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Familienbeihilfe: What you need to know about Austria’s child support benefits

Do you have a child or children in Austria? You may be eligible for support benefits. Here's what you need to know.

Familienbeihilfe: What you need to know about Austria’s child support benefits
Two budding volleyball players sharpen their tools at a kindergarten. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Austria is known for having an extensive and generous social security system.

This extends to child support benefits, with the amount paid out to families each month exceeding that of many other countries.

But how does it work – and how much can people get? 

Here’s what you need to know about child support benefits in Austria.

What is Familienbeihilfe?

The English translation of ‘Familienbeihilfe’ is ‘family help’ or ‘family allowance’. 

It’s a government financial benefit that is designed to support families as they raise their children in Austria, as long as they are living in the same household. 

Every family can access Familienbeihilfe, including EU/EEA and Swiss citizens, permanent residents and refugees.

The payments start automatically after the birth of a child and the money is usually paid directly to the mother.

What do you get?

The culture in Austria is very family-friendly so it comes as no surprise that child support payments are generous.

The current Familienbeihilfe rates have been in place since January 2018, with the amount a parent receives set by the age of the child to reflect the different stages of development. 

For each child, a family will receive €114 per month from birth, then from the age of three it rises to €121.90, from the age of 10 a family gets €141.50 and from the age of 19 to 24 the amount is €165.10. 

However, from the age of 18, Familienbeihilfe is only paid if the child is in vocational training, such as an apprenticeship, school, degree or University of Applied Sciences.

There is no maximum age limit if a child is permanently disabled before their 21st birthday, or during vocational training before their 25th birthday.

There is also a sibling scale (Geschwisterstaffelung), which means there is an additional amount every month for each extra child.

For example, with two children, a family will receive an extra €7.10 per child, and with three children the amount goes up to €17.40.

The rate continues to increase up to seven-plus children when the amount is €52.

Then there is the Schulstartgeld (for when children aged 6 to 15 start school each September) of €100 and a child tax credit for parents of children under 17, which is €58.40 per child per month.

Let’s not forget though that tax rates in Austria are high – particularly when compared with countries like the UK.

So it’s a case of you get out what you put in.

Anything controversial?

Earlier this year, the Austrian tax office came under criticism after Familienbeihilfe was suspended for thousands of families during entitlement reviews.

Reviewing the entitlement of benefits is a routine process for children that are studying or have a disability, according to an article in ORF

But the process was delayed due to the pandemic, which led to a large backlog of paperwork, a waiting time of up to four months and reports of financial hardship for some families.

In recent weeks, the SPÖ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) has also called for families to receive an extra two payments of Familienbeihilfe annually for the next two years – particularly to help women impacted financially by the pandemic.

Children’s gumboots on a gumboot stand. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

How does it compare to other countries?

Familienbeihilfe payments in Austria are higher than similar schemes in other countries, such as the UK.

In the UK, the family allowance is known as Child Benefit and can be claimed by parents with a child under the age of 16, or under 20 if they are in education. 

The rate is £21.15 (around €25) per week for the eldest or only child and £14 (€16) for each additional child. Child Benefit is paid every four weeks.

For families that earn more than £50,000 (€58,000), the child benefit might be taxed.

The USA, on the other hand, operates a tax credit system to offset the cost of raising a child, which at the moment is worth up to $2,000 (around €1,640) per child and is based on a family’s income.

This means poorer families are often unable to claim the full amount of tax credit.

But there are signs the system could be overhauled after an announcement earlier this year by the Biden administration about a plan to allow low to no income families to access the benefit, while phasing it out for high earners.

However in Ireland, a country with a family-friendly culture, the benefit system is even more generous than in Austria. 

In Ireland, each family is entitled to claim €140 per month in Child Benefit until the child reaches 18 and there is no income threshold.

This amount is paid for every child, so the rate for two children is €280 per month, with the amount rising to €1,120 per month for eight children or more.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is hitting the headlines as the Austrian Federal Government plans a reform of the scheme. Here's how it works now, why it is necessary and how it will change in the future.

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child-Pass) was launched in Austria in 1974 to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies.

It grants pregnant women free access to essential examinations and consultations, and serves as a record of healthcare.

But big changes are on the cards for the pass as a digitization reform is planned for the coming years, while disputes continue about the cost of the scheme.

Here’s what you need to know about how the Mutter-Kind-Pass works, why it’s necessary and how it will change. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules about turning on the heating in the workplace in Austria?

What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document to provide and track healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

It is issued to a woman when a pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and contains records of medical examinations during pregnancy. As well as health check-ups for the child up to five years of age.

The Mutter-Kind-Pass exists to ensure pregnant women and children get the necessary medical care they need.

For example, women in Austria are entitled to five medical check-ups throughout their pregnancy including blood tests, internal examinations, ultrasound scans and consultations with a midwife.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Who can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass and how much does it cost?

Any pregnant woman living in Austria can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass (and subsequent health examinations) for free.

However, all examinations must take place with a doctor that is registered with a health insurance company in Austria.

Women without health insurance need a confirmation of entitlement from the Austrian health insurance fund that is responsible for the area where they live.

This is a required step before any examinations can take place free of charge.

Why is the pass necessary?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass and its mandatory examinations are primarily used to detect any illnesses or possible complications early. 

The expected date of delivery is also entered into the Mutter-Kind-Pass, so the document is needed to receive maternity pay in Austria.

Additionally, proof of examinations are required to receive the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). This means the pass should be taken to every maternity-related appointment, as recommended by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.

How is the Mutter-Kind-Pass being reformed?

On Wednesday 16th November, Minister for Women and Family Affairs Susanne Raab (ÖVP) and Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) announced a reform of the Mutter-Kind-Pass.

The most notable change will be a transition from the paper booklet to a digital app in 2024, as well as new services and a name change to the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child-Pass).

Raab said: “In addition to the services in the area of ​​health care, we will introduce parent advice, which should be a compass for the new phase of life for new parents.”

The new services will include counselling, an extra consultation with a midwife, an additional ultrasound, hearing screenings for newborns, nutritional and health advice, and multilingual information in digital form.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In the future, parents-to-be and new parents will also be offered parenting advice when they have their first child, for example on the compatibility of employment and childcare, on the division of parental leave or on the effects of part-time work on pensions.

“The mother-child pass has been an essential part of maternal and child health in Austria for decades. Now we have managed together to further develop this important instrument in a contemporary form”, said Rauch.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

The implementation of the parent-child passport is a comprehensive, multi-year project and will begin with digitisation from next year.

The annual budget for the Mutter-Kind-Pass is currently €62 million and an additional €10 million from EU funds has been allocated to cover the cost of the reforms. 

However, there have been debates in recent months about the general cost of the pass. 

As a result there are ongoing negotiations between insurance companies and the Medical Association about the reimbursement of fees for providing healthcare and examinations.

READ ALSO: ‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

Der Standard reports that the Medical Association is threatening to discontinue the Mutter-Kind-Pass at the end of the year if an agreement on doctors fees cannot be reached. If that were to happen, expectant mothers would have to pay for examinations.

Currently, doctors receive €18.02 per examination and the Association is calling for an 80 percent increase.

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