Help if you are in severe financial hardship, not able to support yourself and your dependants, and unable to receive another income support payment from us.
- in severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond your control
- unable to earn enough income to support yourself and your dependants, and
- unable to receive any other income support payment
Eligibility & payment rates
You may be eligible if you:
- are in severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond your control
- are unable to earn enough income to support yourself and your dependants
- are unable to receive any other income support payment, and
- meet residence requirements
You may submit a claim for Special Benefit on behalf of a child if:
- the child is in your custody and is an Australian citizen or an Australian permanent resident
- you are unable to receive any income support payments or family assistance payments because you are not a permanent Australian resident, and
- you are in severe financial hardship, and are unable to support yourself and your child
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
- your readily available funds are less than the allowable limit, and
- there is no other course of action that you could be expected to take to improve your financial position
The allowable limit depends on how long Special Benefit may be paid to you:
- for short term payment, available funds must not be more than the applicable fortnightly Newstart or Youth Allowance rate
- for long term payment, available funds must be no more than $5,000
Your payment rate may be less if you get free board or lodgings, or receive other forms of support.
First payment of Special Benefit
If you are in severe financial hardship due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, you may be able to receive your first payment early. For more information call the Exceptional Circumstances Relief Help line or visit a service centre.
Special Benefit payment rates are adjusted on:
- 1 January each year if you are under 21 and have no children, or
- 20 March and 20 September each year if you have dependent children or are aged 21 or older
The amount of income and assets you have will determine the rate of payment you may get.
Your income affects the amount of payment you may receive. Your rate of Special Benefit reduces by $1 for every $1 of gross income you earn or receive.
Your partner’s income will also be included in your income test and may affect the rate of your payment.
In-kind support you receive instead of money on a regular basis, such as food, accommodation, utilities or other goods, may also affect your rate of Special Benefit.
An asset is any property or possession you own either partly or wholly. It includes assets held outside Australia and debts owing to you.
The assets test for homeowners applies if you own or are buying your own home.
The assets test for non-homeowners applies if you do not own your own home.
To be eligible for Special Benefit, you must meet residence requirements. You must:
- be an Australian resident
- be physically present in Australia on the day you submit your claim, and
- 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
- are physically present in Australia on the day you submit your claim, and
- hold one of the following temporary visa subclasses:
- subclass 820 - extended eligibility (partner)
- subclass 309 - partner (provisional)
- subclass 785 - temporary protection
- subclass 786 - temporary (humanitarian concern)
- subclass 790 - safe haven enterprise (temporary)
- subclass 449 - humanitarian stay (temporary)
- subclass 070 - bridging (removal pending)
- subclass 060 - bridging visa F, and
- meet the residence requirements for as long as you receive this payment
When you apply for a payment, you may not get it immediately. The time you have to wait is called a waiting period.
Generally, newly arrived migrants are required to serve a newly arrived resident's waiting period of 104 weeks. This may not apply if you:
- are an Australian citizen
- have already been an Australian resident for a continuous period of at least 2 years at any time
- are the family member of a person who is:
- an Australian citizen, or
- a permanent resident of 2 years – for example if you hold a provisional partner visa
- arrived in Australia under a refugee or humanitarian program
- are the family member of a refugee or former refugee
- were the family member of a refugee or former refugee at the time they arrived in Australia
- hold a temporary protection type of visa, or
- had a substantial change of circumstances beyond your control after your arrival in Australia and are in financial hardship
Holders of a provisional partner 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), the exemption to the 2 year waiting period does not apply for:
- a family member of a permanent resident, or
- a family member of an Australian citizen
However, you may be eligible to use any of the other exemptions from the Newly arrived resident's waiting period for Special Benefit.
Once you have read about eligibility the next steps are:
- find out what you need before you start your claim
- complete the claim form
- provide supporting documents
- submit your claim
- we will assess your claim and let you know the outcome
Managing your payment
You need to do approved activities to keep getting your income support payment and increase your chances of finding work.
If you do not meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements, your income support payment may be affected.
Do your Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support business using self service options, including our Express Plus mobile apps, online accounts and phone self service.
We review your Special Benefit periodically, usually every 3 months, once you start receiving your payment.
We do these reviews to check that you are still eligible to receive Special Benefit and are receiving the correct amount of payment.
In addition, every 9 to 12 months you are receiving Special Benefit, we will ring you for a more detailed discussion and review of your circumstances.
How the review is conducted
You can submit your Special Benefit review either online or by completing and returning a paper form that we send to you.
If you have a Centrelink online account, we will send you, and your correspondence nominee if you have one, an electronic message when your Special Benefit review is due.
To complete your review online, you will need to log on to your Centrelink online account, now available through myGov, to access the Special Benefit review. If you have a correspondence nominee, they can complete the review on your behalf through their own online account.
If you have a partner, you will only be able to complete your reviews online if both you and your partner have given each other permission to make enquiries with us on the other’s behalf.
If you do not have a myGov or Centrelink online account we will send you a Special Benefit review form to complete and return to us by the due date.
You need to submit your review by the due date or your payment may stop.
If you need a replacement copy of the Special Benefit review form that was mailed to you, you can print out a copy.
If you or your family’s circumstances change at any time you must tell us within 14 days of this change, as this may affect your payment amount.
You need to tell us if:
- your personal circumstances change, for example, entering or leaving a relationship
- you change your address
- your income changes
- your available funds go above the allowable limit
- you do not have to lodge a tax return
- your care arrangements change
- your work or study load changes, or
- your visa changes
If you do not tell us about a change of circumstances within 14 days your payment may be affected. You may be overpaid and may 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.
There are rules about when your Special Benefit can be paid when you travel outside Australia.
In certain circumstances you may be eligible to get your income support payment weekly, instead of fortnightly.
How much you or your partner earn affects your payment. We need to know what you and your partner earn each fortnight so you're paid the right amount.
When you reach age pension age, you should apply to transfer to Age Pension to see if you are eligible, and to tell us about any superannuation you have.
You may continue to be paid Special Benefit if you are not eligible for Age Pension.
Once you reach age pension age, the Pension Supplement will be automatically paid to you with your regular fortnightly payment. The supplement replaces your separate additional payments of:
Read more about how to transfer to Age Pension.
There is support to help you manage your money if you have overdrawn your bank, building society or credit union account.
If you have any questions, speak to your jobactive provider.
Read more about jobactive on the Department of Employment website or call their National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260.
We can help you if you speak a language other than English.
Select the options that describe your circumstances, then explore a 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.
Getting control of your money can be hard, but we’ve got some great advice and tools to help. Read more about budgeting, borrowing and credit, and managing debt, to help manage your money.
- Child Dental Benefits Schedule
- Clean Energy Advance
- Education Entry Payment
- Energy Supplement
- Health Care Card
- Income Support Bonus
- Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance
- Pension Supplement
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Pensioner Education Supplement
- Pharmaceutical Allowance
- Rent Assistance
- Schoolkids Bonus
- Telephone Allowance