Relief as 6-month supplement extended to students, concern for groups facing destitution and advice on contacting Centrelink

24 March 2020

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes the passage of both stimulus packages through the Parliament last night, highlighting more will be needed.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“We’re relieved to see that the $550 per fortnightly Supplement will now be extended to students on Youth Allowance, Abstudy and Austudy. We will advocate for more support for people who remain uncovered by income support if they have no paid employment, including asylum seekers.

“We are also concerned for people with disability, for carers and others who have specific needs in this health and economic crisis, which must be a priority.

“We also need to see more action at both state and federal levels on housing security. Along with many other community sector organisations, we are calling for additional financial support, and temporary eviction moratoriums, as well as cash assistance to help people already homeless or in overcrowded unsafe housing conditions. We must end homelessness now, literally. This is essential to responding to the health crisis, and the right thing to do.”

The stimulus packages, which have now passed Parliament, include:

  •  A payment of $$550 per fortnightly Supplement (beginning late April, currently locked in for six months) to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Youth Allowance student, Abstudy, Austudy, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
  • A $750 one-off payment for (in late March – mid April) for social security recipients, including pensioners and concession card holders.
  • A second $750 one-off payment (in July) for all receiving social security payments who do not receive the 6-month supplement.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie continued:

“While we’ll need more certainty over the longer term, the $550 fornightly supplement comes as a huge relief to many right now.

“We note that everyone who is already receiving a social security payment does not need to contact Centrelink. The additional support will be provided automatically if you are already receiving a social security payment.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to 5000 additional Centrelink staff and we urge the Government to roll out a public awareness campaign to deliver clear, accessible information on income support payments and processes and to work with us to do this.

“The current events highlight just how important it is for all of us that we have a strong, safe, adequate social safety net for everyone, and that government provides adequate resources for it to respond, including in times of crisis.

“As so many have expressed, the intense and widespread need for these payments is heartbreaking.

“Now more than ever, we are seeing why it is crucial we have a strong social safety net in place at all times,” Dr Goldie said.

Advice on accessing Centrelink:

If you already receive Newstart or another payment, you do not need to contact Centrelink to get the extra support announced.

If you are still getting paid, still have income coming in, if you can wait a few days, that may help. If you don’t need payments urgently, wait a day or two to connect.

For people who have lost their jobs and need to apply for a payment urgently:

Online: If you have digital access, try applying online through MyGov. Try again later if you cannot get through.

The government has enacted Intent to Claim processes so people don’t have to lodge a full claim immediately, and they will be back paid to the day they lodged their intent to claim. In other words, people won’t miss out on income support because of delays to lodge a completed claim.

Phone: We know many people do not have online access. The phone number for Jobseeker Payment is 132 850.

In person: If you do decide to line up, please practice social distancing.

We are also monitoring advice from Centrelink.  Don’t give up. For those who can access Centrelink via online or phone, please don’t give up – try again later.

We will see unprecedented levels of demand for Centrelink.  Understanding on all sides as Centrelink staff are doing all they can to help people trying to get support. Things may take some time.

The Government’s commitment to hiring 5,000 extra Centrelink staff is very welcome and we urge Government to move quickly to get these staff on deck.