Assistance for Isolated Children
Financial help when you have children who can’t go to a 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 the child meets the following requirements.
- the minimum primary school entry age for the state or territory where they go to school, or
- be 3 years and 6 months or older and have a health condition or disability where they need to live away from home
- be under 19 years of age on 1 January in the study year and are a primary or secondary student
- be under 20 years of age on 1 January and have had serious disruption to their education, for example, because of illness or language difficulties
- be under 21 years of age, on Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment single and study at primary or ungraded level, or
- be a tertiary student and under the maximum age their state or territory requires them to study or train
- students need to be in full time, ungraded primary or secondary studies at an approved institution, or
- school aged and enrolled in approved full time tertiary vocational education and training, such as a TAFE course because they don’t have access to a state secondary school
The child must be in one of the following living arrangements during the school year:
- boarding away from home at a school, hostel, or privately
- living in the family’s second home so they can go to school daily, or
- living at home and doing distance education, approved home schooling or attending a Northern Territory Homeland Learning Centre
Can’t go to a state school
The child can’t go to a state school because of:
- geographical isolation
- special needs or disability
- special circumstances
Geographic isolation rules
Your family home must be isolated from a state school providing tuition at the grade or year your child is qualified to enrol in.
To be eligible, a child must meet one of the geographic isolation requirements.
A child is eligible under the 16 km rule if:
- the nearest appropriate government school is at least 16 km away, and
- there’s no school pick up point within 4.5 km of the home, or
- there’s no available transport service to the school
A child is eligible under the 56 km rule if:
- the distance from home to the nearest appropriate government school is at least 56 km using the shortest route, or
- there’s a school transport service within 4.5 km of the home, and
- the distance the child travels from the family home to the transport pick up point and then to the school via the transport service must be at least 56 km
How we measure distance
We measure the distance from the family home to the school using the transport service.
The distance from the home to the school is the distance from home to:
- any transport pick up point plus
- the distance from the pick up point to the school using the transport route
If there’s no transport service, we measure the distance by the shortest route.
If bus 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
- the distance to the nearest suitable government school differs
You may be eligible when the route of the morning and afternoon transport services are different in length and the average of the 2 meets either the 16 km or the 56 km rule.
Example: Living away from home to attend school
Bethany lives with her parents on a property. Her family’s home is 1 km from the nearest public transport that services the nearest appropriate government school. The distance from her home to the school is 30 km.
She’s not eligible because there’s a school pick up point less than 4.5 km from her home and the school is less than 56 km from her home.
Ben goes to the same school as Bethany. His main home is 6 km away from the nearest public transport service to the school. The distance from his home to the school is 36 km. Ben is eligible because the school pick up point is further than 4.5 km and the nearest government school is at least 16 km from his home.
The nearest transport service is the closest pick up point for any scheduled public transport or private carrier of school services. This includes a pick up point that would be available if you asked for transport to the school.
Principal family home
The principal family home is:
- where one parent or guardian lives for at least half the time you’re claiming the scheme
- where the child usually lives and spends school holidays in Australia or in an external territory such as Christmas, Norfolk or the Cocos (Keeling) island
Nearest appropriate government school
We consider the nearest appropriate government school that offers tuition at the grade or year the child is able to enrol in. There are exceptions.
Sometimes the state or territory education authority identifies the nearest government school to the child’s home as a selective or specialist school. These schools are only for children doing a special program, such as:
- gifted and talented
A government school that caters for mainstream students but has a special program is not a selective or specialist school. In this case, the child is eligible if the specialist school is also the nearest appropriate government school. The family home must also be geographically isolated from that school.
Nearest appropriate government school
Disability, health condition or special education need
One providing a suitable program and facilities
Tertiary student under minimum age for education required by home state or territory
One offering the grade or year level for the student if they stayed in secondary school instead of doing tertiary course
Lives within 56 km of multiple schools
One with transport pick up closest to home
Reasonable access rules
You may be eligible if the child doesn’t have reasonable access to an appropriate government school for at least 20 school days in the year because:
- the time for the return journey to school by school transport service is at least 3 hours
- the route or pick up point varies daily, weekly or monthly but the distance or travel time rules are met on at least 20 school days a year - where the distance of the morning and afternoon transport services differ, the average of the 2 must meet either the 16 km rule or the 56 km rule, or
- there are special weather conditions, impassable roads or other circumstances beyond your control
Special need rules
A child may be eligible if the local government school can’t meet their special need, and:
- they need to study from home for health related reasons or pregnancy, or
- the family home is geographically isolated from the nearest government school that provides suitable programs, facilities or an environment needed by the student because:
- of physical or intellectual disability
- of psychological, emotional or behavioural difficulties
- of a severe medical condition
- of learning difficulty requiring diagnostic testing or remedial tuition
- it would seriously disadvantage the student by attending the nearest appropriate government school
Special circumstance rules
In some cases, a child may still be eligible without meeting the distance and travel rules, if:
- the child has disability or a health related condition that makes it necessary to live full time in a special institution or requires them to study from home
- the child’s circumstance changes during the school year and it makes them no longer eligible under the geographic isolation rules. We may still pay you until the end of the year. The child must still live away from the principal family home or study by distance education, and go to the same school
- a child is in Year 11 and circumstances change but they continue to meet the conditions above, we can pay until the end of Year 12
- the child starts boarding, enrols in distance education studies or begins to live in a second home because of the change of circumstance - the child is eligible for the earlier and later part of the year
- you maintain a second family home so that up to two geographically isolated sibling students can go to an appropriate school. They must meet student eligibility criteria and live in the second home. You must lodge a separate claim for each child you’re claiming for
- your work requires frequent moves. The child may be eligible if:
- the parent or guardian’s livelihood has an itinerant lifestyle, such as shearers or fruit pickers
- if school aged children travelling with the parent miss at least 100 school days in a year at a local government school
- the parent or guardian needs work onsite and they don’t operate out of a base
- the work needs the family to relocate, and
- the parent or guardian relocate at least 5 times a year for work
Approved courses of study and institutions
The student must study full time in an approved course at an approved institution.
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
The amount you get depends on the:
- student's living arrangements during the school year, and
- number of eligible children in your family
Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme payments are not taxable. Except for Additional Boarding Allowance, payments don't have income and assets tests. If you or your partner get child support or maintenance for the child you're claiming Assistance for Isolated Children for, it may affect the amount of Additional Boarding Allowance you can get.
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|
|Boarding Allowance (Basic and Additional)||
$10,417 per year, made up of 2 parts:
|Second Home Allowance||$235.81 per fortnight, per student|
|Distance Education Allowance||$4,047 per year|
|Assistance for Isolated Children Pensioner Education Supplement||$62.40 per fortnight|
We pay the parent or carer. However, you can choose to have your payments paid to the student’s school or the boarding provider.
Payments are made per term or fortnight depending on the payment.
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.
On the day you claim, you and the child you're claiming for must live in Australia and either:
- 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 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 for this payment before you start this claim.
Once you have read about eligibility the next steps are:
- register an intent to claim if you' re contacting us in the 4 weeks before 31 December of the study year
- complete the claim form
- submit your claim and supporting documentation
- we assess your claim and let you know the outcome
Managing your payment
Change of circumstances
If your family's circumstances change, this may affect your eligibility and payment.
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
How a bank account can be overdrawn
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
It is then a debt to the bank. Your bank might also charge you a fee. You have to pay the debt and fee back to them.
Sometimes your bank will take money from your account to pay off the debt and fee. They can take no 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 take no 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 take no 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 take no 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% if you wish.
This agreement does not cover all other types of income. Speak to your bank about their fees and repayment policies.
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
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:
- report this to a credit reporting body that could 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.