Parents of twins have come forward to share their frustration over the lack of support available even though they face a "significantly greater set of challenges" compared to those giving birth to one child.
Mum of five-year-old twins Rachel March has shared her disbelief at not being eligible for Centrelink’s Multiple Birth Allowance, which offers parents who have had multiple children in the same birth extra support, despite them "being medically classed as multiples".
"I found out about not being eligible for the allowance when I was around 30 weeks pregnant," she told Yahoo News Australia. "To be honest it didn’t really hit me [again] until I was buying school uniforms this year. All the feelings I had whilst pregnant came flooding back and it felt like a huge slap in the face."
A director of the Australian Multiple Births Association (AMBA), Laura Wilson, says it's "really disappointing" that Centrelink still considers "two babies the value of one" even though "we know twins cost parents up to five times as much as a single child". "Twin parents spend a lot of money to just get the basics for their babies," she told Yahoo.
After Rachel revealed her experience online, other parents of twins in the same boat responded with their own experiences of being forgotten.
"Yep, this bamboozled me when I had twins," one said.
"Likely to finish work sooner, more likely to spend time in NICU/Special care, double the costs. That little bit extra would go a long way!" another lamented.
What is the multiple birth allowance?
Families with at least three children born during the same multiple birth who are getting the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A may be eligible for Multiple Birth Allowance until the children are 16 years of age.
"It is paid in recognition of the special costs and barriers to workforce participation associated with the simultaneous birth of three or more children," a spokesperson from the Department of Social Services told Yahoo.
Centrelink pays $184.38 for triplets, or $245.70 for quadruplets or more fortnightly through this allowance.
Fast facts about parents of multiples
98% of multiple birth pregnancies are twins
61% of parents who have multiples experience mental health challenges in their first year
While twins can cost up to five times more than a single child, triplets can cost up to a whopping 13 times more — though no twins and not all triplet families are entitled to the multiple birth allowance.
68% of multiples are born premature and admitted to SCN or NICU, and 50% have hospital stays of 6 days or more.
People who have birthed multiples are more likely to have a "difficult pregnancy" which requires them to pay for ongoing medical assistance during their recovery.
Parents of twins use on average 5000 nappies in the first year alone.
Only approximately 20% of primary carers of multiples go back into the workforce before their children are three.
Calls for better support for parents of twins and multiples
In 2023, the AMBA released a report stating there are "inadequate policies in place to support multiple birth families" and included policy change recommendations that would lead to better outcomes for these families, including an extension of paid parental leave for parents of twins and multiples.
"According to Centrelink and the Australian Government, twins are still not considered a multiple birth and are entitled to the same support as parents with singletons," a director of the AMBA, Julia McCarthy, said at the time. "Parents of twins and multiples have long felt forgotten and unseen by the Australian government and it is time to change this."
When questioned over why the Department of Social Services, and therefore Centrelink, do not consider twins as a multiple birth the department did not provide a response though pointed to the payments and benefits that may be accessed by all eligible parents.
What benefits are parents in Australia entitled to?
The different benefits and payments available from Centrelink all have requirements that parents must meet to be eligible. For example, payments generally depend on an individual and their partner’s (if applicable) incomes as well as the number, and age, of eligible children.
These benefits and payments include, but are not limited to:
Parental leave pay: for a child born or adopted from 1 July, 2023
Dad and Partner Pay
Family Tax Benefit Part A per child
Family Tax Benefit Part B per family
Newborn supplement and Newborn Upfront Payment
Multiple Birth allowance: for parents who have had three or more children in the same birth
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