The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. ACCS (child wellbeing) - where a child is at risk of serious abuse or neglect

Note: The following section describes situations in which children may be 'at risk' of serious abuse or neglect. It includes mention of sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse, domestic and family violence, and neglect.


This topic describes the circumstances in which a child is at risk (1.1.A.110) of serious abuse or neglect, and covers:

  • where a child is at risk of serious abuse or neglect,
  • where a child is not necessarily at risk of serious abuse or neglect.

Where a child is at risk of serious abuse or neglect

For the purposes of ACCS (child wellbeing), a child is taken to be at risk of serious abuse or neglect if the child is at risk of experiencing harm, as a result of being subject to, or exposed to one or more of the following:

  • serious physical, emotional or psychological abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • domestic or family violence (1.1.F.15), or
  • neglect, that is, a failure to be provided with the basic needs that are essential for the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

A child can be at risk even if:

  • the abuse or neglect was not intentional – for example, a parent who falls seriously ill may not be able to meet their child’s basic physical and emotional needs, or
  • the child did not directly experience the event or circumstance – for example, a child whose parent experiences violence at the hands of their partner may be harmed, even if the child doesn’t directly experience violence.

Example: Charlotte and her mum Tracy live in a small apartment. Charlotte regularly witnessed how her mother's partner sexually and physically abused Tracy. Tracy and her partner are now separated, but Charlotte has been deeply disturbed and is still suffering the consequences, for example, by having anxiety attacks, nightmares and an inability to trust strangers. Charlotte has been identified as meeting the definition of at risk, as she experienced harm in the past, which continues to impact her.

At risk also includes situations where the child is likely to experience those circumstances in the future, in that the risk is 'real and apparent'.

Example: Chloe seems to not be putting on weight and the approved provider (1.1.A.90) is concerned that she may be at risk. Chloe's parents (1.1.P.10) explain that Chloe has been diagnosed with Coeliac's Disease and they need to discuss her dietary needs at child care based on the changes they are introducing at home. In this case, the risk that Chloe is likely to experience neglect in the future is not 'real and apparent'.

Any child who is identified as being at risk by a child protection authority will meet the definition of at risk and, if other criteria for making the ACCS (child wellbeing) payment ( are satisfied, an individual (1.1.I.90) or an approved provider ( may therefore become eligible to receive the ACCS (child wellbeing) payment.

Where a child is not necessarily at risk of serious abuse or neglect

There are certain circumstances that, on their own, do not mean that a child should be taken to be at serious risk of abuse or neglect. These include:

  • The income of the individual or individuals with respect to whom the child is an FTB child or regular care child (1.1.R.21).
  • The ethnic, cultural, religious or racial background of the child or the child's immediate family.
  • The geographical location in which the child and the child's immediate family resides.
  • The child's place of residence is statistically an area of socio-economic disadvantage.
  • The child is likely to benefit from early childhood education and care programs.
  • The child has a disability.
  • The child is in a foster care or kinship care arrangement.

Example: Lucy and Camille receive income support as their family’s sole source of income. While this can be financially challenging, on its own, it does not put their child Jack at risk of serious abuse or neglect.

Example: Amez’s family are refugees from Iraq and do not speak English. His family fled racial persecution in Iraq and are living in a town in regional Australia. There are no other families with a similar background in Amez’s town. Amez’s ethnicity alone does not mean that he is at risk of serious abuse or neglect. However, Amez’s mother Ashti suffers from serious post-traumatic stress disorder from her experiences in Iraq. Ashti does not have friends or family nearby to provide support. Ashti’s emotional state sometimes impacts on her ability to meet Amez’s basic needs. In this circumstance, Amez’s background has contributed to the circumstances placing him at risk of neglect but is not a reason by itself to assume neglect is happening.

Act reference: FAAct section 85CA Eligibility for ACCS (child wellbeing)

CCSMinRules Part 2 Division 2 When children are at risk of serious abuse or neglect for ACCS (child wellbeing)

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