Centrelink provides a wide range of payments to people who are unable to work on a full time basis because of a disability, as well as those who care for them.
These payments can include:
- Disability Support Pension
- Youth Disability Supplement
- Pensioner Education Supplement
- Education Entry Payment
- Carer Allowance
- Rent Assistance
When applying for a payment, you will often need to give Centrelink details of your financial position, including your family's combined income, savings, and assets. Centrelink may also ask for documentation such as tax returns, bank statements, and proof of identity.
The qualification rules for the Disability Support Pension differ significantly from the Youth Allowance criteria; your child may qualify for the benefit as soon as he or she has turned 16. If your child applies for the Disability Support Pension, you will need to provide written reports from his or her treating doctor(s). Your child may also need to attend a Job Capacity Assessment. If Centrelink requests an assessment, you are legally entitled to attend to help answer the assessor's questions.
Qualification for the Disability Support Pension can provide your child with access to additional benefits, including:
- A Pensioner Concession Card, which also provides the benefits of a Commonwealth health care card;
- The Pensioner Education Supplement, in circumstances where part-time study is being undertaken (usually 25% or more of a full time loading);
- The Education Entry Payment, paid once per calendar year following qualification for, or continuation of, the Pensioner Education Supplement; and
- Free enrolment in one NSW TAFE course per calendar year, plus a concessional fee on subsequent enrolments during the same calendar year.1
- Rent Assistance may be payable to your child if your family pays private rent for housing.
If your child requires frequent care, you may be entitled to receive the Carer Allowance. Although there are strict medical eligibility criteria2, including a requirement for a treating doctor's report, there is no income or asset test for the Carer Allowance, and depending on the circumstances you may be eligible for an additional payment if there is a second qualifying person for whom you care regularly.
Low Income Health Care Card
The Low Income Health Care Card provides various Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme concessions for low income earners aged over 18 - for example part-time workers - as well as some young people who are receiving Youth Allowance. Supplementing the Commonwealth medical benefits, the NSW Government provides some additional entitlements to Health Care Card holders, although notably not public transport concessions.
To qualify for the Low Income Health Care Card, an individual must have a gross income (before tax but excluding superannuation) that is no greater than approximately 80% of the gross weekly minimum wage, measured on average over an eight week period. Unlike Youth Allowance, parental income is not assessed for the Card. In addition, the individual's income can temporarily rise by up to 25% before the card has to be immediately relinquished.
More information about the Low Income Health Care Card is available at the Centrelink website.
After you and/or your child start receiving payments or other services, such as the Low Income Health Care Card, you may have certain reporting obligations, including the reporting of employment income and hours, changes to assets, and new residential arrangements. Always be sure that you know what information is required and that you report on time to avoid unnecessary difficulties, such as the need to pay money back to Centrelink.
The easiest way to report to Centrelink is using the Online Services portal. You can register for Online Services at the Centrelink website.
Problems dealing with Centrelink
When dealing with Centrelink, the best advice is to avoid potential difficulties by meeting deadlines imposed by social security law and by providing accurate and complete information to Centrelink when applying for services and during subsequent reporting and re-evaluations.
If you feel that a decision made by Centrelink is incorrect, there is a dispute resolution process that you can commence. The most commonly used stages of this process have no cost and are easily accessed; however, there are time limits after which appeals cannot be lodged. The entire process is described at the Centrelink website.
If you wish to consult an independent party regarding your rights and obligations, or to get help regarding specific decisions made by Centrelink, you can contact the Welfare Rights Centre Sydney.
In circumstances that require more complex legal advice, you may wish to contact Legal Aid NSW.
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1 NSW TAFE Fees
2 Adult Disability Assessment Tool; Guide to Social Security Law