Annual Report 2016-17

Programme 1.1 Services to the community - Social Security and Welfare - Annual Report 2015-16

The department supports individuals, families and communities to achieve greater self-sufficiency by providing access to a range of payments and services. This includes payments to support retirees, the unemployed, families, carers, parents, students, people with disability and Indigenous Australians.

In 2015-16 the department delivered $115.8 billion in payments to customers. See Table 1 for the number of new claims, both granted and rejected, for major payments.

Table 1: Total number of social security and welfare claims finalised by major payment type1, 2
Payment Type Claims finalised 2013-142 Claims finalised 2014-152 Claims finalised 2015-16
Family Tax Benefit 622,000 591,000 603,000
Parental Leave Pay 241,000 270,000 310,000
Child Care Benefit 317,000 300,000 383,000
Dad and Partner Pay 90,000 89,000 100,000
Parenting Payment 146,000 171,000 199,000
Newstart Allowance 647,000 671,000 696,000
Carer Payment and Carer Allowance 267,000 242,000 234,000
Disability Support Pension 141,000 112,000 106,000
Age Pension 153,000 174,000 156,000
Youth Allowance and Austudy 475,000 496,000 493,000

1. Numbers in this table have been rounded.

2. Numbers include abridged claims to reflect the total number of Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance and Austudy claims handled. An abridged claim is a shortened version of a claim used when a person who had recently lost qualification for a payment reapplies.


Family Tax Benefit (FTB)-assists families with the day-to-day cost of raising children. FTB has 2 parts - FTB Part A which is a per-child payment and FTB Part B which is a per-family payment. Both payments are income tested and the amount paid is based on a family’s individual circumstances.

Child Care-Child Care Benefit assists with child care fees. Child Care Rebate assists with out‑of‑pocket expenses for child care. Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance supports eligible parents to enter or re-enter the workforce.

Children aged under 20 years must now meet immunisation requirements to be eligible for child care payments and the FTB Part A supplement.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme-comprises 2 income-tested and work-tested payments for eligible parents to take time off work to care for a new baby or recently adopted child. The 2 payments are Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay.

Parenting Payment-is an income support payment for parents or guardians to help with the cost of raising children. Parenting Payment customers must be single and care for at least 1 child aged under 8 years, or partnered and care for at least 1 child aged under 6 years.

Parenting Payment customers need to meet income and assets tests (including a partner’s income and assets if partnered), meet residency requirements, and meet participation requirements if needed.

Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement-these provide an increase to a person’s rate of FTB Part A for up to 13 weeks to assist with the upfront costs of a newborn child, a child aged under 1 year who becomes entrusted to a person’s care, or a child placed for adoption. Families cannot receive Parental Leave Pay as well as Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement for the same child.

Stillborn Baby Payment-assists families with the extra costs associated with a stillborn child. Families cannot receive Parental Leave Pay and Stillborn Baby Payment for the same child.

Schoolkids Bonus-is paid in January and July each year. Families receive up to $430 per year for each primary school child and up to $856 per year for each secondary school child. From 1 January 2015 an income test was applied. Schoolkids Bonus is being phased out, and the final instalment of the payment was paid in July 2016.

For more information see Outcome 2 in the Department of Social Services Annual Report 2015-16 at

Helping Young Parents and Supporting Jobless Families

The Helping Young Parents trial helped young parents aged 19 years or younger to create a positive future for themselves and their children.

The Supporting Jobless Families trial focused on preparing parents to return to work when their youngest child reached school-age, and helped parents to ensure their children were ready to start school.

Both trials ceased on 31 March 2016 and were replaced by ParentsNext. ParentsNext Project providers work with parents to help them to identify their education and employment goals, develop pathways to achieve their goals and link them to activities and services in the local community.

ParentsNext is delivered in 10 local government areas in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. The department refers eligible customers in these areas to a ParentsNext project provider.

School Enrolment and Attendance Measure

The School Enrolment and Attendance Measure is designed to improve educational outcomes for children by linking school enrolment and attendance to income support payments.

The department works closely with the Northern Territory Department of Education and provides intensive social work support to parents to identify and overcome barriers preventing their children regularly attending school.

People with Disability and Carers

Disability Support Pension (DSP)-provides financial support for people who have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that limits their ability to work, or who are permanently blind. In 2015-16, around 106,000 claims for DSP were finalised compared to around 112,000 in 2014-15.

Sickness Allowance-provides a short-term payment for people who are employed or self-employed, or in some cases are full-time students, who are temporarily unable to do their usual work or study due to a medical condition. In 2015-16 the department finalised 36,226 new Sickness Allowance claims compared to 30,161 in 2014-15. The figures for 2014-15 are different to the figures published in the 2014-15 Annual Report due to the inclusion of finalised claims (granted and rejected), compared to claims granted.

Mobility Allowance-helps people with disability, illness or injury who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance to participate in approved activities by providing support with transport costs. Depending on the contents of their package of support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, some people may not be eligible for Mobility Allowance. In 2015-16, the department finalised 12,206 new Mobility Allowance claims compared to 11,515 in 2014-15. The figures for 2014-15 are different to the figures published in the 2014-15 Annual Report due to the inclusion of finalised claims (granted and rejected), compared to claims granted.

Rent Assistance-is an additional payment to help customers receiving an income support payment to pay their rent, generally in the private rental market. Private rent can also include amounts paid for site fees, mooring fees, board and lodgings, some retirement village fees, and fees paid to occupy a non-Australian Government funded bed in an aged care facility such as a hostel or nursing home.

Carer Payment-is an income support payment for people who are unable to support themselves through substantial paid employment because they provide full-time care to a child or adult with a severe disability, medical condition, or who is frail aged. In 2015-16, 49,125 new claims for Carer Payment were granted compared to 53,607 in 2014-15.

Carer Allowance-is an income supplement for carers who provide additional daily care and attention for a child or adult with disability or medical condition, or who is frail aged. In 2015-16, 96,338 new claims for Carer Allowance were granted compared to 101,021 in 2014-15.

See Appendix B for the department’s Carer Recognition ACT 2010 report and for disability reporting.

Participation for people with disability

During the year the department continued work on improving participation outcomes for people with disability and reviewing customer eligibility for DSP. Ongoing participation measures include:

  • requirements for eligible DSP recipients aged under 35 years, with an assessed work capacity of 8 or more hours a week, to have a participation plan which includes compulsory activities that focus on employment and improving their ability to find and maintain work
  • changes to the DSP assessment process and changed portability rules for customers who travel overseas
  • reviews of DSP recipients aged under 35 years who were granted DSP between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2011. Following the reviews, some recipients may be required to participate in a Program of Support. A Program of Support is an Australian Government funded programme to help people prepare for, find or maintain work

National Disability Insurance Agency and the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The department has a strong and cooperative relationship with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). In 2015-16 the department continued to build on the range of services we provide to the NDIA to support the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Under the NDIA ICT Programme, the NDIA was successfully transitioned to a departmental ICT offering including: desktop computing; telephony; data networking; systems for the management of corporate functions such as human resources, finance and procurement; management information and data warehousing; and a suite of internally and externally facing business applications specifically developed for the management of the NDIS.

Transition and transformation of the NDIA’s ICT environment has delivered:

  • end user computing services
  • a business application suite
  • information management and actuarial technologies, to support NDIA’s enterprise-strength data warehousing and management information and reporting capability
  • corporate applications technology and services that support the provision of human resources, finance and procurement functions to the NDIA

Additional services the department provided to the NDIA include:

  • access to the department’s contact centre staff and ICT infrastructure to support general enquiries and participant and provider access to the scheme
  • other shared corporate services, including fleet management and records management

The department commenced providing an expanded range of corporate shared services on 1 July 2016.

The initial NDIS programme and the additional services provided have allowed participants, including those in rural and remote locations, to connect and interact with the scheme, providers and the NDIA. It also allows the NDIA to collect, analyse and share information on disability services efficiently, ultimately allowing the NDIA to streamline its processes and procedures and improve the quality of its services.

National Disability Strategy

The Australian Government’s National Disability Strategy 2010 to 2020 sets out a 10-year national plan for improving life for people with disability, their families and carers. The strategy sets out a commitment by all levels of government, industry and the community for a national approach to policy and programme development. It also represents a shared vision for an inclusive society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.

Priority areas for action include learning, skills and economic security, which support education and employment opportunities as the main pathways to long-term economic security and wellbeing.

The department’s protocol for engaging people with disability helps the department to involve customers with disability in developing and evaluating new online services. Under the protocol the department also engages with our staff with disability, including through our Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and staff surveys about the challenges and opportunities of ICT-based workplace adjustments.

We provide managers and staff with information, training and support which promote awareness and acceptance of the rights of people with disability with just under 700 eLearning and facilitated sessions completed in 2015-16.

During the year our social workers continued to provide confidential counselling and support to people with disability experiencing family or domestic violence through interventions, crisis support, short-term counselling and referrals to local specialist support services in their community.

The department delivers a range of payments and services to customers with disability. For more information see ‘People with disability’ on the department’s website at

Older Australians

Age Pension

To support older people, the department made Age Pension payments to more than 2.5 million customers in 2015-16. The minimum age to qualify for Age Pension is 65 years. In 2015-16:

  • 58% of age pensioners received the full rate pension and 42 received a part rate pension as a result of income and assets. This is the same as in 2014-15
  • 119,877 Age Pension new claims were granted compared to 136,586 in 2014-15
  • women made up 55% and men 45% of the Age Pension population, compared to and respectively in 2014-15
  • the department paid $43.9 billion in Age Pension payments compared to $41.6 billion in 2014-15

Rebalance Assets Test

During the year the department prepared for the introduction of the Rebalance Assets Test measure on 1 January 2017. The threshold amounts customers can have before their pension is reduced or their allowance is not payable will increase. Assets-tested pensions will be reduced by $3.00 per fortnight for every $1,000 of assets in excess of the new thresholds, instead of the current $1.50 per fortnight.

Approximately 91,000 customers whose pension is expected to be cancelled on 1 January 2017 due to this measure will still qualify for a Health Care Card and, for those over pension age, a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card that will not be income-tested.

Cap on tax free component for defined benefit income streams

The department implemented the Cap Deductible Amount for Defined Benefit Income Streams measure on 1 January 2016. This initiative capped the income test deductible amount (also known as tax free component) at a maximum of 10% of gross payments received. Previously the tax free component was not capped. In 2015-16 this measure affected 47,938 customers.

Real estate valuations

To qualify for a pension, benefit or allowance the department takes into account the value of a person’s assets. The individual circumstances of a customer and their real estate (excluding the family home) are analysed to determine the appropriate valuation action. Most valuations are for real estate assets owned by people claiming Age Pension.

When needed, the department arranges for a professional valuation or estimate verification of assets. To maintain the current value, an annual indexation percentage is applied to eligible assets. In December 2015 the department completed a tender process for valuation services, with MVS Valuers Australia Pty Ltd now providing valuation services to the department. RP Data Pty Ltd is providing estimation and indexation services to the department.

Delivering aged care payments

The department delivers subsidies and supplements to approved aged care providers on behalf of the Department of Health and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). The aim is to help aged care providers deliver cost-effective, quality care for frail, older people and support for their carers. The department’s role is to provide timely and accurate payments efficiently and effectively.

Table 2: Aged care overview
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change since 2014-15
Residential claims processed 32,541 34,695 32,128 -7.4
Home Care Packages claims processed1 26,835 23,393 21,875 -6.5
Flexible care (transition care) claims processed 939 1,095 941 -14.1
Total claims processed 60,315 59,183 54,944 -7.2
Total amount paid2 $11.3 billion $12.1 billion $13.2 billion +9.1
Residential aged care services (aged care homes) 2,693 2,683 2,672 -0.4
Home Care Packages services1 (facilities providing community-based packages) 2,181 2,132 2,107 -1.2
Flexible care services (transition care) 88 83 83 0.0
Active services transmitting (online claiming) 3,403 2,947 3,805 +29.1

1. Home Care Packages commenced on 1 August 2013. Statistics to 31 July 2013 include Community packages and Flexible care (extended care at home) data.

2. Including $1.2 billion paid on behalf of DVA for 2015-16.

Aged Care Education and Training Incentive Programme

Prior to 1 April 2016 the Aged Care Education and Training Incentive Programme provided incentive payments to eligible aged care workers employed by approved facilities on undertaking specified education and training programmes. Eligible aged care workers who successfully completed a course could apply for 2 incentive payments at the commencement and completion of their study.

In the 2015 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the government announced the merger of the Aged Care Workforce Development Fund and the Rural Health Outreach Fund into the Health Workforce Fund to create a single streamlined fund. As part of the integration, the programme ceased for new students from 1 April 2016. Payments will continue for students who entered the scheme before this date.

Incentive payment amounts depend on the level of study. The programme helps aged care workers to improve their qualifications as a personal care worker, enrolled nurse or a registered nurse within the aged care sector.

Table 3: Aged Care Education and Training Incentive Programme
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Participants in vocational education and training 9,922 9,253 5,857
Participants in enrolled nurse training 2,234 1,899 1,267
Participants in registered nurse training 1,413 1,366 905
Total amount paid $11.3 million $10.4 million $6.5 million

Income and assets assessments for people entering aged care

The department continued to perform means testing assessments for older people entering aged care in 2015-16. The means test for consumers entering residential aged care is based on a combined assets and income-based assessment and calculation. The means test for consumers accessing a Home Care Package is based on an income-based assessment only.

Supporting aged care reforms

In 2015-16 the department implemented the following Aged Care Reform measures:

  • removal of exemption of rental income from the aged care means test
  • new arrangements for pre-entry leave
  • efficiencies in the home care claiming process by removing the requirement for providers to supply hours of service information for home care consumers
  • a new online claiming system for home care providers

In 2015 the department supported the Department of Health in implementing the new My Aged Care system, delivering the following 3 components:

  • connecting the My Aged Care client portal to the myGov website to allow aged care clients (and/or their carers/representatives) to access and view their personal aged care information
  • an identity matching service as part of the aged care registration service
  • a new service allowing the department to receive aged care assessment approvals from the My Aged Care system for residential, home care and transition care

Transfer to Age Pension

Customers are now able to access an improved online transfer from income support payments to Age Pension. The online transfer to Age Pension was delivered on 20 June 2015. Once a customer becomes eligible to lodge a transfer to Age Pension, the service offer is available to them in their online account. This service reuses information already known about the customer to pre-populate fields, and customers are able to provide additional information online. Both the customer and the department benefit from significant time saving.

Jobseekers and Students

Newstart Allowance-provides financial help to people looking for work. Customers must be aged 22 years or over but under age pension age and looking for suitable paid work. Newstart Allowance customers need to meet income and assets tests and residency requirements, and be able to meet mutual obligation requirements. In 2015-16 the department finalised approximately 696,000 Newstart Allowance claims compared to approximately 671,000 in 2014-15.

Youth Allowance-is an income support payment for students, trainees and apprentices generally aged 16 to 24 years, or job seekers generally aged 16 to 21 years. Youth Allowance customers need to meet income and assets tests and residency requirements. In 2015-16 the department finalised approximately 417,000 Youth Allowance claims compared to approximately 424,000 in 2014-15.

Austudy-provides financial help to full-time students and apprentices aged 25 years or over. In 2015-16 the department finalised approximately 75,000 new Austudy claims compared to approximately 72,000 in 2014-15.

ABSTUDY-provides a means-tested allowance and other supplementary benefits to eligible Indigenous students. In 2015-16 the department finalised approximately 37,000 ABSTUDY claims compared to 37,155 in 2014-15.

Pensioner Education Supplement-is available as extra assistance towards ongoing study costs to recipients of some Department of Human Services and DVA income support payments. The supplement is available to full-time students and in certain circumstances to students approved to undertake part-time study of at least 25% of a full study load. In 2015-16 the department finalised approximately 53,000 Pensioner Education Supplement claims compared to 63,302 in 2014-15.

Job Commitment Bonus-is a new payment to encourage long-term unemployed young Australians to find and keep work. The payment is targeted at job seekers aged 18 to 30 years who have been unemployed for 12 months or more and are receiving Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance. There are 2 Job Commitment Bonus payments. The first Job Commitment Bonus is $2,500 for 12 months of continuous gainful work. The second Job Commitment Bonus is $4,000 for a further 12 months of continuous gainful work. In 2015-16 the department finalised 4,291 claims for the first $2,500 Job Commitment Bonus.

Special Benefit-helps people in severe financial hardship who are not able to support themselves and their dependants and are not eligible for another payment. In 2015-16 the department finalised 9,538 claims compared to 9,560 in 2014-15.

Meeting participation requirements for job seekers

Job seekers receiving Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (other), Parenting Payment Single or Special Benefit (paid under Newstart Allowance conditions) must satisfy mutual obligation requirements to remain eligible for payment.

The department’s job seeker compliance model applies to job seekers receiving participation payments who have compulsory mutual obligation requirements.

The model aims to ensure job seekers attend appointments and participate in activities to help get them back into work. Job seekers who become disengaged from employment services or activities are re-engaged as quickly as possible. When a job seeker does not have a reasonable excuse for not meeting their mutual obligation requirements, a financial penalty may apply.

Non-Attendance Reports can lead to payment suspensions as part of the job seeker compliance model. Employment service providers can use the reports as a re-engagement tool when a job seeker does not attend an appointment. The job seeker’s payment is automatically restored, including any back payment, as long as the job seeker attends a new appointment which is booked for them by their provider.

From 1 July 2015 employment service providers could also submit a Provider Appointment Report to the department where, following discussion with the job seeker, the provider has determined the job seeker did not have a reasonable excuse for missing the initial scheduled appointment. A Provider Appointment Report requires the department to undertake an investigation of a non-attendance failure which may result in a financial penalty.

In 2015-16 the department undertook 728,248 job seeker compliance investigations and actioned 2,074,739 Non-Attendance Reports. This compares to 549,426 job seeker compliance investigations and 1,185,398 Non-Attendance Reports in 2014-15.

Table 4: Recipients with mutual obligation requirements by payment type
Payment type At 27 June 2014 At 26 June 2015 At 24 June 2016
Newstart Allowance 705,8141 748,7193 732,1004
Youth Allowance 113,9981 112,6203 98,1004
Special Benefit2 7051 7583 1,0304
Parenting Payment Single 49,9351 51,6473 50,4064
Total 870,452 913,744 881,636

1. Source: Department of Social Services (DSS) on 8 July 2014.

2. The majority of Special Benefit recipients are not activity tested.

3. Source: DSS on 6 July 2015.

4. Source: DSS on 6 July 2016.

Engaging Early School Leavers

The Engaging Early School Leavers measure was implemented on 1 January 2016. Previously Youth Allowance (other) recipients were identified as an early school leaver if they had not completed Year 12 (or equivalent) or a Certificate II. From 1 January 2016 Youth Allowance (other) recipients who had not completed Year 12 (or equivalent) or a Certificate III or higher were identified as an early school leaver.

Under this programme early school leavers may have to look for work if they are not in full-time study, or are not in a combination of study and part-time work for 25 hours per week.

National Work Experience Programme

The National Work Experience Programme commenced on 1 October 2015. Under the programme, where there is potential for short-term or ongoing paid employment, jobactive and disability employment service providers will be able to place job seekers in up to 4 weeks unpaid work experience at a maximum of 25 hours per week.

Unpaid work experience undertaken through the National Work Experience Programme is an approved programme of work and participating job seekers receive the Approved Programme of Work Supplement of $20.80 per fortnight in addition to their income support payment.

Transition to Work-Intensive Support

The Youth Employment Strategy-Intensive Support-Transition to Work (TTW) measure commenced on 1 January 2016. TTW is a new service targeting young job seekers who are early school leavers and not engaged in employment, education or training, to ensure they are on a productive pathway. The service is for eligible participants aged 17 to 21 years. The department’s role is to identify and refer eligible participants to TTW providers.

Employment Services Assessments

Employment Services Assessments (ESAts) identify the most appropriate type of employment services for people with medical conditions and other barriers to employment. ESAts are also used to identify assistance that may help a job seeker prepare for, find and maintain work, taking into account any partial work capacity.

Job Capacity Assessments

Job Capacity Assessments (JCAs) help the department determine the impact of medical conditions and disabilities on customers’ ability to work and whether they would benefit from employment assistance. A JCA is used as part of determining medical eligibility for DSP.

Customers may be referred for a JCA if they are:

  • claiming DSP
  • undergoing a review of medical eligibility for DSP, or
  • seeking indefinite portability of their DSP


The department employs 553 qualified health and allied health professionals in multi-disciplinary teams in locations across Australia to undertake ESAts and JCAs. The health and allied health professionals employed by the department include:

  • psychologists
  • physiotherapists
  • medical advisers
  • occupational therapists
  • rehabilitation counsellors
  • exercise physiologists
  • registered nurses
  • speech pathologists
  • social workers

Table 5 shows the number of medical and non-medical ESAts and JCAs that the department completed each year.

Table 5: Type of assessments completed
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
ESAt non-medical 27,464 24,375 13,596
ESAt medical 179,371 182,923 159,250
Job Capacity Assessment 115,517 95,028 97,698
Total 322,352 302,326 270,544

Health Professional Advisory Unit

The Health Professional Advisory Unit is a multi-disciplinary unit comprising 7 medical advisers and 12 health and allied health professionals across a virtual network. The unit strengthens DSP decision making by providing expert advice to departmental assessors and decision makers, and builds relationships between the department and customers’ doctors. The unit is also closely involved in providing expert advice on matters before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and to external government-contracted doctors. In 2015-16 the unit received 2,458 referrals compared to 3,473 referrals in 2014-15.

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Page last updated: 5 July 2018