Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme
A group of payments for parents and carers of children who can't go to a local state school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs.
- you have a child who can’t go to school unless they live away from home, in a second home or study from home
- this is because they live in an isolated area with no local state schools or
- they have a disability or other special need that local state schools can’t meet
Eligibility & payment rates
You may be eligible if your child meets the living, study and age requirements and one of the isolation conditions.
Who can get it
Your child must meet:
And one of the following isolation conditions:
- geographically isolated
- have a special education need
- no reasonable access to a school
- changing circumstances
What you’ll get
If you meet the requirements and isolation conditions for the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme, you’ll get one of the following:
- Boarding Allowance
- Distance Education Allowance
- Second Home Allowance
- Pensioner Education Supplement
Read more about the payment types for Assistance for Isolated Children.
Your child’s living arrangements will determine which allowance or supplement you get.
They need to live in one of the following places while they’re studying:
- boarding at a school, hostel, or privately
- living in the family’s second home to go to school
- living at home and doing distance education or approved home schooling
- going to a Northern Territory Homeland Learning Centre
Your child needs to be:
- at least the minimum primary school entry age for your state or territory, and
- younger than 19 on 1 January of the study year
Or they need to be:
- at least 3 years and 6 months old and have to live away from home due to a health condition or disability
- under 20 on 1 January in the study year, with a serious disruption to their education, such as illness or language difficulties
- under 21 and studying at primary or ungraded level and getting Disability Support Pension, or Parenting Payment single
- doing tertiary study to meet their state or territory minimum education or training requirements
Your child needs to be studying full time. They must be doing primary, secondary or other approved study.
You may get Assistance for Isolated Children if your child does approved full time tertiary study because they don’t have access to a state secondary school.
Your child must also meet one of the following isolation conditions:
- be geographically isolated
- have a special education need
- have no reasonable access to a school, or
- have changing circumstances
You’re geographically isolated if:
- your family home is 56 km or more from the nearest suitable government school, or
- your family home is 16 km or more from the nearest suitable government school and at least 4.5 km away from the nearest transport to school
- your family home is 16 km or more from the nearest suitable government school and your child has no transport to get there, or
- your child can’t get to the nearest suitable government school for at least 20 school days a year due to circumstances beyond your control
How we measure distance
We measure how far your child would travel to the school from the family home, using the nearest transport service along the shortest practical route.
You might need to ask for a transport service or pick-up point for your child from their school, the council or government.
If there’s no transport service and you can’t get one, we measure along the shortest practical route from the family home to the nearest suitable government school.
If travel routes vary, we use the average distance. You need to tell us if:
- there’s more than one pick up point on the transport route your child could use
- the distance to the school differs between morning and afternoon, depending on the transport service
Example: Measuring distance from the family home to the nearest suitable government school
Bethany lives with her parents on a property and goes to the nearest suitable government school, which is 30 km away. Bethany’s family home is 1 km from the nearest transport service to her school.
She isn’t eligible because:
- there’s public transport to her school less than 4.5 km from her home, and
- the school is less than 56 km from her home
Ben goes to the same local school as Bethany. He lives 36 km from the school, and 6 km from the nearest public transport service.
Ben is eligible because:
- he lives at least 4.5 km from the school pick up point, and
- the school is at least 16 km from his home
Nearest suitable government school
The nearest suitable government school is one that offers schooling at the grade or year your child can enrol in.
A selective or specialist school may be the nearest suitable government school if:
- it’s also the nearest government school, and
- the student goes to the school
Example: When a selective or specialist school isn’t the nearest suitable government school
Craig wants to send his son David to a specialist agricultural school 60 km away from their family home. The nearest suitable government school is a school 13 km away from the family home. Craig can’t get Assistance for Isolated Children to send David to the specialist school because:
- it’s not the nearest suitable government school, and
- the family home isn’t geographically isolated from nearest suitable government school
Example: When a selective or specialist school is the nearest suitable government school
Sarah boards away from home to go to a selective government school 58 km away from her principal family home. Sarah’s parents can get Assistance for Isolated Children to send Sarah to the selective school because:
- it’s also the nearest suitable government school, and
- their family home is geographically isolated from it
The nearest government school might not be suitable if it has a limited program. Read more about limited program schools for AIC.
Your child’s situation may also mean the nearest government school isn’t suitable.
|Child’s situation||Nearest suitable government school|
They have a disability, health condition or special education need
The nearest school with a suitable program and facilities for your child
They’re doing tertiary study to meet their state or territory minimum education or training requirements
The nearest government school that offers schooling at the grade or year your child can enrol in
There’s more than one government school within 56 km of home
The government school with a travel service nearest to home
You may be eligible if a child can’t go to the local government school because:
- they need to study from home for health reasons or pregnancy, or
- the family home is geographically isolated from the nearest suitable government school because:
- of physical or intellectual disability
- of psychological, emotional or behavioural difficulties
- of a severe medical condition
- of learning difficulties requiring testing or specialist support
- it would seriously disadvantage the child’s education to attend the nearest suitable government school
You might be eligible if the child you’re claiming for doesn’t have daily access to a suitable government school.
You might not have daily access to a suitable government school if your child can’t go to school for more than 20 school days in the year because:
- it would take at least 3 hours to get to school and back, or
- there are adverse weather conditions, impassable roads or other circumstances beyond your control
- your work requires frequent moves and
- you need to relocate the family for work,
- you need to work onsite and don’t operate out of a base
- you relocate at least 5 times a year for work
- your livelihood has an itinerant lifestyle, for example a shearer or fruit picker, and
- if your child travelled with you they would miss at least 100 school days at a local government school in a year
- they have a disability or a health condition and need to live full time in a special institution
- they live in the second family home with at least one other sibling who:
- you get Second Home Allowance for, or
- is aged 16 years or over and gets Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY and was previously eligible for Assistance for Isolated Children
You need to tell us if your circumstances change. It may change your payment. You can call us to tell us if your circumstances change.
We may continue to pay you after your circumstances change if your child still:
- lives away from the principal family home
- studies by distance education, or
- lives in a second home, and
- goes to the same school
When you tell us about your change in circumstances, we’ll let you know if:
- your payment is affected
- we’ll continue to pay you and for how long
You need to meet eligibility criteria to get an allowance or supplement. Your child’s living arrangements will determine which allowance or supplement you get.
Check you’re eligible before you claim. We’ll assess your claim, then tell you which payment you’re eligible for and how much you’ll get.
This allowance can help your family with the cost of your child boarding away from home to go to school. It includes:
- Basic Boarding Allowance, and
- Additional Boarding Allowance
You can get Boarding Allowance for your child if you meet eligibility criteria and your child boards at a school, hostel or privately.
You may also get Additional Boarding Allowance, which is means tested. We also consider your child’s boarding fees.
Distance Education Allowance
This allowance can help your family with the cost of your child studying an approved course from home.
You can get Distance Education Allowance for your child if:
- you meet eligibility criteria
- your child is living at home, and:
- doing approved home schooling
- doing approved distance education, or
- going to a Northern Territory Homeland Education Centre
Second Home Allowance
This allowance can help you or your family with the cost of maintaining a second home so your children can go to a local school. You can get the allowance for up to 3 children. You must lodge a claim for each child.
You can get this allowance if:
- you meet eligibility criteria
- the main purpose of you maintaining a second home is to make it easier for the child you’re claiming for to go to school, and
- the principal family home is:
- the family’s usual place of residence, with at least one parent or guardian living there for more than half the time they’re getting the allowance
- where the child you’re claiming for usually spends school holidays
To us, it’s not your second home if:
- you’re separated or divorced and one parent is living with the child in that home
- you, your partner or a dependent child get Rent Assistance for the home, or
- you got a First Home Owner Grant, stamp-duty concession or similar assistance when you bought the home
- you or your partner aren’t responsible for the cost of maintaining the home
The child can be in the care of another person in the second home.
Pensioner Education Supplement
You can get Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement for your child if:
- you meet eligibility criteria, and
- the child is studying at primary or an ungraded level of study, and they:
- get Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment (single)
- board away from home
- live in a second home so they can go to a local school, or
- study by distance education or do approved home schooling
If you get Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement you can’t get any other allowance under the scheme for the child.
You can get this payment until your child turns 21, as long as you’re still eligible.
Approved courses of study and institutions
Approved courses include:
- accredited primary or secondary courses through a school, college, special school, distance or online education, or a Northern Territory Homeland Learning Centre
- home schooling approved by a state or territory education authority
- vocational education and training, statement of attainment or certificate courses, and other accredited tertiary training programs
- approved courses for children with disability, ungraded living skills education or training courses in a residential or non-residential institution for children with disability or other special needs
Approved education institutions include:
- government primary, secondary and senior secondary colleges
- government special schools
- Northern Territory Homeland Learning Centres
- government distance education centres or schools, and Schools of the Air
- non-government education institutions with primary, ungraded, secondary or special courses, including distance education, accredited by the state or territory education authority
- government and private vocational education and training, or TAFE institutions that are registered training organisations
- government and non-government residential or non-residential institutions for children with disability or other special needs
Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme payments are not taxable. Except for Additional Boarding Allowance, payments don't have income and assets tests.
The amount of Additional Boarding Allowance you can get depends on parental income and the boarding fees you pay for child. The amount may also be affected if you or your partner get:
- child support, or
- maintenance for the child you’re claiming Assistance for Isolated Children for
We adjust payment rates on 1 January each year in line with increases in the cost of living. This doesn't apply to the Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement.
|Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme allowance||Maximum rate for 2017||Maximum rate for 2018|
|Boarding Allowance (Basic and Additional)||
$10,417 per year, made up of 2 parts:
$10,615 per year, made up of 2 parts:
|Second Home Allowance||$235.81 per fortnight, per child||$240.30 per fortnight, per child|
|Distance Education Allowance||$4,047 per year||$4,124 per year|
|Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement||$62.40 per fortnight||$62.40 per fortnight|
We pay the parent or carer. However, you can choose to have your payments paid to the child’s school or the boarding provider.
You get your payment 4 times a year in advance for:
- Basic Boarding Allowance and Additional Boarding Allowance for students boarding at a school, hostel or special institution
- Distance Education Allowance
- Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement for students boarding at a school, hostel or special institution
You get your payment fortnightly for:
- Basic Boarding Allowance and Additional Boarding Allowance for students who board privately
- Second Home Allowance
- Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement for students who board privately
You get a lump sum Boarding Allowance payment if your child lives at home, but boards for a short time. This is only paid for the actual boarding period.
You get Assistance for Isolated Children if you also get:
You can't get Assistance for Isolated Children payments for a student who is on:
- Youth Allowance
- ABSTUDY, or
- Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veterans’ Children Education Scheme payments
Some students turning 16 years of age may be eligible for assistance under the Away from Home rate of Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY instead of this scheme and Family Tax Benefit.
Families who get Assistance for Isolated Children and Family Tax Benefit generally get more from these payments compared to the Youth Allowance Away from Home rate and Rent Assistance.
Students at primary or ungraded level getting Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment single may get Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement.
Students studying at secondary or tertiary level should apply for:
- Pensioner Education Supplement, or
- ABSTUDY Pensioner Education Supplement
Parental means test
There are two parts to the parental means test:
- parental income test, and
- maintenance income test
Parental income and boarding costs
In 2017, we look at your income for the 2015-16 financial year.
How your income for tax year 2015-16 affects your payment
|Parental income||Effect on payment|
|$51,903 or less||No change, however it may still be affected by the maintenance income test.|
|More than $51,903||Reduced by 20 cents for every dollar over. This depends on number of children in your family pool.|
Boarding costs affect the amount of Additional Boarding Allowance you get. Boarding costs include boarding charges, plus $250 to cover items like laundry and toiletries. Boarding charges are the net boarding fees actually charged by the institution. It doesn't include fees for tuition or items relating to it.
If the boarding charges for the year are less than $7,845, you can only get Basic Boarding Allowance.
If the boarding charges for the year are $7,845 or more, the amount of Additional Boarding Allowance will be the lower amount of:
- the maximum annual rate less any reduction from the parental income test or the maintenance income test, or
- the level of annual boarding costs for the student that’s more than the Basic Boarding Allowance amount
Types of income tested
The parental income test uses parents' or guardians' combined taxable and other income for the tax year prior to the student's study year. We call this the base tax year. For example, if the student starts studying in 2017, we use the combined parental income for the 2015-16 tax year.
Parental income includes:
- combined parental taxable income
- tax free pensions and benefits
- fringe benefits
- income from outside Australia
- reportable superannuation contributions, and
- total net investment losses such as negative gearing losses for that tax year
We deduct child support or maintenance for a former partner you pay from the parental income.
If you want to claim Additional Boarding Allowance and haven’t given us your income details, call us.
The family pool refers to the dependent children in your family who may affect the amount of Additional Boarding Allowance you get.
Your family pool includes dependent children who:
- get Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY Living Allowance or income tested School Fees Allowance Group 2
- you get Assistance for Isolated Children Additional Boarding Allowance for, or
- are aged up to 19 years old, and, if aged between 16 to 19, attend secondary school
If there’s a shared care arrangement in place for a child in your family, we may take this into account.
You may be eligible for a higher rate of Additional Boarding Allowance if:
- you don’t get the maximum rate of Additional Boarding Allowance
- parental income is over $51,903, and
- there are 2 or more dependent children in the family pool
If parental income is over $63,481, you can usually only get Basic Boarding Allowance. You may get Additional Boarding Allowance when parental income is higher if:
- you’re eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A for the child you’re claiming Additional Boarding Allowance for, or
- there are 2 or more dependent children in the family pool
Changes to parental income in the study year
If you get Additional Boarding Allowance, you must tell us if there’s any changes to parental income. Sometimes, changes to parental income can mean your payment rate changes. Your payment may also change if the student's circumstances change.
Where there’s been a change to parental income, we can work out the parental income test on their income for the current tax year. For example, if the student is studying in 2017 and parental income significantly changes, we may use parental income for the 2016-17 tax year.
You need to tell us if parental income:
- increases more than 25% from the 2015-16 tax year
- decreases significantly, and you think it will reduce for 2 years or more
You need to tell us about changes in your income so we pay you the right amount. You can do this online using your Centrelink online account.
You must also update your income every year through the Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) Current Tax Year Assessment form.
Periods we exclude from the parental income test
The parental income test won’t apply if you or your partner:
- get an income support payment – but not Family Tax Benefit, or
- get ABSTUDY Living Allowance, or
- have a Health Care Card, but not a:
When we calculate your Additional Boarding Allowance and the parental income test doesn’t apply, we’ll look at:
- the student’s actual boarding costs, and
- your maintenance income
Maintenance income test
We consider the amount of child support or voluntary maintenance you get when we work out your payment.
You need to tell us about any voluntary maintenance you get if we have not made a child support assessment. If we have made a child support assessment, you don’t need to tell us these details again. We'll use information we already have to adjust your payment.
Maintenance income can include:
- cash, lump sum payments and non-cash amounts
- utilities charges, and
- school fees and other payments made on behalf, or for the benefit, of your child
You may be exempt from this test if you or your partner:
- are permanently blind, and
- Age Pension
- Disability Support Pension, or
- a Department of Veterans’ Affairs service pension or income support supplement
The maintenance income test won’t always affect your payment. You or your partner may fall under the maintenance income free area. It’s the amount of child support or voluntary maintenance you both get before maintenance income affects your payment.
The number of children you have and payments they get can also affect this amount.
Maintenance income free area per year
|When you get maintenance income for:||The maintenance income free area is|
|Just the child who is studying||$1,587.75|
|The child and other siblings who get Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY Living Allowance or School Fees Allowance Group 2||$1,587.75 plus $529.25 for each sibling. Then divide the total by the number of children|
|The child and other siblings who are eligible for Family Tax Benefit or Assistance for Isolated Children Additional Boarding Allowance||$529.25|
Example of maintenance income free area calculation
Michael has 3 children. Michael gets Assistance for Isolated Children Additional Boarding Allowance for one child. Michael’s other 2 children get Youth Allowance. We calculate Michael’s maintenance income free area by adding the income free area for each child and dividing by 3.
The maintenance free area for the first child is $1,587.75. We add $529.25 for each of the 2 other children. We divide the total amount $2,646.25, by the total number of children. So, Michael’s maintenance income free area is $882.08.
Balancing your Assistance for Isolated Children Additional Boarding Allowance payments
We use your child support assessment or voluntary maintenance to estimate your annual maintenance income. This can change throughout the year.
At the end of the financial year, we’ll balance your payments based on the actual maintenance income you got.
We’ll let you know if we paid you too much or not enough.
You must also:
- be an Australian citizen
- have a permanent resident visa, or
- be a New Zealand citizen who permanently lives in Australia
What may be different
You do not need to be a living in Australia if the child is:
- enrolled at school in Australia and is on an international student exchange
- already getting Distance Education Allowance and is doing full time distance education while overseas for less than 12 months and their education institution approves
Check if you're eligible before you start your claim.
- decide how to submit your claim
- complete your claim
- submit your claim by 31 December of the study year
- submit any supporting documents with your claim, or as soon as possible
- after we assess your claim we tell you the outcome
Managing your payment
Change of circumstances
We review your circumstances annually to make sure you get the right payment.
You need to tell us if your or the student's circumstances change. For example, if:
- you get Additional Boarding Allowance and your or your partner's income increases or the student's boarding charges increase
- the student stops boarding or living in the second home
- the student stops studying, reduces their study load, or changes their education institution
- your personal circumstances change
- you change your address or the student changes their term address
- you don't have to lodge a tax return
- the care arrangements for the student change, or
- you or the student leave Australia permanently
If you don't tell us about the changes within 14 days, it may affect your payment. We may pay you incorrectly and you'll have to pay the money back.
If you deliberately don't tell us about changes, we can charge you with fraud, and a recovery fee may apply.
While travelling outside Australia
Rules for Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme outside Australia
If you or the student leave Australia to live in another country, your payment will stop on departure.
If you leave Australia temporarily we continue to pay you for up to 2 years, as long as the student continues to meet the eligibility criteria.
If the student travels overseas and:
- is on an approved exchange program earning credit, remains enrolled at an Australian education institution and continues to incur the costs in Australia, we continue to pay you for the duration of the program, or
- enrols at an approved Australian distance education institution and studies full time outside Australia for less than 12 months, we continue to pay you for 12 months
If the student has left Australia without having their overseas study approved, and you provide the information mentioned above, we'll reassess their eligibility.
When to tell us about your travel
You should tell us if you or the student leave Australia and:
- you or the student are going to live in another country
- you're leaving temporarily for more than 2 years, or
- the student is studying outside Australia as part of a full time Australian course
- the student is leaving temporarily and won't continue to study full time
Otherwise, you don't need to tell us that you or the student are leaving Australia. Australia's immigration department tell us when you or the student leave and return to Australia.
The easiest way to tell us about your travel plans is to use your Centrelink online account through myGov. We can tailor information on how it could affect your payments and concession cards.
Read more about payments while outside Australia.
My bank account is overdrawn
Overdrawn bank account
A bank account is overdrawn if your balance goes below zero.
This can happen if:
- it looks like you have money to take out but another transaction hasn’t gone through yet
- you use direct debit to pay your bills
This creates a debt to the bank. Your bank might also charge you a fee. Remember, you have to pay the debt and fee back to them.
Sometimes your bank will take money from your account to pay back the debt and fee. They can't take more than 10% of your Centrelink payment. This is to protect your payment.
Bank means a bank, building society or credit union where you have an account.
Under the Code of Operation, your bank can't take more than 10% of your payment if you get:
- Age Pension
- Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment
- Bereavement Allowance
- Carer Allowance
- Carer Payment
- Crisis Payment
- Disability Support Pension
- Double Orphan Pension
- Education Entry Payment
- Farm Household Allowance
- Income Support Bonus (payment no longer exists)
- Mobility Allowance
- Newstart Allowance
- Parental Leave Pay
- Parenting Payment
- Partner Allowance
- Pension Supplement
- Schoolkids Bonus
- Sickness Allowance
- Special Benefit
- Widow Allowance
- Widow B Pension
- Wife Pension
- Youth Allowance
Also, if you get one of the payments above, your bank can't take more than 10% of your:
- ABSTUDY supplements
- Assistance for Isolated Children
- Baby Bonus
- Bereavement Payment
- Carer Adjustment Payment
- Carer Supplement
- Child Care Benefit
- Child Care Rebate
- Child Disability Assistance Payment
- Dad and Partner Pay
- Energy Supplement
- Essential Medical Equipment Payment
- Family Tax Benefit
- Low Income Family Supplement
- Low Income Supplement
- Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement
- Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment
- Pension Bonus Scheme
- Pension Bonus Top Up
- Pensioner Education Supplement
- Pension Loans Scheme
- Pharmaceutical Allowance
- Remote Area Allowance
- Rent Assistance
- Single Income Family Supplement
- Stillborn Baby Payment
- Telephone Allowance
- Utilities Allowance
- Work Bonus
- Youth Disability Supplement
And, they can't take more than 10% of these Department of Veterans' Affairs payments:
- Crisis payment
- Defence Force Income Support Allowance
- Education Entry Payment
- Income Support Supplement
- Periodic Payments of Wholly Dependent Partner's Pension
- Service Pension - age, invalidity, or partner
- War Widow(er)'s Pension
You can repay more than 10% to your bank if you wish.
This agreement about how banks recover money from you does not cover all types of income. Speak to your bank about their fees and repayment policies.
Example of a protected payment
If you get a payment of $200, you can keep at least $180 (90%) of your payment. The bank can take up to $20 (10%) to repay the debt and fee.
Banks that agree to the protected payment
A list of banks, building societies and credit unions that agree to the Code are on these websites:
- Australia Bankers' Association members
- Australian Finance Industry Association members
- Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) members who have signed the COBA Code of Practice
When the Code doesn't protect your payment
The Code doesn't protect you if:
- your account is overdrawn due to a dishonest or unlawful act
- a third party gets money you owe them from your account - for example, they have a court order to do so
Help from your bank
Talk to your bank if you overdraw your account. They can help you manage your debt.
You need to respond to requests from your bank about your debt within 60 days. If you don’t they could:
- make a report to a credit reporting body which can affect your credit rating, or
- take legal action to force you to repay your debt
If you can't resolve disputes with your bank, contact the:
Help from us
If you don’t have enough money to live on, we can help. We'll check if your bank has followed the Code. Call your regular payment number if you’d like us to help.
Other support services
Find a financial counsellor in your area on the Financial Counselling Australia website.