Services for people needing other support

Detailing services for people needing other support.

Superannuation programmes

Small Business Superannuation Clearing House

The Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Small Business Superannuation Clearing House is a free government service to assist small businesses with 19 or fewer employees to meet their superannuation guarantee obligations, and to reduce red tape. Under superannuation guarantee requirements, small businesses must make superannuation payments at least four times a year.

The department manages the Clearing House on behalf of the ATO. The Clearing House simplifies the process into a single, electronic payment for all employees and sends the contributions to the nominated superannuation funds—avoiding the need for small businesses to deal with multiple funds.

Early Release of Superannuation Benefits

The Early Release of Superannuation Benefits programme allows eligible people to draw on their superannuation benefits under specified compassionate grounds in a time of need. Releases are limited to assistance in meeting costs for an applicant or their dependant for various reasons, such as medical expenses, home and vehicle modifications for people with severe disability, funeral expenses, palliative care and financial hardship.

The department’s role is to confirm that a person has received a qualifying income support payment for the required period, and to assess applications and approve early release of benefits.

Final decisions to release superannuation benefits rest solely with the superannuation funds.

Table 39: Early Release of Superannuation Benefits
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 % change since
Applications received 18,024 19,286 19,367 +0.4
Applications approved in full or in part 11,510 12,243 14,261 +16.5
Amount approved for release $145,517,285 $150,991,150 $183,772,297 +21.7
Average amount released per approval $12,643 12,333 $12,886 +4.5

Vulnerable people

Apart from providing direct assistance with payments and services, the department continued to work with community organisations to ensure that vulnerable customers receive appropriate and timely referrals to other support and assistance.

Family and domestic violence

The department’s Family and Domestic Violence Strategy aims to ensure that customers most in need, due to family and domestic violence concerns, are identified and receive the support they need, such as payments, support services and referrals to other assistance—see also Support for people experiencing domestic and family violence on page 62.

The implementation of the strategy also supports staff who may be affected by domestic violence through awareness programmes and access to support services.

Community Engagement Officers

Community Engagement Officers provide targeted assistance to vulnerable customers, including people experiencing homelessness. These officers work to ensure that vulnerable customers maintain access to payments and associated services, as well as increasing their ability to self-manage their business with the department and other organisations.

Community Engagement Officers offer information, assistance and outreach to community organisations that support people with complex needs. This is to ensure they have an accurate understanding of the department’s services and customer entitlements and obligations. Organisations can include rehabilitation centres, psychiatric hospitals, post-prison release accommodation, hostels, boarding houses, refuges, drop-in centres and organised meeting places.

In 2014-15 the department had 96 Community Engagement Officers, compared to 102 in 2013-14.

Homelessness Indicator

The department continues to collect and monitor information about people’s housing stability through the Homelessness Indicator. The indicator enables the department to consider tailored services for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness—see also Support for people experiencing homelessness and hardship on page 62.

In 2014-15, 98,918 customers had a Homelessness Indicator on their customer record compared to 83,747 customers in 2013-14.

Youth Protocol

The Youth Protocol aims to protect young people from homelessness, abuse and violence. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Australian Government and state and territory child protection agencies in providing support for at-risk young people aged between 12 and 17 years who are seeking income support. The department is currently reviewing arrangements to improve servicing for young people at risk.

Services for prisoners

Prison services are provided nationally to prisons and youth justice centres. Programme protocol agreements with state and territory correctional authorities support strategies that help reintegrate prisoners into the community, including:

  • preventing social welfare payment debts
  • ensuring Child Support amounts from adults in prison are accurate
  • completing Employment Services Assessments and Job Capacity Assessments
  • providing Medicare services
  • providing income support on release
  • assisting Indigenous customers with study expenses

A National Child Support phone service for incarcerated customers was successfully implemented this year. Programme protocol agreement reviews were completed and signed with the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The department is working on agreements with Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

Research into services for ‘disconnected’ people

The department continued work with RMIT University to investigate ways to improve service delivery for people with complex needs who are disconnected from their community’s economic and social life. In partnership with the Bridgewater community in Tasmania, a three year longitudinal study—due to finish in December 2015—continues to test new, innovative and practical service delivery approaches.

Social Work services

Social workers are at the intensive end of the department’s service delivery model, with priority given to customers who are at risk of suicide or mental distress without adequate support and people experiencing domestic and family violence, mental illness, homelessness and hardship.

At 30 June 2015 the department had 741 qualified social workers located in service centres, smart centres, remote servicing teams and community outreach roles. Social workers responded to 278,308 referrals for support in 2014-15 compared to 305,699 in 2013-14.

Priority areas

Suicide and mental distress

Social workers provide timely support and intervention to customers at risk of suicide or suffering mental distress. This includes ensuring the person is safe and making referrals for further assistance, and providing support to service officers engaging with customers who are at risk. In 2014-15 social workers responded to 4,251 referrals for customers at risk of suicide compared to 4,345 referrals in 2013-14, and 39,511 referrals for customers experiencing mental health issues compared to 45,129 in 2013-14.

Young people without adequate support

Social workers provide targeted professional intervention and support for vulnerable and unsupported young people aged under 25 years. This work assists young people to become more independent and engage in work, training or study by ensuring they are connected with appropriate services in their community that will help address basic needs, such as accommodation. In 2014-15 social workers worked intensively with 4,943 young people compared to 5,385 in 2013-14.

Support for people experiencing domestic and family violence

Social workers provide private and confidential interviews for counselling and support for people experiencing domestic and family violence. They help customers consider their options and determine their eligibility for any payments and services where domestic and family violence is a factor.

In 2014-15 social workers received 48,468 referrals for people experiencing domestic and family violence compared to 47,306 referrals in 2013-14.

Support for people experiencing homelessness and hardship

Social workers assist individuals and families with multiple complex needs through early intervention and crisis support, case planning, counselling, and referrals to government and community agencies.

In 2014-15 social workers received 62,044 referrals for customers experiencing homelessness or accommodation issues, compared to 72,651 referrals in 2013-14. The department continued to have 13 dedicated social workers in 2014-15, working closely with Community Engagement Officers to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These social workers assisted 4,362 customers in 2014-15 compared to 2,844 customers in 2013-14.

Specialist social work programmes

Supporting repatriated customers

Through referrals from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the department continued to assist vulnerable customers who have voluntarily returned to Australia, who do not have family, kin or support networks and require assistance to reintegrate into the community.

Carer specialist assessments

In 2014-15 there were 906 referrals to carer specialist assessment social workers compared to 919 in 2013-14.

Social workers also assessed 223 claims from carers aged under 18 years
(352 in 2013-14) and 1,642 claims from carers aged over 80 years (1,416 in 2013-14). These customer groups are recognised as having multiple complex needs and often need professional social work intervention.

Social work service and compliance

Social workers, in consultation with senior service officers, undertake Comprehensive Compliance Assessments, which support the job seeker compliance model. The information gathered by social workers in assessments guides decision-making about serious failures and barriers to participation. See also Job seeker compliance on page 27.

Social work services during emergency recovery

In 2014-15 social workers helped people affected by the bushfires in South Australia in January 2015, Tropical Cyclone Marcia in Queensland and Tropical Cyclone Lam in the Northern Territory in February 2015, Tropical Cyclone Olwyn in Western Australia in March 2015 and the storms and flooding on the New South Wales east coast in April 2015. They provided support in recovery centres, service centres in the community and via phone services.

In July 2014 social workers were part of a whole-of-government response to assist families of Australians who died in the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash. Social workers also continued to support individuals and families claiming the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment.

See also Emergency responses on page 79.

HOME Advice Program

Social workers continued to support the Household Organisational Management Expenses (HOME) Advice Program during its extended funding period to 28 February 2015. Up to this time, social workers conducted 1,281 interventions with families at risk of homelessness to ensure their access to departmental services and payments, compared to 3,808 interventions in 2013-14.

Rural services

Drought coordinators

As part of the social and community support component of the government’s drought assistance package, the department has five drought coordinators in drought-declared regions of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Drought coordinators ensure drought-declared communities receive the full benefit of the support services available. The coordinators link services and make it easier for farming families and their communities to access a range of support.

Farm Household Allowance

The department delivered the Farm Household Allowance, which replaced the Interim Farm Household Allowance on 1 July 2014. In 2014-15 over 5,200 farmers and their families experiencing financial hardship were granted the Farm Household Allowance to support them to improve their long-term financial situation.

Farm Household Allowance customers are required to complete a Farm Financial Assessment and enter into a Financial Improvement Agreement to improve their capacity for financial self-reliance.

Indigenous people

Indigenous Servicing Strategy

The Indigenous Servicing Strategy 2012-2015 (ISS) provides clear strategic direction to all employees who deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The ISS maintains and develops Indigenous servicing expertise within the department and has three strategic goals:

  • Our People
  • Understanding
  • Customer Service Delivery

With the ISS expiring in December 2015, a comprehensive review of the strategy was completed. Based on the review’s findings the department is renewing the strategy, with a launch planned for late 2015.

The new ISS will continue to support the department’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees Plan 2012-15 and the Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-2017.

Indigenous servicing specialists

Indigenous Programme Support Managers (IPSMs) help the department and Australian Government agencies to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities to deliver integrated services and programmes. IPSMs provide strategic advice to internal and external stakeholders to identify customer and community servicing needs, as well as expertise about cultural beliefs and practices that may affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff or service delivery. IPSMs are members of departmental strategic and leadership forums that develop Indigenous servicing strategies. At 30 June 2015 there were 12 IPSMs.

Indigenous Service Officers (ISOs) help address strategic and operational issues relating to service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. By delivering key messages about the department’s services, ISOs aim to increase the level of understanding, awareness and access to services and programmes. ISOs also offer intensive support to assist vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities to engage with the department to access assistance. At 30 June 2015 there were 81 ISOs.

Indigenous Customer Service Officers (ICSOs) provide culturally appropriate customer service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers in service centres. ICSOs help and support non-Indigenous staff on culturally sensitive issues. ICSOs also refer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers to service providers and community support, offer out-servicing, and give customers advice about their rights and obligations. At 30 June 2015 there were seven ICSOs located in northern Queensland and western Victoria.

Remote servicing model

The department’s remote servicing model responds to the unique challenges facing customers in remote regions. The model includes service centres, remote service centres, agents, access points, online options, and remote servicing teams, supported by an integrated remote smart centre that provides phone services and claims processing. This helps to achieve consistent services and organisational and resource efficiencies.

We have partnerships with many organisations, including other Australian Government departments and state, territory and local governments, to deliver services in remote areas.

We engage directly with customers, particularly people living in remote Indigenous communities, to shape services that are culturally appropriate, effective and empowering.

Remote servicing teams

Remote servicing teams have two to four staff who provide departmental services to remote Indigenous communities through regular visits. The department hires and trains local Indigenous staff to work in remote servicing teams. As well as improving community employment levels, staff from remote communities are more likely to speak Indigenous languages and understand local customs, traditions and relationships. Indigenous staff are also role models for young Indigenous people in remote communities.

Remote Jobs and Communities Programme

The Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP) is administered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The programme provides participation and employment services for people living in remote areas using an integrated and flexible model. The department’s role is to:

  • manage referrals to the programme
  • administer payment of an Approved Programme of Work Supplement
  • take compliance action when job seekers fail to meet activity test or participation obligations

Interpreting services

The department gives Indigenous customers with limited or no English free access to Indigenous interpreters through the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley Interpreter Service (KIS) in Western Australia. The department is the largest government user of both services.

Indigenous interpreters are located in high-demand service centres and also frequently assist departmental staff working in remote and extremely remote Indigenous communities. In 2014-15 the AIS provided 9,538 hours of interpreting services, and the KIS provided 465 hours of interpreting services.

This year the department implemented new Indigenous Language Officer roles to deliver essential interpreter services in targeted locations with a known language need but with limited or no access to formal interpreter services.

National Indigenous Coalition

The National Indigenous Coalition (NIC) is the department’s peak strategic advisory forum providing an Indigenous voice on effective delivery of payments, services and products for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The department consults with the NIC to ensure effective development of strategies that support and secure outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, communities and employees.

Community Development Employment Projects

The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programme helped Indigenous job seekers gain the skills, training and capabilities needed to find employment. The department administered the payment of supplements to eligible participants.

As part of the changes to the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme the ceasing of ‘grandfathered’ CDEP programme arrangements were brought forward from 30 June 2017 to 30 June 2015. This meant that the CDEP programme ceased by 30 June 2015 and the department assisted affected job seekers to test their eligibility for another income support payment during the last quarter of 2014-15.

Providing spatial services for government and the community

The Australian Government Indigenous Locations dataset (AGIL) was developed as the government’s authoritative source of data for Indigenous locations. The department manages AGIL, which contains locational data for over 3,800 community names in approximately 1,600 discrete Indigenous locations. Government departments, private industry and community groups across Australia use AGIL regularly. The AGIL dataset is available to the general public via where it can be viewed or downloaded at no cost. In 2014-15 the AGIL dataset was viewed 935 times and downloaded 204 times at

AGIL is also included in a National Map maintained by National ICT Australia.

Money Management

Financial Information Service

The Financial Information Service (FIS) is an education and information service for the public. FIS officers help people to make informed decisions about investment and financial issues for their current and future financial needs.

FIS is an independent and confidential service and all people can benefit from its free information and education programmes.

FIS is available by phone, appointment and through a programme of seminars, some of which FIS officers delivered this year through internet broadcasts.

In 2014-15 FIS officers:

  • answered more than 35,400 phone calls, compared to 79,204 in 2013-14
  • conducted more than 56,700 interviews, compared to 54,967 in 2013-14
  • delivered 4,672 hours of outreach services, compared to 3,168 in 2013-14
  • Held 2,606 seminars for more than 79,300 participants compared to 2,366 seminars for more than 72,800 participants in 2013-14
  • conducted mini-FIS seminars on the department’s website as video-on-demand broadcasts


Centrepay is a voluntary deduction and payment service offered by the department. Centrepay helps people receiving social welfare payments pay their bills on time and budget for their ongoing expenses. It allows deductions to be made to an approved business directly from a customer’s payment. Centrepay is free for customers, while businesses are charged a nominal fee. At 30 June 2015:

  • 661,640 people were using Centrepay compared to 632,228 in June 2014
  • 13,235 businesses received a Centrepay deduction compared to 13,321 in June 2014

In 2014-15, 25.9 million deductions were made to the value of $2.4 billion compared to 24.4 million deductions to the value of $2.1 billion in 2013-14.

During the year the department continued to improve Centrepay, strengthening its role in assisting customers to meet their financial commitments. The department’s actions were guided by the issues and recommendations in the report of the Independent Review of Centrepay. In June 2015 the department published a summary of its responses to the review’s recommendations on its website.

The department completed preparations for implementation of a revised Centrepay framework, incorporating a new Centrepay Policy and Terms and new procedural guides for businesses and customers. These documents were published on the department’s website in June 2015. In line with an announcement by the Minister for Human Services on 22 May 2015 the new Centrepay framework excludes funeral insurance and consumer leases which are not regulated under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. Both cases are subject to a 12 month grandfathered period for deductions which were authorised before 1 July 2015.

The new framework commenced for new businesses on 1 July 2015. For existing businesses, there is a transition process with the new framework commencing on 1 September 2015.

Rent Deduction Scheme

Through the Rent Deduction Scheme, eligible customers can have their public housing payments sent directly to their state or territory housing authority. The scheme is an easy, free way for customers to meet their government housing obligations.

At 30 June 2015, 331,217 customers were using the scheme. In 2014-15, 9.04 million rent deductions were made, an increase of 2.58 % on the previous year.

Income Management

The department delivers Income Management which operates at a number of locations across Australia. Income Management helps people receiving income support to manage their money to meet essential household needs and expenses for themselves and their families.

Under Income Management a percentage of a person’s income support, and 100% of lump-sum payments, are allocated to pay for priority items such as food, housing, clothing, utilities, education and medical care. The remaining percentage of a customer’s payment is paid to them in the usual way to be used at their discretion. While Income Management does not change the amount of payment a person receives, it affects the way that a person receives the payment.

Money that is income managed cannot be spent on alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling.

Income Management measures apply in a number of locations across Australia.

Income Management locations Income Management measures
Voluntary Child Protection Vulnerable Welfare Payment Recipient Supporting People at Risk Disengaged Youth Long Term Welfare Payment Recipient
Western Australia            
Peel region      
Ngaanyatjarra Lands      
Northern Territory
New South Wales            
Cape York1          
Greater Shepparton      
South Australia            
Ceduna region2      
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands      

1. Cape York-specific Income Management applies in four Cape York communities as part of a broader programme of welfare reform for the area.

2. Income Management was introduced in the Ceduna region in 2014.

Accessing managed income

The department works with people on Income Management to identify how their welfare payments can be used to pay for items they and their family need. People can use their income managed money to pay their expenses by:

  • using the BasicsCard—a reusable, personal identification number protected card that can be used via EFTPOS at approved stores and businesses
  • asking the department to organise direct payments (BPAY, credit card, direct credit) to stores and businesses

At 30 June 2015, 14,258 stores and businesses accepted the BasicsCard compared to 13,683 at 30 June 2014.

The department investigates public complaints and conducts random sample reviews to ensure stores and businesses are complying with the terms and conditions.

In 2014-15:

  • 97% of income managed customers used a BasicsCard compared to 91% in 2013-14
  • $216.9 million was spent using the BasicsCard compared to $203.6 million in 2013-14

Data on Income Management

Measure Customers at
30 June 20131
Customers at
30 June 20141
Customers at
30 June 20151
Cape York Income Management 202 201 128
Child Protection Income Management 392 435 337
Disengaged Youth 4,670 4,489 4,450
Long Term Welfare Payment Recipient 10,226 11,420 12,387
Supporting People at Risk 13 142 213
Voluntary Income Management 6,041 6,047 5,828
Vulnerable Welfare Payment Recipient 196 2,943 3,053

1. These numbers are point-in-time at the dates specified and do not represent customer movements between measures and on-and-off Income Management.

The total amount of income support payments income managed in 2014-15 was $283.3 million compared to $266.7 million in 2013-14.

Ancillary services and support

Tasmanian transport schemes

The department administers the following Tasmanian transport support schemes:

  • Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme—assists in alleviating the sea freight cost disadvantage incurred by shippers of eligible goods moved by sea between mainland Australia and Tasmania. The government announced that from 1 January 2016 the scheme will be extended to goods not currently covered.
  • Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme—provides a rebate to ferry operators for passengers travelling between the mainland and Tasmania

In 2014-15, 8,958 claims for assistance were received by the department with $149.8 million in payments processed through the programmes. This compares to 9,698 claims and $139.5 million in 2013-14.

Portability of payments

Portability is the continuation of Australian social security payments during a customer’s absence from Australia. The department assists customers to understand how their entitlements may be affected and assesses eligibility for payments while they are outside Australia.

From 1 January 2015 students and apprentices are no longer eligible for payments while holidaying overseas. Also since 1 January 2015 Disability Support Pension recipients who travel overseas can only continue to receive their payments for a maximum of four weeks in any 12 month period.

A datalink between the department and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) identifies social security customers who depart from or return to Australia. Information generated by the datalink is used to automatically review payments for people who have departed Australia.

In 2014-15 customers receiving income support payments, family assistance, allowances and concessions travelled outside Australia 1.79 million times compared to 1.69 million overseas trips in 2013-14.

Concession cards

There are six types of concession and health care cards delivered by the department, which are:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Health Care Card
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Ex-Carer Allowance (Child) Health Care Card
  • Foster Child Health Care Card

Each card has its own eligibility requirements and concessions. Having a concession or health care card gives cardholders access to Australian Government health concessions and helps with the cost of living by reducing the cost of certain goods and services.

Most people receiving an income support payment will automatically receive a concession or health care card. People receiving the maximum rate of FTB Part A will automatically receive a health care card covering their family. Partners and children may also be covered by a person’s card if it relates to an income support payment. For people who have a Low Income Health Care Card, their children may also be covered by the card.

In addition to Medicare services, concession or health care cards can give people, their partners and children other concessions from state, territory and local government authorities and private businesses.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

During 2014-15 changes were made to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) income test and portability provisions. From 20 September 2014 the CSHC income threshold limits were indexed to reflect movements in the Consumer Price Index. These thresholds will increase with indexation. From 1 January 2015 the deeming of account-based income streams was included in the CSHC income test. CSHC holders were exempt from this measure if they were a cardholder at 31 December 2014. Also, from 1 January 2015 CSHC holders who travel overseas can remain outside Australia for up to 19 weeks—instead of the previous six weeks—before their card is cancelled.

Advance Payments

An Advance Payment is a lump sum payment of the customer’s future entitlement. The advance payment amount can vary depending on the payment type received. Non-pension customers—including Parenting Payment Single recipients—can receive a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $500, once per 12 month period. Pension customers can receive multiple advance payments depending on the amount available at each application. FTB customers can receive a regular advance that is paid each 26 weeks as long as the customer remains eligible.

Repayments of advance payments are generally made over 13 fortnights by a set rate of withholdings from the customer’s regular payment. If a customer’s regular payment stops, they are still required to repay the outstanding amount of the advance payment.

Bereavement payments

Bereavement payments help customers adjust to changed financial circumstances following the death of their partner, child or care receiver. The type and amount of bereavement payments depend on individual circumstances and when the department is notified of the person’s death. Bereavement payments are usually paid as a lump sum. However, some payments, such as FTB Bereavement Payment, can be paid fortnightly.

Bereavement Allowance is a short-term income support payment that provides a level of support to recently widowed people.

Multicultural services

Agency Multicultural Plan

The department’s Agency Multicultural Plan 2013-2015 outlines how the department intends to provide services to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. We are tracking well against the actions outlined in the plan. New achievements include the development and implementation of the department’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (Multicultural) Employee Plan 2014-2016, conducting targeted consultations with CALD communities in partnership with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and the inclusion of CALD considerations in our feedback and complaints model.

Support for refugees and humanitarian entrants

The department offers a range of services to support refugees entering the community. The department works closely with DIBP, DSS settlement service providers and community groups to ensure refugees have appropriate services on arrival in Australia. A network of specialist Refugee and Asylum Seeker teams and subject matter experts in locations with high settlement populations support the department’s tailored services for these entrants.

Citizenship testing

Following a successful trial in 2012 the department has been working with DIBP to make weekly citizenship tests available at 33 service centres in regional areas from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Mackay in Queensland. Before the pilot DIBP staff had to visit regional centres to conduct the tests, usually only monthly or every two months. Of about 125,000 citizenship tests taken across Australia in 2014-15, 14,000 were taken in regional centres involving around 300 tests each week.

Language services

The department provides free translation and interpreting services in over 200 languages to help customers conduct their business. More than 2,800 contracted interpreters deliver these services. We also supply regular, rostered onsite interpreters who work out of 56 service centres where demand for assistance in certain languages is high.

Bilingual staff may also be paid a Community Language Allowance if they use their language skills in the course of their work. In 2014-15, 699 staff received the Community Language Allowance compared to 725 in 2013-14.

Multicultural Service Officers

In 2014-15 a network of 70 Multicultural Service Officers (MSOs) continued to operate throughout Australia. Each officer covers a defined geographical area, giving all service centres access to multicultural expertise. MSOs have close relationships with multicultural communities and play an important role in supporting service delivery to customers from CALD backgrounds. Examples of MSO activities include:

  • conducting outreach sessions at language schools in Victoria to encourage students to stay engaged in their studies and improve attendance
  • supporting refugees and migrants to access myGov and the department’s online services at TAFEs in Queensland
  • promoting myGov, the department’s online services and Express Plus mobile apps to migrant groups and staff in community organisations in Newcastle

Assurance of Support

An Assurance of Support is a legal agreement between an Australian resident or organisation (assurer) and the Australian Government. Under the agreement an assurer agrees to support a migrant on a specific type of visa for their first two or 10 years in Australia (depending on the visa type) so they do not have to rely on payments from the government. The department decides who can be an assurer by assessing their financial capacity to provide support for a migrant.

Status Resolution Support Services

From 1 April 2014 the department commenced the administration of the Status Resolution Support Services payment. This payment provides financial assistance to people living in the community while their immigration status is being resolved. The DIBP determines eligibility for this payment.

Innovative multicultural services

Multilingual app

The department provides Express Plus Lite mobile app services in four languages for iOS and android devices. Customers can use the app to report their earnings at a time that suits them, which is more convenient and reduces the need for interpreter services. The languages are Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Persian (Farsi) (introduced in 2014-15).

Working with partners

MSOs continued to help deliver innovative services through a range of partnership initiatives. Some examples include:

  • Blacktown, New South Wales—hosted Multicultural Seniors Week with Blacktown Council and Sydwest, and provided information about the Age Pension and going overseas
  • Morwell, Victoria—organised and attended an emerging communities forum with a variety of speakers from across the region, including a presentation on the barriers to employment faced by CALD job seekers and the initiatives with which the New Arrival Education and Employment network is involved
  • Hume, Victoria—participated in the multicultural community safety forum focusing on children’s safety, young people, family violence and women’s safety, crime prevention and safe urban design. This included working with local CALD services and providers including Australian and Victorian government departments, the police and local legal centres
  • North Lake, Western Australia—worked with high schools at intensive English classes and provided referrals for students to social workers and the Fremantle Multicultural Centre
  • Stones Corner, Queensland—attended local area coordination meetings with key multicultural service delivery agencies and government departments. This included sharing information on the Special Humanitarian Programme and health issues
  • Glenorchy, Tasmania—attended the initial Connect steering committee meeting to support the Get Connected programme. This programme provides additional and ongoing support for former refugees and humanitarian entrants to increase positive vocational education training and employment outcomes, by working with the sector and industry bodies.

Emergency responses

Payments and services

The department’s core responsibility in response to emergencies is to ensure the continuity of payments and services. The delivery of services in emergencies can include:

  • assisting individuals to test their eligibility for an income support payment or service
  • replacing lost Medicare cards
  • assessing and paying Medicare benefits
  • providing support to Medicare providers
  • ensuring child support payments can be made
  • providing social work services
  • delivering the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP), Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) and equivalent ex-gratia payments
  • delivering the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP)

During an emergency immediate support is given to pharmacists to help them maintain supplies of medicines and dispense PBS medicines to people whose prescriptions are lost or destroyed. Support is also provided to health practitioners working in emergency-affected areas.

To support the government’s emergency response, the department also participates in state, territory and local recovery committees. Our services may be delivered from established relief or recovery centres, with agreement from the state or territory government.

When an event is severe, the government may request the Attorney-General’s Department to provide additional Australian Government assistance.

In response to an emergency, the department can deploy:

  • field staff to recovery centres
  • staff to take emergency calls and process claims for emergency payments
  • social workers to overseas locations or to airports in Australia to assist affected Australians returning from offshore disasters, and to emergency-affected areas to support other staff—45 social workers were deployed in 2014-15 to assist in international and domestic disasters
  • mobile computing support
  • mobile service centres to provide services in affected areas

Emergency Reserve

The department maintains a register of Emergency Reserve staff willing to assist in recovery efforts. This helps the department respond quickly following emergencies. Over 5,430 staff (or 15.5% of the department’s staff) are registered for the Emergency Reserve, compared to approximately 6,300 staff or 18% of the department’s staff in 2013-14.

Emergency Reserve staff are a resource that can be called on at short notice. These staff have a range of skills which are used in various roles including:

  • at field locations assisting people affected by emergencies
  • providing support to affected service centres
  • behind the scenes in processing centres
  • answering calls to the Australian Government Emergency Information Line
  • backfilling staff deployed to provide emergency support

Emergency Reserve staff supported recovery efforts in the Northern Territory and Queensland in February 2015, and in northern New South Wales in April 2015.

Current disaster events

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments

The department’s response to the bushfires in South Australia, tropical cyclones Marcia and Lam, and the New South Wales east coast storms and flooding included payment of AGDRP claims. The AGDRP was provided to people adversely affected in the following areas:

  • South Australian bushfires—Mount Lofty Ranges region
  • Tropical Cyclone Marcia—Fitzroy and Wide Bay–Burnett districts of Queensland
  • Tropical Cyclone Lam—Arnhem region of the Northern Territory
  • New South Wales east coast storms and flooding—Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast regions
Table 41: AGDRP payments at 30 June 2015
  South Australian
Tropical Cyclone
Tropical Cyclone
New South Wales east coast
storms and flooding4
Calls taken by the Australian Government Emergency Information Line 11,299 21,958 3,444 93,589
Claims finalised 490 12,302 2,502 84,687
Claims paid to affected people 370 7,774 2,095 75,899
Amount paid into people’s bank accounts $418,800 $9,601,600 $2,750,000 $92,938,360

1. AGDRP activated on 6 January 2015.

2. AGDRP activated on 21 February 2015.

3. AGDRP activated on 26 February 2015.

4. AGDRP activated on 23 April 2015.

Disaster Recovery Allowance

The DRA was activated to assist individuals including employees, primary producers and sole traders in specified areas who experienced a loss of income as a direct result of the following emergencies:

  • South Australian bushfires—Mount Lofty Ranges region
  • Tropical Cyclone Marcia—Fitzroy and Wide Bay-Burnett districts of Queensland
  • Tropical Cyclone Olwyn—Pilbara-Gascoyne region of Western Australia
  • New South Wales east coast storms and flooding—Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast regions
Table 42: DRA payments at 30 June 2015
  South Australia
Tropical Cyclone
Tropical Cyclone
New South Wales east coast
storms and flooding4
Claims finalised 42 736 135 870
Claims paid to affected people 20 592 102 551
Amount paid into people’s bank account $49,432 $813,113 $253,794 $562,499

1. DRA activated on 6 January 2015.

2. DRA activated on 25 February 2015.

3. DRA activated on 17 March 2015.

4. DRA activated on 23 April 2015.

Payments to New Zealand non-protected Special Category Visa holders

Ex-gratia payments to New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders were activated for individuals affected by the bushfires in South Australia, Tropical Cyclone Marcia in Queensland, Tropical Cyclone Lam in the Northern Territory, and the New South Wales east coast storms and flooding. These payments are equivalent to the AGDRP.

At 30 June 2015:

  • 103 claims had been received
  • 75 claims had been paid to affected people
  • $117,324 had been paid into people’s bank accounts

Ex-gratia Income Support Allowance for New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders was activated to assist those who suffered a loss of income as a direct result of the bushfires in South Australia, Tropical Cyclone Marcia in Queensland, Tropical Cyclone Olwyn in Western Australia, and the New South Wales east coast storms and flooding. This payment is the equivalent of the DRA. No figures are reported for these payments as small numbers of distinctive claims may lead to individual claimants being identified.

Emergency Claim Channel

There are various options to claim disaster recovery payments, including over the phone, online, by completing a paper claim form and in person.

Table 43: Percentage of disaster recovery claims granted by claiming method
Claiming method 2014-15 %
Phone 61
Online 33
Paper and in person 6

Working in emergency recovery

In 2014-15 following the bushfires in South Australia, tropical cyclones in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and the New South Wales east coast storms and flooding, 23 staff were sent to the affected areas to assist in delivering emergency payments.

During these events the department had up to four points of presence at any one time. Points of presence are mobile computing equipment sites that have laptop computers, printers and internet. These sites provide staff with instant access to departmental systems, allow on-the-spot assessment of claims and other departmental assistance.

The department tailored business-as-usual activities for the bushfire, cyclone and storm-affected areas to streamline access to payments and services for people needing assistance.

Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment

The AVTOP provides one-off assistance of up to $75,000 to Australians who were harmed (primary victims) and close family members of a person who died (secondary victims) as a direct result of a declared overseas terrorist act.

The payment was announced in October 2013 for the following terrorist acts:

  • 2001 US September 11 attacks
  • 2002 Bali bombings
  • 2004 Jakarta bombing
  • 2005 London bombings
  • 2005 Bali bombings
  • 2006 Egypt bombings
  • 2008 Mumbai attacks
  • 2009 Jakarta bombings
  • 2013 Nairobi armed assault

In 2014-15, 369 calls were answered by the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Hotline.

Table 44: AVTOP payments in 2014-15
  Payments to
primary victims
Payments to
secondary victims
Claims finalised 100 13
Claims paid to affected people 83 5
Amount paid into people’s bank accounts $5,689,717 $337,500

Emergency call centre surge assistance

The department provides support through the National Emergency Call Centre Surge Capability (NECCSC) which allows Australian, state and territory government agencies to overflow calls to their emergency (non-000) lines to the department.

The NECCSC was activated in January 2015 by the South Australian Government for the South Australia Bushfire Information Line and the South Australia Bushfire Recovery Line, with more than 1,276 calls answered.

Surge assistance was also provided to the National Security Hotline. The hotline is the single point of contact for the public to report possible signs of terrorism. The department assisted in taking calls in peak periods from September 2014 to February 2015 with 8,169 calls answered.

Disaster events that closed in 2014–15

Claims for the AGDRP can be lodged up to six months from the date the payment is activated. Claims were paid in 2014-15 for events that occurred during the 2013-14 disaster season—that is, the period for claiming some payments did not ‘close’ in 2013-14. These events included:

  • Tropical Cyclone Ita—April 2014
  • Western Australian bushfires—January 2014

In 2014–15 the department paid:

  • less than 20 AGDRP payments, worth less than $20,000
  • less than 20 DRA payments, worth more than $52,000

No ex-gratia payments to New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders were paid in 2014-15 for the events listed above.

Special assistance schemes

The Australian Government helps people to meet health and community care costs arising from specified natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The department administers the following special assistance schemes:

  • Balimed (2002)
  • Tsunami Healthcare Assistance (2004)
  • London Assist (2005)
  • Bali (2005)
  • Dahab Egypt Bombing Health Care Costs Assistance (2006)

CRS Australia

Following a government decision to reallocate the market share of the department’s Disability Employment Services—Disability Management Service to non-government providers, CRS Australia ceased all operations on 27 February 2015.

The Department of Social Services conducted the tender process for reallocation. This was finalised in November 2014. CRS Australia transitioned approximately 21,000 participants to their new providers from December 2014, with all transitions completed by 2 March 2015.

At 1 July 2014 CRS Australia was providing services from 224 service delivery locations, these locations were progressively closed in line with the transition of participants to new providers from December 2014. The final CRS Australia service delivery locations closed on 27 February 2015.

All CRS Australia staff have either been redeployed into other roles within the department or the Social Services portfolio, have retired or resigned, or have transferred to other Australian Public Service agencies.

Injury prevention and management services

In addition to delivering Disability Employment Services, CRS Australia provided a range of early intervention, injury prevention and workplace rehabilitation services to private sector organisations across Australia. All injury prevention and management services contracts ceased by 31 December 2014.

Page last updated: 5 February 2016

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