Special Benefit

A payment if you’re in severe financial hardship and can’t get other income support from us.

Eligibility basics

  • in severe financial hardship for reasons beyond your control
  • unable to earn enough to support yourself and your family
  • unable to get another income support payment

Eligibility & payment rates

Who can get it

This payment can help if you:

  • are in severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond your control
  • don’t earn enough to support you and your dependants
  • can’t get any other income support payment, and
  • meet residence rules

You can claim Special Benefit for a child if:

  • you have custody
  • your child is an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • you can’t get any income or family support payments because you’re not a permanent resident
  • you’re in severe financial hardship
  • you can’t support yourself and your child

Severe financial hardship

You’re in severe financial hardship if you:

  • earn less than the highest Special Benefit fortnightly payment
  • can’t improve your financial position, and
  • have limited savings

Limited savings

For short term payments you must have no more than the fortnightly Special Benefit payment amount.

For long term payments you must have no more than $5,000.

For more information:

How much you can get

The amount of Special Benefit you get depends on your circumstances.

It’s usually the same as Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance.

We update payment rates for Special Benefit on:

  • 1 January each year if you’re under 21 and have no children, or
  • 20 March and 20 September each year if you have dependent children or are 21 years of age or older

If you’re in severe financial hardship, you can get your first Special Benefit payment early.

For more information:

Income and assets tests

Your income and assets determine how much you can get.

Income test

For every $1 of gross income you earn or get, your rate of Special Benefit reduces by $1.

We’ll determine how much you can get by looking at:

  • your income
  • your partner’s income
  • any extra support you get, including:
    • food
    • accommodation
    • utilities, or
    • other goods and services

Assets test

An asset is any property or possession you own partly or wholly. It includes any assets you have outside Australia and any debts owing to you.

We’ll determine how much you get by looking at:

  • if you own your own home
  • if you are buying your own home

Residence rules

On the day you claim Special Benefit, you must be:

To keep getting Special Benefit

You must continue to be an Australian resident for as long as you get this payment.

What may be different

You may also meet the residence rules for Special Benefit if you:

Waiting times

You may have to wait to get Special Benefit if you are:

In each of these categories there are exemptions that mean you may not need to wait.

Claiming

Check if you’re eligible before you start your claim.

Then:

  • find out what you need before you start
  • fill in your claim form
  • submit the form and other documents we ask for
  • wait for us to assess your claim and tell you the result

Next

Managing your payment

Mutual obligation requirements

There are things you must do to keep getting income support and have a better chance of finding work.

Read more about mutual obligation requirements

If you don't meet your mutual obligation requirements

Not meeting your mutual obligation requirements as a job seeker can affect your Parenting Payment.

Read more about if you don't meet your mutual obligation requirements

Try self service

Do your Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support business using self service options, including our Express Plus mobile apps, online accounts and phone self service.

Read more about using self service.

Reviews

We review your Special Benefit to make sure you’re still eligible and getting the right amount.

When we review

We review your Special Benefit:

  • every 3 months once payment starts, and
  • call you every 9 to 12 months to check your circumstances

How we review

You can do your Special Benefit review:

  • online
  • by post, or
  • at a service centre

Online

You need to have a Centrelink online account to do your review online. We’ll send you or your nominee a message when you need to complete your review.

If you choose to have a nominee, they can do the review on your behalf.

You might want to give your partner permission to make enquiries about your Special Benefit. This lets you both enter the information we need for you to complete your online review.

Submit your review by the due date or your payment may stop.

Post or service centre

If you don’t have a myGov or Centrelink online account we’ll send you a Special Benefit review form.

Complete and return this to us by post or at a service centre.

Submit your review by the due date or your payment may stop.

You can also access the Special Benefit review form online.

Change of circumstances

We need to know about changes that could reduce, increase or stop your payment.

If you don’t tell us when these changes happen, you may be doing the wrong thing.

You need to tell us if there are changes to your:

  • relationship status
  • address
  • income
  • account balance and whether this goes above the allowable limit
  • eligibility to lodge a tax return
  • care arrangements
  • work or study load, or
  • visa

There are other changes of circumstances you need to tell us about.

How and when to tell us

The easiest way to tell us about changes is through our self service options.

You need to:

  • tell us within 14 days of the change
  • make sure your details are up to date in myGov

It’s never too late to report a change.

If you don’t tell us

If you don’t tell us about changes in your life, we may pay you too much. If this happens you’ll have to pay the money back, plus a fee.

If you deliberately don't tell us about changes, we could charge you with fraud.

Read how to avoid fraud.

While travelling outside Australia

There are rules about when your Special Benefit can be paid when you travel outside Australia.

Read more about Special Benefit while travelling outside Australia

Weekly payment option

Some people can get income support payments each week instead of each fortnight.

Read more about weekly payments

Income reporting

How much you or your partner earn affects your payment. We need to know what you and your partner earn so we pay you the right amount.

Read more about income reporting

When you reach age pension age

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.

My bank account is overdrawn

You can get help to manage your money if your bank account is overdrawn.

Read more about what to do if your account is overdrawn

Resources

jobactive - helping you get work

jobactive is a service that helps connect you with employers and find work.

Read about jobactive on the Department of Employment website.

Help in your language

We have a range of translated information in your language.

We provide free interpreters and translation of documents needed to access our payments and services.

Call our Multilingual Phone Service to speak with a skilled bilingual service officer about Centrelink payments and services.

Payment and Service Finder

Find, estimate and compare payments and services you may be eligible for. You can also work out what a change in circumstance might mean for the payments and services you currently receive from us.

Start using Payment and Service Finder

Manage your money

 

We’ve got advice and tools to help you with budgeting, borrowing and credit, and managing debt.

Read about how to manage your money.

Regular deductions using Centrepay

You can use our free and voluntary service to pay bills as regular deductions from your Centrelink payments.

Read more about regular deductions using Centrepay

Green Army Programme

Provides training and work experience in environment and heritage conservation for young Australians while generating environmental benefits.

Read more about the Green Army Programme

Page last updated: 11 September 2017