Len Jaffit

Senior Technical Specialist, Social Security Law, Victoria Legal Aid

Rehana Chowdhry

Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid

Tim Noonan

Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid

Julie Riva

Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid

Oympia Sarrinikolaou

Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid

Allowances and payments

Last updated

1 July 2021


Eligibility (ss 7, pt 2.11A Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

To be eligible for Austudy, a person must satisfy an activity test, be at least 25 years old, and be an Australian resident. Waiting periods may apply, including a preclusion period for seasonal workers.

If, immediately before they turned 25, a person was receiving Youth Allowance and completing a course or apprenticeship, they will continue to receive Youth Allowance until they complete the course or apprenticeship.

The activity test for Austudy is satisfied if the person is undertaking a full-time Australian apprenticeship or is undertaking qualifying study (this is a full-time (i.e. at least 75 per cent) study load in an approved course).

A person may receive Austudy if they are not studying full-time if they have a disability and are unable to take on a full-time study load. However, they must take on at least 25 per cent of the full-time study load.

Also, a person may continue to receive Austudy if there has been a change to their course that is beyond their control (e.g. unavailability of subjects). However, they must still take on at least 66 per cent of the full-time study load.

A person cannot satisfy the Austudy activity test if they have completed a doctoral study or an overseas course of the same standing.

Full-time Australian apprentices do not have activity test requirements.

People receiving Austudy must also satisfy progress rules (i.e. the rate at which they progress through their course). There are allowable time limits for the payment of Austudy. The time limit may be extended if the course could not be completed because of circumstances beyond the person’s control (e.g. illness, family trauma, or a natural disaster – see section 569H Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) (‘SS Act’).

A person commits an ‘Austudy participation failure’ by failing, without a reasonable excuse, to comply with certain Centrelink requirements or to satisfy the activity test.

Following an Austudy participation failure, Austudy is not payable until the person undertakes an activity required by, or complies with a direction of, Centrelink about the failure. An eight-week non-payment period applies following repeated participation failures, although Centrelink has discretion not to apply the non-payment period.

The ‘multiple entitlement exclusion’ prohibits the payment of Austudy if the person is on another, more appropriate pension or allowance from Centre-link or from another Commonwealth Government agency (e.g. the Department of Veterans’ Affairs).

Austudy is not payable if the person is subject to an ‘assurance of support’ or is a participant of the Community Development Employment Project Scheme (CDEP) (see ss 578, 578A SS Act).

Rate of allowance (ss 581, 1067L Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The rate of Austudy depends on whether the person is single or has a partner and whether the person has dependent children. The income and assets test also applies to Austudy. In addition, a special rate is available for long-term income-support recipients who are starting full-time study or an Australian apprenticeship.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (pp. 22–3) for more information about Austudy.)

JobSeeker Payment

Eligibility (Part 2.12, Division 1 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

Since March 2020, the JobSeeker Payment has replaced the Newstart Allowance as the main working-age income-support payment.

To be eligible for the JobSeeker Payment, a person must be aged between 22 and the Age Pension age.

The person must:

  1. be unemployed (i.e. primarily concerned with finding full-time work, and not significantly engaged in setting up a business or some activity that interferes with their ability to look for, or take up, employment);
  2. be an Australian resident;
  3. pass the activity test requirements (or not be required to do so);
  4. be prepared to enter into an Employment Pathway Plan and fulfil the ‘mutual obligation’ requirements; not be involved in industrial action involving the person or their trade union;
  5. not reduce their job prospects by moving to an area with lower employment rates; and
  6. not be enrolled as a full-time student.

The JobSeeker Payment is also available to New Zealanders for a limited six-month period.

To be eligible, a New Zealander must have:

  • a special category visa; and
  • arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001; and
  • continuously lived in Australia for 10 years on the special category visa.

The activity test requirements are set out in section 601 of the SS Act. A person must show that they are actively seeking and willing to undertake suitable paid work; and that they are complying with any directions from Centrelink or their job network provider to undertake paid work or training.

Exemptions to the activity test include:

  • being aged over 55 and engaged in at least 30 hours a week of approved unpaid voluntary work, or a combination of such work and part-time paid employment;
  • attending a training camp for the Armed Forces Reserve (or similar);
  • a general special circumstances exemption, including homelessness, major personal crisis, major disruption to a person’s home, temporary caring responsibilities, newly arrived refugees, etc.;
  • being unfit for more than eight hours work, due to temporary illness or injury, and unable to undertake another suitable activity;
  • an automatic 12-month maximum special family circumstances exemption (e.g. foster caring, home schooling, and caring for four or more children);
  • a special circumstances exemption including caring for a dependent child with a disability, being subject to domestic violence, extremely high stress due to recent relationship breakdown, the death of an immediate family member and caring responsibilities.

Increasingly, activity test requirements are being modified, rather than a complete exemption being allowed. In addition, people deemed to have a ‘partial capacity to work’ (s 16B) are required to look for work of up to 25 hours per week but are deemed to fully meet the activity test if they undertake 15 hours of work per week. This decision is made after a job-capacity assessment (see ‘Disability Support Pension’ in ‘Pensions‘).

Employment Pathway Plans

Employment Pathway Plans are written agreements ‘negotiated’ between Centrelink and a recipient of activity tested payments. In practice, they are generally negotiated with a job network provider, but must be approved by Centrelink.

Employment Pathway Plans require the person to do things to improve their chances of obtaining employment. These include job training, paid work experience, unpaid voluntary work and applying for a certain number of jobs in a period.

The JobSeeker Payment is not payable until a person signs an Employment Pathway Plan. If a person fails to comply with the terms of their Employment Pathway Plan without a reasonable excuse, this may be a ‘participation failure’ (see ‘Allowances and payments: Participation failures’, below).

Waiting periods

Generally, a person must wait seven days from the date of the claim before becoming eligible to receive the JobSeeker Payment. The waiting period may be less if the person has transferred from another income support payment within the previous 13 weeks. The waiting period may be reduced or waived because of financial hardship.

Payment of the Newstart Allowance may be deferred where the person has liquid assets of more than $5500 (single) or $11 000 (member of a couple or with dependent children).

Migrants who entered Australia or became permanent residents after 4 March 1997 must wait 104 weeks to be eligible to receive the Newstart Allowance. Although, migrants may receive the Special Benefit in some circumstances (see ‘Special Benefit’, below). Migrants who were granted permanent residence visas on or after 1 January 2019 must wait 208 weeks.

There are also waiting periods for people who get payouts of sick leave, annual leave, long service leave or maternity leave, or have done seasonal work earning more than the ‘average weekly ordinary time earnings’ in the six months before the claim.

Rate of payment (ss 643, 1068 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The rate of the JobSeeker Payment varies according to whether the recipient:

  • is single;
  • is a member of a couple;
  • has dependent children;
  • is aged over 60.

Work for the Dole participants may be eligible for an additional payment of $20.80 per fortnight.

A person on the JobSeeker Payment may also be eligible for Rent Assistance (see ‘Supplementary payments: Rent Assistance’, below).

The payment is reduced if the recipient’s (or their partner’s) income is above the income threshold. Eligibility for the payment is also subject to an assets test.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (p. 31) for more information about the JobSeeker Payment.)

Parenting Payment

Eligibility (ss 7, 500 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The Parenting Payment (PP) can be paid to a person who has at least one child. The parent must be an Australian resident. The Parenting Payment (partnered) (PP (partnered)) is paid to a member of a couple where the child is under six years old. The Parenting Payment (single) (PP (single)) is paid to a single person where the child is under eight years old. 

A person may need to pass certain participation requirements if the person’s youngest child has turned six years old. There are penalties for non-compliance (see ‘Allowances and payments: Participation failures’, below).

The rate of payment, the income test and the assets test are different for the PP (partnered) and PP (single) (see ‘Rate of payment (ss 503, 1068A, 1068B SS Act’, below).

A ‘principal parent’ is a person responsible for the care of at least one dependent child, who is: 

  • in the adult’s care, and the adult is legally responsible (whether alone or jointly with another person) for the young person’s day-to-day care, welfare and development; or
  • not the dependent of someone else, and wholly or substantially in the adult’s care.

A child can be the PP child of only one person at a time.

Members of a couple are considered to be people who are legally married but not living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis, or people who are living in a ‘marriage-like relationship’ (including same-sex relationships).

Members of a couple are generally precluded from receiving the PP (single) or any payment at the single rate.

The question of whether two people are not living separately and apart, or are living in a ‘marriage-like relationship’, is complex and takes account of many factors. Most of these factors are listed in section 4(3) of the SS Act. They include financial aspects of the relationship, the nature of the household, social aspects, any sexual relationship and the extent of the persons’ commitment to each other.

A person applying for, or receiving, the PP (single) may need to provide Centrelink with information about their living arrangements and relationship with the other person. Failure to provide the information may lead to the payment being refused, suspended or cancelled. If the information provided by the person does not establish that the person is single, the PP (single) is not payable.

The PP is also not paid if:

  • another person is receiving the PP for the same child;
  • the person’s partner is receiving the PP;
  • the person is receiving another social security payment(s) under another federal scheme; or
  • the person is serving a waiting period.

Participation requirements

Once the youngest child of a Parenting Payment recipient has turned six years old, the person will be required to sign an Employment Pathway Plan. Failure to comply may result in a penalty being imposed.

The penalties are the same as for JobSeeker Payment breaches (see ‘JobSeeker Payment’, above).

Rate of payment (ss 503, 1068A, 1068B Social Security Act 1991 (Cth)) 

The PP (single) rate is subject to the same assets tests as pension payments. The PP (partnered) rate depends on whether the person’s partner is receiving a benefit. An assets limit applies, which is the same as the pensioner assets test.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (pp. 12–13) for more information about the Parenting Payment.)

Special Benefit

Eligibility (ss 7, 729, 731 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The Special Benefit is a discretionary ‘safety net’ payment that provides income support for some people who are unable to get any other social security income support payment, and who are in severe financial need due to circumstances outside their control.

To be eligible for the Special Benefit, a person must:

  • not be eligible for a pension or benefit under the SS Act or a service pension under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (Cth);
  • not be disqualified from receiving the JobSeeker Payment or PP (partnered) due to the person’s involvement in industrial action;
  • not be subject to a non-payment period for the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance or PP because of a serious failure or other specified provisions of the SS Act or Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) (‘SSA Act’);
  • not be unable to be paid the JobSeeker Payment, Austudy Allowance or Youth Allowance due to specified breaches of the SS Act or SSA Act;
  • not be disqualified from receiving the PP due to a failure to meet participation requirements;
  • not be disqualified from receiving Youth Allowance because of a failure to satisfy the activity test or requirements relating to Youth Allowance Employment Pathways Plans;
  • not be disqualified from receiving the Austudy Allowance because of a failure to satisfy the activity test;
  • not be serving a preclusion period due to a compensation payment;
  • be an Australian resident or the holder of a specified visa subclass.

Among other things, to qualify for the Special Benefit, a person must be ‘unable to earn a sufficient livelihood’. Considerations include:

  • whether a person can support themself or receive adequate support from their family;
  • the reasons behind a person’s lack of support; and
  • the nature and extent of a person’s financial hardship.

People who may be considered to be qualified for the Special Benefit include:

  • resident children whose parents are not entitled to payments;
  • victims of natural disasters;
  • individuals who hold criminal justice stay visas or other temporary or provisional visas;
  • new migrants who are ineligible for the Age Pension because they do not meet the 10-year Australian residence requirement.

These categories are not exhaustive. It is necessary to look at the circumstances of each case.

People receiving the Special Benefit who are holders of designated temporary protection, humanitarian, and safe haven visas are usually required to meet the activity test from 13 weeks after the visa is granted (see ‘JobSeeker Payment’, above). 

People living in isolated areas, some carers, pregnant women, parents, and some people who are temporarily ill are specifically exempt from the activity test, as are people covered by the ‘special circumstances’ general discretion.

Failure to comply with the activity test or the Special Benefit Employment Pathway Plan may result in a penalty being imposed. The penalties are the same as for JobSeeker Payment breaches (see ‘Allowances and payments: Participation failures’, below).

Except in limited specified circumstances, a newly arrived resident will have to wait four years before they can receive the Special Benefit.

These limited circumstances include:

  • where the person has experienced a substantial change in circumstances beyond their control after they first entered Australia;
  • the person is a refugee or former refugee or a family member of a refugee.

Rate of benefit (s 746 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The Special Benefit is paid at a rate that is not more than the JobSeeker Payment, Austudy Allowance (see above) or Youth Allowance (see below) that the person would receive if they qualified for that benefit.

Under Centrelink’s policy, a strict income test is applied. There is no ‘free-income area’, so any income a person receives reduces the rate of the Special Benefit that they receive (i.e. for every $1 of the person’s income, $1 is deducted from their payment). The rate may also be reduced if the person receives free rent, board or lodging.

Rent Assistance may also be payable (see ‘Supplementary payments: Rent Assistance’, below). Education Entry Payments and Pensioner Education Supplements may be payable to single parents who are receiving the Special Benefit.

Centrelink also applies an ‘available funds’ policy that examines a person’s liquid assets and takes into account whether a person is likely to be dependent on the Special Benefit in the short term (i.e. less than 13 weeks) or in the long term (i.e. more than 13 weeks). To be eligible to receive the Special Benefit in the long term, a person can have no more than $5000 in available funds. To be eligible to receive the Special Benefit in the short term, this policy is even more restrictive.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (p. 33) for more information about the Special Benefit.)

Youth Allowance

Eligibility (ss 7, 540–556 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

There are two types of Youth Allowance:

  1. Youth Allowance (student) for full-time students;
  2. Youth Allowance (job seeker) for unemployed people and part-time students.

To be eligible to receive the Youth Allowance, a person must be an Australian resident or have a ‘protected special category visa’. Although, a person who has a non-protected special category visa, who has lived in Australia continuously for 10 years since 26 February 2001, may, in limited circumstances, be eligible to receive the Youth Allowance for a one-off, six-month period.

Youth Allowance (student) may be payable to:

  • people aged 16 to 24 who are doing a full-time Australian apprenticeship; or
  • people aged 18 to 24 who are studying full-time; or
  • people aged 16 to 17 who are studying full-time and have completed Year 12 or an equivalent; or
  • people aged 16 to 17 who are studying full-time and who are independent or need to live away from home to study.

People aged over 25 may be eligible to receive the Youth Allowance if they were receiving the Youth Allowance as an Australian apprentice or full-time student before turning 25 and continue in that course or apprenticeship.

People aged 15 may be eligible to receive the Youth Allowance if they are considered to be independent. They must also be above the school leaving age in their state or territory and satisfy, or are exempt from, activity test requirements.

Youth Allowance (job seeker) may be payable to people aged 16 to 21 who are:

  • looking for full-time work or undertaking approved activities; or
  • studying part-time and looking for work; or
  • temporarily unable to work.

When a person turns 22, they transfer to the JobSeeker Payment.

Youth Allowance recipients need to pass the activity test unless they are exempt.

To pass the activity test, the Youth Allowance applicant must be:

  • undertaking full-time study; or
  • undertaking approved full-time training; or
  • seeking and willing to undertake paid work (if they are not an early school leaver); or
  • a carer of a child and the applicant meets the Secretary’s requirements; or
  • complying with an Employment Pathway Plan and is:
    • an early school leaver; or 
    • in a class of persons specified by Centrelink; or 
    • determined by Centrelink to be taken to satisfy the activity test; or
  • participating in a program of work or participating in a training program (in relation to a Centrelink notice to do paid work).

A person can be made exempt from the activity test for a period if they are temporarily incapacitated.

A person aged under 22 who has not completed Year 12 or an equivalent qualification usually needs to participate in education or training full-time, or spend at least 25 hours a week participating in part-time study or training, in combination with other approved activities. If a person aged under 22 has a partial capacity to work, they may also be eligible for a Youth Disability Supplement.

Payment of the Youth Allowance is subject to waiting periods similar to those for the JobSeeker Payment (see ‘Waiting periods’ under ‘JobSeeker Payment’, above).

Failure to meet the activity test or comply with a Youth Allowance Employment Pathway Plan may result in a penalty. The penalties are the same as for the JobSeeker Payment (see ‘Allowances and payments: Participation failures’, below).

Under 18-year-olds

People aged 16 or 17 who live at home and are full-time secondary school students are not eligible to receive the Youth Allowance.

To be eligible to receive the Youth Allowance, a 16- or 17-year-old must be required to live away from home under section 1067D of the SS Act, or be considered to be independent under section 1067A of the SS Act.

Young people aged 16 and 17 normally have to do full-time education or training to receive the Youth Allowance.

However, they may be exempted if one of the following applies:

  • the person has a temporary incapacity due to illness or an accident;
  • the person has a disability or learning difficulties;
  • the person has a given birth within the last six weeks;
  • the person is homeless;
  • the person is experiencing a personal crisis or is a refugee (in some circumstances);
  • the person has part-time work/education for at least 20 hours per week;
  • the person has lost a job;
  • the person has an inability to obtain an education place;
  • the person has a drug problem;
  • the person is unable to study full-time; or
  • the person has agreed to start an Employment Pathway Plan.

For the purposes of determining the correct rate and the application of parental means testing, a young person is classified as dependent at home, or dependent and required to live away from home, or independent.

Required to live away from home

A young person (aged 18 to 25) is considered to be required to live away from home if they:

  • are not independent;
  • do not live at a parent’s home; and
  • need to live away from home for education, training or work, or their prospects are significantly increased if they live away from home (s 1067D SS Act).


A young person is independent (s 1067A SS Act) if they:

  • are an orphan;
  • are a refugee not wholly or substantially dependent on someone else and without a parent living in Australia;
  • are self-supporting due to an employment history as defined in the legislation;
  • have an employment history as defined in the legislation, are unsupported, and are disadvantaged in relation to employment or education;
  • are or have been married, in a registered relationship, or in a de facto relationship for a year;
  • have a dependent child;
  • have parents who cannot exercise their responsibilities;
  • are in state care;
  • cannot live at home due to extreme family breakdown, serious risk to physical or mental wellbeing due to violence, sexual abuse or other unreasonable circumstances, lack of stable accommodation; and are not receiving continuous support, whether financial or other, from a parent, guardian or the state;
  • have a partial capacity to work (Youth Allowance (job seeker) only);
  • are aged 22 or older and are studying full time.

Rate of allowance (Part 3.5 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The Youth Allowance is paid subject to:

  • the parental and personal means tests (if the person is not independent); or
  • the personal means test (if the person is independent and single); or
  • the partner and personal means tests (if the person is independent and a member of a couple).

The parental means test applies to young people who are not independent, including those required to live away from home. The Youth Allowance reduces by 20 cents for every $1 the parent’s income exceeds a threshold ($55 565 as at 1 July 2021). This reduction is shared between others subject to this parental income test who receive specified payments. There is also an assets test and a family maintenance income test.

Under the personal income test, the Youth Allowance for full-time students is reduced as the student’s income increases. However, the first $8355 of a merit and equity based scholarship is exempt. A job seeker can earn $150 per fortnight and a student or Australian apprentice $437 per fortnight without affecting the Youth Allowance rate. The rate of reduction after that changes frequently; contact Centrelink for specific rates.

New Youth Allowance (student) recipients can get a Student Start-up Loan (SSL). The SSL replaced the Student Start-up Scholarship. Currently (as at 1 July 2021), the SSL is $2184 per annum and is paid in two instalments of $1074. The SSL is repayable under the same arrangement as HELP debts.

Youth Allowance (student) recipients who are required to live away from home to study full-time may, in some circumstances, be eligible for a Relocation Scholarship of $4626 for their first year, and a reduced amount for further years (with the amount varying depending on their circumstances). The relocation scholarship is not available for students who move from one major city to another.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (pp. 27–30) for more information about the Youth Allowance.)

Allowances and payments: Participation failures

Breaches in allowance and payment terms are called ‘participation failures’ and are set out in division 3A of the SSA Act (s 42A). The regime applies to payments with activity test requirements (generally the JobSeeker Payment, but also Youth Allowance, the Parenting Payment and the Special Benefit). 

There are four types of failure:

  1. ‘no show, no pay’ failures (s 42C–D SSA Act);
  2. connection failures (s 42E–L);
  3. reconnection failures (s 42E–L);
  4. serious failures (s 42M–R).

Centrelink can impose a financial penalty, which is determined based on the type and frequency of the failure(s).

‘No show, no pay’ failures

A person commits a ‘no show, no pay’ failure if they:

  • fail to participate in a compulsory activity required by a job plan; or
  • fail to comply with a serious failure requirement; or
  • engage in misconduct during an activity; or
  • fail to attend a job interview; or
  • during a job interview, deliberately behave in a way that results in them not receiving a job offer.

It is only possible to commit one ‘no show, no pay’ failure per day. The penalty for a failure is the loss of one-tenth of the person’s fortnightly payment. A failure only applies if the person has no reasonable excuse (unless the person commits misconduct), although rules as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable excuse’ have been tightened (see s 42UA SSA Act).

Connection failures

A person commits a connection failure if they (without a reasonable excuse):

  • fail to attend a compulsory Centrelink or Employment Pathway Plan appointment; or 
  • fail to enter into an Employment Pathway Plan; or
  • fail to meet a job search requirement or comply with an Employment Pathway Plan requirement; or
  • fail to keep or return a job seeker diary.

Two or more connection failures can be committed in a single day. If a connection failure is committed, the person may be required to comply with a reconnection requirement (essentially an opportunity to fix the failure).

Reconnection failures

A person commits a reconnection failure if they fail to comply with a reconnection requirement without a reasonable excuse. The penalty for a reconnection failure is the loss of one-tenth of the person’s fortnightly payment for each business day until the failure is fixed. Further reconnection requirements may be imposed even if the person had a reasonable excuse for committing an earlier reconnection failure.

Serious failures

A serious failure is committed if a person, without a reasonable excuse, persistently fails to comply with their obligations in relation to a participation payment. An eight-week non-payment period applies if a serious failure is committed. Centrelink may require a person who has committed a serious failure to comply with a serious failure requirement. If the person begins to comply, Centrelink may end the non-payment period. If Centrelink determines that a person would be in severe financial hardship if required to serve the eight-week non-payment period, the non-payment period can be ended early.

Comprehensive Compliance Assessment

Before deciding that a person has committed a serious failure due to persistent non-compliance, Centrelink must conduct a Comprehensive Compliance Assessment (CCA).

The CCA aims to ascertain:

  • why the person has committed failures or failed to meet Centrelink requirements;
  • whether the person has employment barriers; and
  • whether the participation requirements are appropriate (see s 42NA SSA Act).

Three failures in any six-month period automatically trigger a CCA. At a CCA, a Centrelink officer considers, among other things, whether the person would benefit from additional assistance. Failure to attend a CCA may result in a connection failure.

Unemployment non-payment period

If a person is unemployed due to misconduct, or an unreasonable voluntary act, generally an eight-week non-payment period applies. This can be ended early if the person is in severe financial hardship and is in a specified class of persons (e.g. has an impairment, is homeless or has a dependent child).

Other penalties and non-payment periods

Centrelink may impose a deferment period on a seasonal worker who is ‘between jobs’ (s 633 SS Act). The length of the period depends on how long the person worked and how much they earned (see s 16A SS Act).

A deferment of 26 weeks may be imposed if a person reduces their own employment prospects by moving to an area with higher unemployment rates without a sufficient reason.

Sufficient reasons include:

  • the person moved to join a family member;
  • the person moved to treat or alleviate a physical disease or illness suffered by the person or by a family member;
  • the person moved due to an ‘extreme circumstance’ (e.g. domestic violence) (s 634(3) SS Act).

Supplementary payments: Carer Allowance

Eligibility (ss 952–955 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

Both the carer and the person being cared for must be Australian residents.

To get the Carer Allowance: 

  • the carer must provide care and attention on a daily basis in a private home, except during (temporary) hospitalisation or respite periods;
  • the person cared for must have a disability or severe medical condition that is permanent or exists for an extended period of at least 12 months (unless their condition is terminal).

The eligibility rules for caring for a child under 16 years old are different to the eligibility rules for caring for a person over 16.

The Carer Allowance eligibility rules for carers looking after a person aged 16 or over are:

  • the disability or severe medical impairment of the person receiving care must cause a substantial functional impairment (as assessed under the Adult Disability Assessment Tool (ADAT); and
  • the person receiving care must be a family member of the carer or be approved by Centrelink; and
  • if the care provider and receiver do not share a private home, the care must:
    • be provided at the carer’s or receiver’s home, and 
    • be provided for at least 20 hours per week, and 
    • be provided every day, and 
    • be related to the bodily functions or sustaining the life of the care receiver.

That is, unless the care provider and receiver share a home, the Carer Allowance is only payable in limited circumstances.

A carer may be eligible for two Carer Allowance (adult) payments if they care for two disabled adults. 

The Carer Allowance may be shared between two carers with Centrelink’s approval, but it is not payable to more than one member of a couple.

For a carer who looks after a person aged under 16 to be eligible to receive the Carer Allowance, the care receiver must be the carer’s dependent child who qualifies as a disabled child.

A ‘disabled child’ is a child who has a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability that is permanent or will continue for an extended period. The child must receive daily care and attention in a private home that is the residence of the carer and the care receiver. The child must either have a ‘recognised disability’ that appears on a list of disabilities that results in automatic qualification, or the disability must cause the child to function below the standard for their age level as assessed under the Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination (DCLA) for caring for the child.

Such a rating may be given to a carer who cares for two disabled children (whose disabilities do not individually qualify) provided the combined special care needs are at a significant level when measured by the DCLA.

If a carer qualifies for the Carer’s Payment for children under 16 for whom constant care is provided, they may automatically qualify for the Carer Allowance.

Rate of allowance (s 974 Social Security Act 1991 (Cth))

The Carer Allowance is a flat rate of $131.90 per fortnight. In addition, every person receiving the Carer Allowance receives a $1000 Child Disability Assistance Payment annually for each child being cared for under 16 years. There is no assets test for the Carer Allowance.

However, since 20 September 2018, an annual family income threshold of $250 000 has applied. The Carer Allowance may be paid in addition to an income support payment.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (p. 20) for more information about the Carer Allowance.)

Supplementary payments: Mobility Allowance

The Mobility Allowance (ss 1035, 1035A SS Act) is available to people who:

  • have a disability, illness or injury; and
  • are aged 16 years or over; and
  • cannot use public transport without substantial assistance; and
  • have to travel to and from home for work (including volunteer work), study, training or job-seeking.

The Mobility Allowance is $99.50 per fortnight for people who have 32 hours (in a four-week period) of any combination of paid work, volunteering or vocational training. 

Whereas, the Mobility Allowance is $139.10 per fortnight for people who receive the Disability Support Pension, JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance or Parenting Payment and are:

  • working at least 15 hours per week at or above the relevant minimum wage; or
  • looking for work of 15 hours or more per week that is at or above the relevant minimum wage under an agreement with an employment services provider); or
  • working 15 hours or more per week in the Supported Wage System (excluding Australian Disability Enterprises).

The Mobility Allowance is not payable if the claimant is provided with a car from the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs under the Vehicle Assistance Scheme, or if the claimant has received a funded package of support from the National Disability Insurance Agency.

The Mobility Allowance is only available to Australian residents. The allowance is available to newly arrived migrants after they have spent 208 weeks in Australia as an Australian resident (some exemptions may apply). The Mobility Allowance may be paid for up to six weeks of temporary absence from Australia. There is no income or assets test for the Mobility Allowance.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (pp. 17–18) for more information about the Mobility Allowance.)

Supplementary payments: Rent Assistance

People who qualify for a social security pension, benefit or allowance, or for Family Tax Benefit A at more than the base rate, may be eligible for Rent Assistance (s 1070–1070X SS Act).

Rent Assistance can be paid if a person pays at least $125.80 rent per fortnight (or $203.60 per fortnight for a couple with no children). The amount of Rent Assistance depends on the amount of rent paid.

Special rules apply to single sharers, people who pay board, those who live in a retirement village, and people aged under 21 who receive a Disability Support Pension.

Rent Assistance is not available to people who pay rent to state housing. Rent Assistance is also not paid to people who are single, aged under 25 with-out dependents, living in a parent’s home, and receiving the JobSeeker Payment.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (p. 34) for more information about Rent Assistance.)

Supplementary payments: Crisis Payment

A person who is experiencing severe financial hardship may be eligible for a one-off payment. The payment applies to particular crisis situations, including:

  • a person has just come out of prison or psychiatric confinement (of at least 14 days’ duration);
  • a person has left home and is unable to return because of an extreme circumstance, such as domestic violence or their home has been destroyed;
  • a person has entered Australia for the first time on a qualifying humanitarian visa;
  • a person has remained in their home following domestic violence and the family member responsible has left or been removed;
  • another situation in the legislation.

Generally, these claims must be made within seven days of the crisis occurring or up to 21 days before being due to be released from prison or psychiatric confinement.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (p. 33) for more information about the Crisis Payment.)

Family Tax Benefit

Eligibility (ss 21, 22 A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth))

To be eligible for the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), an adult must have at least one ‘FTB child’ and be an Australian resident or hold a special category or other prescribed visa. There is no assets test for the FTB.

FTB Part A (FTB(A)) is a payment per child and is worked out using two income tests. The test that gives the highest rate is applied.

FTB Part B (FTB(B)) is a per family payment that assists single-income families and families where one parent is on a low income. The income test is different to the FTB(A) test.

A ‘FTB child’ is generally aged under 16, an adult is legally responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, and the child is in the adult’s care and living in Australia or with the adult. A person aged 16–19 may also be a FTB child if they are in an adult’s care and living in Australia, or they live with the adult and are doing full-time secondary study (the maximum age for FTB is 19 from 1 January 2013).

Rent Assistance can be paid to a FTB(A) recipient if they receive more than the base rate.

Since 1 July 2016, FTB(A) and FTB(B) have been payable if the FTB recipient or FTB child is overseas for up to six weeks. If they are overseas for more than six weeks, FTB is stopped. If the FTB recipient or FTB child return to Australia within 13 weeks of the payment being stopped, it can be recommenced, but no payment can be made for days overseas in excess of six weeks. If the FTB recipient or FTB child remain overseas for more than 13 weeks, the FTB is cancelled.

FTB can be paid as a fortnightly payment or as a lump sum paid at the end of the financial year. If you claim FTB as a lump sum, you need to lodge your claim within 12 months after the end of the relevant financial year, and also lodge your income tax return within that same period (or tell Centrelink that you are not required to lodge a tax return).

Only one member of a couple caring for a FTB child can be paid the FTB. If the parents are separated, FTB can be divided between both parents depending on the proportion of care each provides for the child. However, if the level of care provided is less than 35 per cent, the child is not taken to be a FTB child of that care provider.

To receive more than the base rate of FTB(A) for children of a previous relationship, reasonable action to obtain child support must be taken.

Rate of assistance (s 58, sch 1 A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth))

The rate of payment depends on the child’s age. The maximum rate of FTB(A) per fortnight is:

  • aged under 13 years: $191.40;
  • aged 13–15 years: $248.78;
  • aged 16–19 years: $248.78.

The maximum rate of FTB(B) per family, per fortnight is:

  • aged under five years: $162.54;
  • aged 5–18 years: $113.54.

The FTB(A) supplement is subject to an income test based on an adjusted taxable income.

Since 1 July 2017, the supplement has been paid to eligible recipients if:

  • their tax return information for a financial year is provided within 12 months of the end of the financial year; and
  • they meet the income test: the family’s adjusted taxable income is $80 000 or less; and
  • the child meets immunisation and health check requirements.

FTB(B) includes the energy supplement, which is payable after the end of the financial year to FTB recipients who have been continuously receiving the supplement since 16 September 2016.

(See also A Guide to Australian Government Payments (pp. 2–4, 5) for more information about the Family Tax Benefit.)

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