The family income supplement (FIS) is designed to provide income for employees on low earnings with families. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were unemployed and claiming other social welfare payments.
To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. A couple may combine their hours of employment to meet the qualification criteria. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with him/her or is supported by him/her. Furthermore, the average family income must be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family.
The "hours worked" requirement has been reduced significantly since the introduction of the scheme in 1984. The requirement was initially set at 30 hours per week but was progressively reduced to 19 hours per week in 1996. Further reducing the "hours worked" requirement could have expenditure implications and could only be decided on in a budgetary context. For low income workers (or potential workers) with less than the minimum hours of employment or who are working on a casual basis, unemployment payments provide for daily disregards and tapered withdrawal of payment which address the loss of social welfare benefits through taking up employment.
While there are no immediate plans to make any significant changes to the qualifying criteria for FIS, the Deputy should note that family and child income supports are currently being examined by the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, which I established last June. The Group has been tasked with recommending cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes achieved, particularly child poverty outcomes.