- in severe financial hardship
- unable to earn income to support yourself and your dependents for reasons outside your control
- not receiving any other income support pension or benefit
Eligibility & payment rates
Eligibility for Special Benefit
You may be eligible for Special Benefit payment 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 residency 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 two 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 Special Benefit 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.
Residency requirements for Special Benefit
To meet residency requirements for payment for Special Benefit you must be an Australian resident and in Australia on the day that you lodge your claim.
To be an Australian resident, you must be living in Australia as:
- an Australian citizen
- the holder of a permanent resident visa, or
- a New Zealand citizen who was in Australia on 26 February 2001 or for 12 months in the two years immediately before that date, or who was assessed before 26 February 2004 as 'protected'
If you hold one of the following temporary visas, you may be eligible for Special Benefit even though you are not an Australian permanent resident:
Waiting period exemptions for Special Benefit
Generally, newly arrived migrants are required to serve a waiting period of two years called the newly arrived resident’s waiting period. The two-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 two 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 two 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
Self service options
Our self service options are a quick and effective way to deal with us. You can use self service where it's convenient to you and manage things yourself:
- online - you need to register to use some of the services, then you can do many things where and when it suits you
- on your mobile device - our Express Plus mobile apps are simple, fast and convenient, giving you more choices for dealing with Centrelink
- on the phone - you can self-register for Centrelink Phone Self Service
- using a self service terminal at one of our Service Centres
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.
Payments paid while outside Australia
There are rules about getting your payment when you leave Australia.
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.