent their children to boarding
schools or hostels in order to obtain a Secondary Education, one that
puts them on par with their city cousins. Financial assistance from both
the state and federal governments lightened the burden considerably. However
for the past 4 yrs, this situation has changed. Five years ago, the State
Government Education Department decided, with information that was misleading
and facts that were misinterpreted, to upgrade the local school to a P
- 10 (which is a small secondary department attached to the Primary School),
thereby disrupting a system that was working well and one that satisfied
everyone's educational needs. This spelt the end of any form of financial
assistance to those people living within a 16km radius of the school.
Prior to having this system established, there was a Correspondence System
for Secondary Students through the School of Distance Education in Brisbane
never reached the predictions, in fact within 6 mths of the status change,
families were beginning to see that, what was promised, was not delivered,
and started to look elsewhere, only then finding that they had eliminated
their choice that existed before ..." "Many of the families have since
left town, others have split, with the father staying here to work,
and others have tightened their belts and still sent their kids away
despite the expense, all in search of a more equitable education for
their isolated children ."
for the I.C.P.A-instigated A.I.C. (Federal) and L.A.F.H.A.S. (state)
allowances is such that it was set out many years ago (some 27 yrs.
ago) when cars and roads were nowhere near the standards that they are
now. The criteria states that if you live more than 16kms. from a school
or 4.5kms from a bus stop, you are eligible for these allowances. With
4 wheel drives and bitumen roads, 16kms can be covered in a very short
space of time ..." "Some people who live within an hour's drive of the
capital or a large provincial city find themselves eligible for these
allowances which are called Assistance for Isolated Children - what
a joke! Our children surely come into this category, but are ineligible
because they live in a town with High Top (small Secondary dept. attached
to a Primary School). Whilst I do not wish to jeopardise any child's
education, I do believe that our children are being discriminated against
- they too are isolated!"
Public meeting in
Boulia Qld, 4 October 1999:
"A lot of
parents pull their children out of school after Year 10 because they can
no longer afford to educate their children, even with the Government assistance
that is currently available. This is especially the case with families
on properties who need the children at home to help run the property."
Dr Evan Arthur, DETYA,
Canberra hearing, 26 October 1999:
are processed by Centrelink. The Centrelink system records the results
of the claim but not the reasons, so that in 98 there were 12,979 AIC
claims and 592 (4.6%) were not approved."
"There is certainly
the issue of the definition of "appropriate" in the AIC guidelines.
It's a subject of continual close examination in the Commonwealth. As
an issue which is continually brought to our attention, so it receives
ongoing scrutiny. The application of the definition is of course by
state government departments. The ... applications are processed by
Centrelink offices, not by DETYA. For that particular element to be
satisfied, there has to be a determination by the state government department
that the nearest school is not appropriate.
"The reason for
that is perfectly straightforward. It would be ... inappropriate for
a Commonwealth government department to make a decision as to whether
or not a particular school run by another government was or was not
appropriate ... State governments have responsibility for education
and, with that responsibility, have an obligation, the primary obligation,
to deliver our international human rights obligations concerning education
on the definition of "appropriate", the policy guideline is based on
the assumption that it is appropriate to step in and pay that form of
income support where there is no appropriate education in the sense
of fulfilling the basic requirements of education. It is not the intention
of the payment to ensure that the education provided is the full education
which an individual might desire. It is designed to be responding to
certain requirements for an appropriate education in the sense of an
education which takes a person through to the completion of secondary
school and the acquisition of an appropriate qualification at the end
of secondary school. Therefore, the position that's explicit in the
guidelines and is based on the underlying policy decision of governments
is that where there are particular subjects that a student may wish
to take, . that is not considered to be something which would justify
the payment of a Commonwealth income support payment.
contain an overall definition of "appropriate" which essentially goes
to that there must be a full range of subjects which allow the acquisition
of a secondary certificate ... [The Guidelines are] not intended, as
I say, to deal with circumstances where students wish to take a particular
type of subject which may or may not be available. It's not that it's
not appropriate for them to do so, but that in that circumstance it's
not appropriate to take the further step of providing a Commonwealth
income support payment.
"... they need
to be able to complete an appropriate secondary curriculum. It is not
for the Commonwealth government to determine what an appropriate secondary
curriculum is. Curriculum matters are definitely a state and territory
government responsibility in that sense, for the individual students.
The Commonwealth may have some views in a more general policy sense."
Isolated Children's Parents' Association, Canberra hearing, 26 October
Assistance for Isolated Children was originally brought in, in 1973, it
was set at 55% of the average boarding fee because ICPA acknowledges it
costs money to keep your children at home, so we have never asked for
100% of the average boarding fee.
"Only twice has
it come to 55% of that or close to 55% of that average boarding fee.
The last time was with this increase up to 3 and a half thousand which
was promised - which was a pre-election promise and was brought in in
the last budget. ICPA believes that the Assistance for Isolated Children
must be linked to the average boarding fee, not to inflation or the
CPI, because at the moment that's negative.
certainly don't go down. They only go up ...
allowance in 2000 has been increased along with - we presume it's the
CPI increase because the basic boarding allowance is $3539. If it was
55% it would be $4192, so there's already a shortfall there, without
taking into consideration how the boarding fees will increase by 5%
and the effect of the FBT and GST. There is a maximum allowance which
is means-tested and that's an additional $886, but it still doesn't
come anywhere near the cost of boarding.
"[T]he GST is
certainly going to impact on the boarding costs, and possibly the tuition
costs in schools, and we really still don't know the implications of
that; no-one does. The fringe benefits tax certainly has an impact on
the residential side of whether it's a hostel or a boarding school.
It has the potential to impact on the quality of the staff that schools
can employ in those positions. The fringe benefits tax is going to be
a deterrent for those I think who want to be residential staff and be
good residential staff, because they're going to incur that tax once
they identify themselves as being residential staff.
"On behalf of
ICPA I think that any sort of taxing on what is basically a supportive
pastoral care role for students who are no longer living with their
families is something that I guess we find difficult to understand and
would strongly believe that there should be no fringe benefits tax at
all applied for residential care. It is providing a - it's a surrogate
parenting role. So you're taxing effectively surrogate parents."
What is your experience
with the Assistance for Isolated Children scheme?
- If you have ever
applied for Assistance for Isolated Children, please tell us about your
- Were you successful?
- If not, what was
- Do you think the
distance rules within the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme are
appropriate and fair?
- Do you think the
rates of allowance are adequate?
- What are the actual
costs of supporting an isolated child in education?
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Or post your comments
Rural and Remote
GPO Box 5218
SYDNEY NSW 1042
updated 2 December 2001.