- in severe financial hardship
- unable to earn income to support yourself and your dependents for reasons outside your control
- not able to receive any other income support pension or benefit
Eligibility & payment rates
Eligibility for Special Benefit
You may be eligible if you:
- are in severe financial hardship
- for reasons outside your control, are not able to earn enough income to support yourself and your dependants
- cannot get any other social security pension or benefit
- meet residence requirements
Severe financial hardship
You are considered to be in severe financial hardship if:
- your total fortnightly income is less than the maximum fortnightly rate of Special Benefit payment
- your readily available funds are less than the allowable limit
- there is no other course of action that you could be expected to take to improve your financial position
Not being able to get or keep a job is not considered a substantial change in circumstances beyond your control.
You cannot get Special Benefit if you have money equal to 2 weeks of Special Benefit payment.
Long term support
If you are paid Special Benefit in the long term, you cannot have more than $5,000 in available funds. The value of non-liquid assets that could reasonably be realised is included in the available funds test. This includes assets located overseas.
Payment rates for Special Benefit
You may get less payment if you get free board or lodgings, or other forms of support.
Early delivery of your first Special Benefit payment
If you are in severe financial hardship due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, you may be able to receive an early delivery of your first payment. For more information, visit your nearest service centre, or call 132 850.
Special Benefit payment rates are adjusted on:
- 1 January each year if you are under 21 and have no children
- 20 March and 20 September each year if you have dependent children or are aged 21 or older
Income and assets tests for Special Benefit
The amount of income and assets you have may determine the payment you will get.
Your income affects the amount of payment you receive. Your Special Benefit reduces by $1 for every $1 of income you earn or receive.
An asset is any property or possession you own either partly or wholly. It includes assets held outside Australia and debts owing to you.
Residence requirements for Special Benefit
To be eligible for Special Benefit you must satisfy residence requirements. You must:
- be an Australian resident, and
- be physically present in Australia on the day you lodge your claim, and
- continue to meet the residence requirements for as long as you get this payment
Alternatively, you may meet residence requirements for Special Benefit if you
- are living in Australia, and
- are physically present in Australia on the day you lodge your claim, and
- and hold one of the following visa subclasses
- subclass 820 - extended eligibility (spouse),
- subclass 820 - extended eligibility (partner),
- subclass 826 - interdependency (provisional),
- subclass 309 - Spouse (provisional),
- subclass 309 - Partner (provisional),
- subclass 310 - interdependency (provisional),
- subclass 785 - temporary protection,
- subclass 786 - temporary (humanitarian concern),
- subclass 447 - secondary movement offshore entry,
- subclass 451 - secondary movement relocation,
- subclass 695 - return pending,
- subclass 787 - witness protection (trafficking)(temporary)
- subclass 070 - bridging (removal pending)
- subclass ZB 951 – Criminal Justice Stay Visa issued under certain conditions, and
- continue to meet the residence requirements for as long as you get this payment
Newly arrived residents generally have a 104 week waiting period, with some exemptions.
Holders of a partner provisional visa
If you are claiming Special Benefit as the holder of a partner provisional visa (subclass 309 or 820), or an interdependency visa ( subclass 310 or 826) you are not able to utilise the newly arrived resident’s waiting period exemption for family members of a permanent resident for 2 years or family members of an Australian citizen. You may be eligible to utilise any of the other exemptions from the newly arrived resident’s waiting period for Special Benefit.
Depending on your circumstances, you may need to wait for a period of time before receiving your first income support payment. This is because various waiting periods may apply.
Waiting period exemptions for Special Benefit
Generally, newly arrived migrants are required to serve a waiting period of 2 years called the newly arrived resident’s waiting period. The 2 year waiting period does not apply to Australian citizens, refugees and other people who:
- arrived in Australia as a refugee, are a former refugee, or are the partner or dependent child of a refugee or former refugee
- are an Australian citizen
- have already been a permanent resident of Australia for a continuous period of at least 2 years at any time
- hold a temporary protection or bridging (removal pending) visa
- are the partner or dependent child of a person who is:
- an Australian citizen or
- a permanent resident of 2 years
- have had a substantial change of circumstances beyond your control and are in hardship
Holders of a provisional partner visa
Holders of a provisional partner visa can only access Special Benefit if they have experienced both financial hardship and a substantial change in circumstances beyond their control after arrival in Australia.
Other benefits while receiving Special Benefit
If you qualify for Special Benefit, you may be entitled to other payments and benefits, such as:
Once you have read about eligibility the next steps are:
- register an intent to claim
- complete the claim form
- provide supporting documentation
- submit your claim
- we will assess your claim and let you know the outcome
Managing your payment
Penalties for not meeting your Activity Test or participation requirements
If you do not meet your Activity Test or participation requirements, your income support payment may be reduced or stopped.
You can do most of your Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support business using self service. There are options using mobile apps, online accounts or phone self service.
Change of circumstances while receiving Special Benefit
We review your circumstances regularly to ensure you are getting the correct payment amount. If your or your family’s circumstances change this may change your payment amount.
You need to tell us if your circumstances change when you are receiving a payment. For example, if:
- your personal circumstances change
- you change your address
- your income changes
- you do not have to lodge a tax return
- your care arrangements change
- your work or study load changes
- your visa changes
- you leave Australia
If you do not tell us about the changes within 14 days your payment may be affected. You may be overpaid benefits and you will probably have to pay the money back.
If you deliberately do not tell us about changes, you could be charged with fraud, and a recovery fee may be imposed.
Special Benefit while travelling outside Australia
If you leave Australia to live in another country, your payment will stop on departure.
If you leave Australia temporarily, you will only be paid outside Australia for a negotiated period of up to 6 weeks, for the following approved reasons:
- an acute family crisis. For example, to visit an immediate family member who is critically ill
- humanitarian reasons. For example, to adopt a child or attend custody proceedings, or
- eligible medical treatment that is not available in Australia
If you have a Temporary Protection Visa, you will not be paid Special Benefit if you leave Australia for any reason.
Advising us of your travel outside Australia
You should tell us if you are leaving Australia and you:
- plan to live in another country
- are travelling on a cruise ship, or
- are leaving due to an acute family crisis, for medical treatment overseas or for humanitarian reasons
Otherwise you do not need to tell us if you are leaving Australia. We will be advised automatically by Australia's immigration department when you leave Australia and when you return.
Weekly payment option
You may be eligible to receive your income support payment weekly, instead of fortnightly, in certain circumstances.
How much you earn affects your payment. We need to know what you have earned each fortnight so you are paid the right amount.
Help in your language
We can help you if you speak a language other than English.
We have a range of translated publications available on the Information in your language webpage.
We provide free interpreters and a free translation service to help you conduct your business.
Call our Multilingual Phone Service to speak to someone in your language about Centrelink payments and services.
Select the options that describe your circumstances then explore a suggested list of possible Centrelink and Medicare payments and services online.
Select your state and topics of interest to find links to government and community organisation support.
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