How do the 'No jab, no pay' law changes affect you?

How do the 'No jab, no pay' law changes affect you?

The federal government's welfare crackdown on parents who fail to vaccinate their children takes effect soon.

The federal government's welfare crackdown on parents who fail to vaccinate their children takes effect soon.

It has been months in the making, initially announced by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this year.

It followed figures showing the number of parents describing themselves as "conscientious objectors" and choosing not to vaccinate children has doubled since 2006.

As Peggy Giakoumelos reports, the government introduced the laws to encourage more parents to get their children vaccinated.

'No jab, no pay'.

That's the slogan used to describe the federal government's new laws, which start January 1, 2016.

The laws remove childcare benefits, rebates and the Family Tax Benefit A end-of-year supplement from parents who don't immunise their children, although there are exemptions for medical reasons.

The laws withhold family payments worth up to $15,000 per year from parents who fail to have their children vaccinated.

Parents who conscientiously object to vaccination for philosophical or religious reasons will not be able to collect the payments.

The 'No jab, no pay' laws passed the Senate with the backing of Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm backed the legislation.

He says childless families should not have to pay a price for those who are not responsible enough to vaccinate their children.

"It's bad enough that people continue to bring wave upon wave of these little blighters into the world. The least they can do is immunise their bundles of dribble and sputum so they don't make the rest of us sick."

More than 90 per cent of children aged under five have been vaccinated in Australia.

But at least 39,000 children under the age of seven have not been immunised because their parents object.

The law is to be supported by a new national childhood immunisation register, which will record all vaccinations received by Australians up to the age of 20.

Trisha Jha is a policy analyst in the areas of child care and social policy at the Centre of Independent Studies.

She says the policy may not necessarily affect some of those who object - especially wealthy people who do not need to access welfare payments.

"I think at the end of the day what you have is situation that does tend to penalise those who might not have access to vaccinations, such as people in rural and remote areas who don't have access."

Julie Leask is Associate Professor of Health at the University of Sydney.

She says there is already a policy in place to limit welfare benefits to people who don't vaccinate their children.

The main difference with the policy starting in January is that conscientiously objecting to vaccination for philosophical or religious reasons will no longer be an option for those who want to receive welfare payments.

"Since 1999 if you didn't have your child fully vaccinated or you didn't lodge an exemption, you would not receive your family assistance payment. So that's always been in place since 1999. What's changing now is that the capacity to lodge this vaccine objection form has now gone and if you don't vaccinate your children and you don't lodge a medical exemption saying they can't be vaccinated medically then you won't get the payments at all."

Associate Professor Julie Leask says along with removing exemptions, parents will also now be required to show that their children are vaccinated up to the age of 19, rather than just at ages one, two, and five.

The aim of this change is to get parents who are not up to date with their vaccinations to prioritise the issue.

Ms Leask says getting this information across to newly arrived migrants may be an issue that will need to be addressed by the government.

She says for a period of time the government will be offering free vaccines to children over the age of five to allow them to catch up - but this still remains a complex task for many migrant children who may not have proper medical records from their country of origin.

"Sometimes the children will face very complex catch up schedules and if the health professionals in their local area aren't aware of how to establish that schedule, then those services might say you will have to go somewhere else. So there is a real access issue here. And they're a group that we need to support really well."

The Department of Health says since the introduction of vaccination for children in Australia in 1932, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen by 99 per cent, despite a threefold increase in the Australian population over that period.

Worldwide, it has been estimated that immunisation programs prevent approximately three million deaths each year.




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