Federal government fought special payments for starved, mistreated baby

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In just her first few months of life, the baby girl was taken to hospital three times for “failure to thrive”.

She almost died before her first birthday.

The child now has foetal alcohol syndrome and developmental delays.

At five months of age, she was taken from her parents and put in the much better care of her grandparents on the NSW South Coast.

But she continues to suffer medical problems stemming from her early mistreatment, including poor eating habits and sleeping patterns. 

The grandparents found the girl improved dramatically when she was with others of her age, but had few friends with children.

They found childcare improved her sleep, eating habits, and that she put on weight, became healthier and socialised. 

Her general practitioner believed that, if she was removed from childcare, there would be serious impacts on her health and nourishment, while the childcare centre itself said the girl could be “vulnerable to potential health risks such as stress induced anorexia”.

Despite that, the federal government decided to strip away a special payment the family had been receiving for the childcare, designed for at-risk children, saying there was no evidence of a risk of serious abuse or neglect.

The girl’s grandfather applied for a review, which failed to overturn the decision, but tried again in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.

The tribunal set aside the government’s decision and ordered the payment be made for another three months. 

Yet the Secretary of the Department of Education again fought to take away the payment, this time in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The grandfather, a retrenched valuer earning $40,000 to $50,000 a year from part-time work, said he’d have to pull the girl from some days of childcare if he lost the benefit, which was worth more than $15,000 in 2012-13.

The department, however, argued the Social Security Appeals Tribunal had failed to take into account its guide for granting the payment when it made its decision.

It argued there was evidence of an eating disorder, but not that childcare was the only remedy, that the grandparents attentive care may improve her condition, and that the grandfather may be eligible for the normal childcare benefit.

The department also argued the child was not currently being neglected, due to the good care provided by the grandparents.

But the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found against the department’s secretary after a hearing in Canberra, saying there was a real risk of neglect should the child be taken away from childcare due to a loss of the benefit.

“I have accepted that the [grandparents] would be unable to supply child care at current levels if denied the [special child care benefit],” Tribunal Member Mark Hyman said.

“It is clear to me that the child would be at risk of neglect in the absence of the benefit, and the provision of the benefit would allay that risk.

“That is surely what this part of the [Family Assistance Administration] Act sets out to achieve.”

Source Article from http://www.smh.com.au/national/federal-government-fought-special-payments-for-starved-mistreated-baby-20141029-11cweb.html
Federal government fought special payments for starved, mistreated baby
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