Annual Report 2016-17

Services for people needing other support - Annual Report 2015-16

Superannuation programmes

Small Business Superannuation Clearing House

The Australian Taxation Office Small Business Superannuation Clearing House is a free government service to assist small businesses with 19 or fewer employees or an annual aggregated turnover of below $2 million to meet their superannuation guarantee obligations and to reduce red tape. Under superannuation guarantee requirements small businesses must make superannuation payments at least 4 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 mortgage arrears. Early release can also be approved under financial hardship grounds.

The department’s role is to assess applications for early release and provide approval letters when release conditions are satisfied. We also confirm that a person has received a qualifying income support payment for the required period. Final decisions to release superannuation benefits rest solely with the superannuation funds.

Table 36: Early Release of Superannuation Benefits on compassionate grounds
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change since
Applications received 19,286 19,367 29,379 +51.7
Applications approved in full or in part 12,243 14,261 15,161 +6.3
Amount approved for release $150,991,150 $183,772,297 $204,954,883 +11.5
Average amount released per approval $12,333 $12,886 $13,519 +4.9

Vulnerable people

Family and domestic violence

The department supports staff and customers affected by family and domestic violence by providing information, referrals and support services. For customers we use a risk identification and referral model to ensure a consistent approach to identifying and assisting customers, based on their individual circumstances.

For staff affected by family and domestic violence we have a phone support service and a range of training available to raise awareness and assist our staff and managers in supporting affected colleagues.

Community Engagement Officers

Community Engagement Officers (CEOs) 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.

CEOs offer information, assistance and outreach to community organisations that support people with complex needs. This is to help them to better understand 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 2015-16 a network of 96 CEOs continued to operate throughout Australia.

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.

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 assessments for 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

The department has a strong and cooperative relationship with state and territory corrective services. During 2015-16 the department’s Prison Liaison Officers participated in Prison Open Days providing information about payments and services to support reintegration.

Research into services for ‘disconnected’ peoples

The department finalised a joint research project with RMIT University investigating 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 region in Tasmania, the three-year longitudinal study identified the value of actively involving the local community in deciding priority areas and co-designing new service approaches.

Social work services

Social workers work 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, young people without adequate support and people affected by domestic and family violence, mental illness, homelessness and hardship.

At 30 June 2016 the department had 745 social workers located in service centres, smart centres, and rural and remote servicing teams and compliance teams. Social workers responded to 304,531 referrals for support in 2015-16 compared to 278,308 in 2014-15.

Priority areas

Suicide and mental distress

Social workers provide support and intervention to customers at risk of suicide or suffering mental distress. This includes ensuring the person is safe, making referrals for further assistance, and providing support to service officers engaging with customers who are at risk. In 2015-16 social workers responded to 4,489 referrals for customers at risk of suicide compared to 4,251 referrals in 2014-15, and 50,171 referrals for customers experiencing mental health issues compared to 39,511 in 2014-15.

Young people without adequate support

Social workers provide targeted 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 their basic needs, such as accommodation. In 2015-16 social workers worked intensively with 5,146 young people compared to 4,943 in 2014-15.

Support for people affected by domestic and family violence

Social workers provide private and confidential interviews for counselling and support for people affected by 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 2015-16 social workers received 61,548 referrals for people experiencing domestic and family violence compared to 48,468 referrals in 2014-15.

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 2015-16 social workers received 59,434 referrals for customers experiencing homelessness or accommodation issues compared to 62,044 referrals in 2014-15. Social workers received 89,898 referrals for customers experiencing financial issues and/or hardship in 2015-16 compared to 83,549 in 2014-15.

Specialist social work programmes

Supporting repatriated customers

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

Carer specialist assessments

In 2015-16 there were 688 referrals to carer specialist assessment social workers compared to 906 in 2014-15. Social workers also assessed 196 claims from carers aged under 18 years (223 in 2014-15) and 1,744 claims from carers aged over 80 years (1,642 in 2014-15). These customer groups are recognised as having multiple complex needs and often need social work intervention.

Social work service and job seeker compliance model

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 Meeting participation requirements for job seekers.

Social work services during emergency recovery

In 2015-16 social workers assisted people affected by the South Australia Pinery bushfires in November 2015 and the Western Australia Waroona bushfires in January 2016. They provided support in recovery centres, service centres, in the community and via phone services. Social workers also supported people claiming the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP) for the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels attacks. See also Emergency responses.

In July 2015 social workers attended the one-year anniversary memorial for Australians who died in the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash, to support family members attending the ceremony.

In December 2015, at the request of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, social workers were present at the unveiling of the memorial for the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami to support affected individuals and family members on the day.

Rural services

Drought coordinators

As part of the social and community support component of the government’s drought assistance package, the department had 7 drought coordinators who serviced drought-affected areas in northern New South Wales, western Queensland, Western Australia and the border of Victoria and South Australia. This measure ceased on 30 June 2016.

Farm Household Allowance

The department delivers the Farm Household Allowance payment. Since the commencement of the programme in 2014 over 6,000 customers have been granted Farm Household Allowance.

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.

In May 2016, the department provided support to the government response to the downturn in the dairy industry. The response included:

  • appointing a Dairy Industry Liaison Officer between June and December 2016
  • revising itineraries for the Australian Government Mobile Service Centres to visit potentially affected areas
  • providing extra staff to process claims for Farm Household Allowance and to answer calls to the Farmer Assistance Hotline

Indigenous people

Indigenous Servicing Strategy

In November 2015 the department launched the Indigenous Servicing Strategy 2016-17. The strategy provides a clear strategic direction to all departmental staff delivering services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It identifies priority areas and ways to measure progress, and it ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receive the right service for their circumstances.

The strategy identifies a series of goals covering priority areas of health, child support, ABSTUDY, voluntary Indigenous identification, and Centrelink debt and compliance. Each goal has measures and suggested strategies to support the department in achieving improvements in these areas.

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 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 2016 there were 11 IPSMs compared to 12 IPSMs in 2014-15.

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 2016 there were 73 ISOs compared to 81 ISOs in 2014-15.

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, remote servicing teams, and place-based services supported by an integrated remote smart centre that provides phone and claims processing services.

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

The department focuses on engaging directly with customers, particularly those living in remote Indigenous communities, to shape services that are culturally-appropriate, effective and empowering.

Remote servicing teams

Remote servicing teams involve a small number of staff providing departmental services to remote Indigenous communities through regular visits. The department recruits local Indigenous staff to work in remote servicing teams wherever possible. 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 also provide role models for young Indigenous people in remote communities in relation to workforce participation.

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 2015-16 the AIS provided 9,563 hours of interpreting services (9,538 hours in 2014-15), and the KIS provided 548 hours of interpreting services (465 hours in 2014-15).

To supplement these services, the department has a small number of Indigenous Language Officers 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 NIC is consulted to ensure effective development of strategies that support and secure outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, communities and employees.

There were 2 NIC face-to-face conferences held during the year, 1 in October 2015 and the other in May 2016, as well as 8 teleconferences.

Providing spatial services for government and the community

The Australian Government Indigenous Locations dataset (AGIL) is 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. AGIL is also included in a National Map maintained by National ICT Australia.

The AGIL dataset is available to the general public via where it can be viewed or downloaded at no cost. In 2015-16 the AGIL dataset was viewed 538 times (935 in 2014-15) and downloaded 130 times (204 in 2014-15).

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 operates on the principle that a better understanding of financial affairs gives people more choices leading to a better lifestyle both now and in retirement.

FIS is a free, independent and confidential service and offers assistance to people in various circumstances, including approaching retirement, facing redundancy, going into aged care, experiencing separation, divorce or death of a partner, or receiving a compensation payout.

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

In 2015-16 FIS officers:

  • answered more than 57,300 phone calls compared to 35,400 in 2014-15
  • conducted more than 58,800 interviews compared to 56,700 in 2014-15
  • delivered 4,880 hours of outreach services compared to 4,672 in 2014-15
  • held 2,720 seminars for more than 77,600 participants compared to 2,606 seminars and 79,300 participants in 2014-15
  • conducted mini-FIS seminars on the department’s website as video-on-demand broadcasts


Centrepay is a voluntary bill paying service which assists recipients of Centrelink income support to manage their expenses, by providing a facility to have regular deductions made directly from their welfare payments to businesses. Centrepay is free for customers, while businesses are charged a fee to recover Centrepay operating costs. At 30 June 2016:

  • 669,561 income support recipients were using Centrepay compared to 661,640 in June 2015
  • 12,966 businesses received a Centrepay deduction compared to 13,235 in June 2015

In 2015-16, 27 million deductions were made to the value of $2.5 billion compared to 25.9 million deductions to the value of $2.4 billion in 2014-15.

During the year the department continued to improve Centrepay. Changes included:

  • implementing a revised Centrepay framework from 1 July 2015, which incorporates new Centrepay Policy and Terms and new Procedural Guides for Businesses and Customers. The department will conduct a post-implementation review of the revised Centrepay framework commencing in July 2016
  • establishing a new assurance framework for Centrepay, based on prevention, detection and appropriate responses to non-compliance. Centrepay businesses receive more education and support to comply with the Centrepay Policy and Terms, but are also potentially subject to strong responses for serious breaches
  • introducing in March 2016 2 new categories of services (service ‘reasons’) for which businesses may be approved to receive Centrepay deductions, namely ‘Savings’ and ‘Disability and Community Service’. Consultation is continuing on possible service reasons for ‘Concessional Financial Services’ and ‘Lay-by’
  • commencing twice-yearly open stakeholder forums in January and July each year. These provide stakeholders with information about ongoing developments and plans for Centrepay and offer an additional avenue for feedback and queries about Centrepay policy and service delivery

As part of the transition to the new Centrepay Policy and Terms, a 12-month grandfathering period was provided for businesses and customers using Centrepay for funeral insurance or unregulated consumer leases for household goods. On 24 May 2016, the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund Pty Ltd and related companies applied to the Federal Court of Australia to challenge the department’s decision to exclude funeral insurance from Centrepay. On 30 June 2016 the Federal Court of Australia quashed the department’s decision of 1 July 2015 to exclude funeral insurance from Centrepay. The department filed an appeal on 14 July 2016 to the Full Federal Court of Australia.

Rent Deduction Scheme

Through the Rent Deduction Scheme, customers can have their public housing payments deducted from their income support and sent directly to their state or territory housing authority. The scheme is an easy, free way for customers to pay their government housing obligations.

At 30 June 2016, 338,989 customers were using the scheme (331,217 in 2014-15). This represents an increase of 2.35% on the previous year.

In 2015-16, 9.34 million rent deductions were made (9.04 million in 2014-15). This represents an increase of 3.31% on the previous year.

Income Management

Income Management helps people in specified locations 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.

Table 37: Income management measures by location
Income Management measures
Voluntary Child
at Risk
Long Term
Western Australia
Peel region      
Ngaanyatjarra Lands      
Northern Territory
New South Wales
Cape York1          
Greater Shepparton      
South Australia
Greater Adelaide2        
Ceduna region3      
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands      

1. Cape York-specific Income Management applies in the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Doomadgee, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge as part of a broader programme of welfare reform for the area.

2. Income Management was introduced in Greater Adelaide on 1 October 15.

3. To support the implementation of the Cashless Debit Card trial in Ceduna and surrounding region from 15 March 2016, the department ceased placing new participants onto Income Management from 16 February 2016. All existing Income Management customers in the Ceduna and surrounding region were transitioned off Income Management by 26 April 2016. See also Cashless debit card trial.

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 2016, 15,381 stores and businesses accepted the BasicsCard compared to 14,258 at 30 June 2015.

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

In 2015-16:

  • 97% of income managed customers used a BasicsCard. This is the same as in 2014-15
  • $221.3 million was spent using the BasicsCard compared to $216.9 million in 2014-15

Data on Income Management

Table 38: Income Management customers
Measure Customers at 30 June 20141 Customers at 30 June 20151 Customers at 30 June 20161
Cape York Income Management 201 128 160
Child Protection Income Management 435 337 339
Disengaged Youth 4,489 4,450 4,096
Long Term Welfare Payment Recipient 11,420 12,387 12,856
Supporting People at Risk 142 213 223
Voluntary Income Management 6,047 5,828 5,146
Vulnerable Welfare Payment Recipient 2,943 3,053 2,100

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 2015-16 was $288.2 million compared to $283.3 million in 2014-15.

Cashless debit card trial

During 2016 the Cashless Debit Card Trial started testing whether restricting access to cash, alcohol and gambling will help reduce welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug-related harm in communities. People who live in certain areas will have up to 80% of their income support payments paid to a cashless debit card. This card operates like a normal debit card except it cannot be used to buy alcohol, to gamble, or withdraw cash. The trial commenced in Ceduna, South Australia, from 15 March 2016, and in Kununurra and the Wyndham region in Western Australia from 26 April 2016. A third trial site is scheduled to begin in 2016-17.

The Department of Social Services and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are running the trial in conjunction with the financial institution Indue Ltd.

The department’s service delivery role in the trial is focused on placing participants on and off the trial based on their eligibility. Indue Ltd provides cards and all associated banking and support services to trial participants.

At 30 June 2016, 1,941 people were participating in the trial.

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. On 1 January 2016 the scheme was extended to include goods not previously covered
  • Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme-provides a rebate to ferry operators for passengers travelling between the mainland and Tasmania

In 2015-16, 10,719 claims for assistance were received by the department with $168.1 million in payments processed through the programmes. This compares to 8,958 claims and $149.8 million in 2014-15.

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.

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 2015-16 customers receiving income support payments, family assistance, allowances and concessions travelled outside Australia 1.82 million times compared to 1.79 million overseas trips in 2014-15.

Concession cards

There are 6 types of concession and health care cards delivered by the department:

  • 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.

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.

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 2013-15 outlined how the department intended to provide services to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

The department successfully delivered on all 33 actions in the plan, and also delivered additional actions. New achievements included 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.

During the year we worked with stakeholders and staff to develop a new Multicultural Servicing Strategy 2016-2019 to replace the Agency Multicultural Plan. The new strategy ensures that the department is well positioned to meet current and future challenges in providing services to CALD customers. It aims to make our services more accessible and targeted to the needs of individuals, including new initiatives to improve our digital service offer for CALD customers.

Support for refugees and humanitarian entrants

The department offers a range of services to assist refugees entering the community. The department works closely with DIBP and the Department of Social Services settlement service providers and community groups to ensure refugees have appropriate, targeted 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. During the year the department reviewed its service offer to ensure it will meet the needs of the anticipated 12,000 Syria and northern Iraq arrivals announced by the government in September 2015.

Citizenship testing

Delivered on behalf of DIBP, weekly citizenship tests are now available at 33 service centres in regional areas from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Mackay in Queensland. Previously DIBP staff had to visit regional centres to conduct the tests, usually only monthly or every 2 months.

In 2015-16 DIBP rolled out ‘Read Speaker’ technology in our regional citizenship testing sites. Read Speaker helps customers with limited literacy as the technology has the ability to read the questions to the customer as they complete the citizenship test.

Of about 100,280 citizenship tests taken across Australia during the year, 12,385 tests were taken in regional centres, involving around 244 tests each week.

Language services

The department provides free translation and interpreting services in over 200 languages to help CALD customers conduct their business. More than 2,600 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 2015-16 around 641 staff received the Community Language Allowance compared to 699 in 2014-15. Community Language Allowance is paid at 2 rates. Rate 1 is $40.67 per fortnight and is paid to employees who use their language skills at least 3 times per month. Rate 2 is $97.63 per fortnight and is paid to employees who use their language skills at least 8 times per month.

Multicultural Service Officers

In 2015-16 a network of 70 Multicultural Service Officers (MSOs) continued to operate throughout Australia. Each officer covers a 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:

  • promoting and demonstrating the department’s digital services to customers and community groups
  • working with multicultural communities, service providers, and government and non-government stakeholders, to develop local strategies and local solutions
  • promoting the department’s payments, services, and communication options to multicultural communities
  • promoting multicultural resources to staff

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 2 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

The department administers the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) payment. The DIBP determines eligibility for the payment, which provides financial assistance to people living in the community while their immigration status is being resolved. At 30 June 2016 approximately 18,000 customers received the payment.

Innovative multicultural services

Multilingual apps

The department provides Express Plus Lite mobile app services in 4 languages for iOS and android devices. Customers can use the app to report their earnings anywhere at any time, increasing convenience and reducing the need for interpreter services. The languages are Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Persian (Farsi).

Working with partners

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

  • Adelaide, South Australia-working in partnership with the Migrant Resource Centre, Australian Red Cross and Life Without Barriers to run information sessions for asylum seekers in language groups
  • Logan, Queensland-conducting a community education session for newly-arrived Afghani women, with support from the Logan Financial Literacy Action Group
  • Glen Waverley, Victoria-presenting information to Chinese Senior Citizens in a project undertaken with Monash Library
  • Hobart, Tasmania-attending new and emerging community meetings and contributing to discussions on child care, jobactive and English language programmes
  • Northern Beaches, New South Wales-running a stall at the Eastwood Community Expo as part of Harmony Day celebrations
  • Perth, Western Australia-delivering digital presentations to Adult Migrant English Program lecturers from the Central Institute of Technology and showcasing the suite of online services available to customers

Emergency responses

Payments and services

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

  • assisting individuals to test their eligibility for an income support payment or service
  • 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)

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

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
  • mobile computing support
  • Australian Government 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 5,200 staff (or around 14% of the department’s staff) are registered for the Emergency Reserve.

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 bushfire recovery efforts in South Australia in November 2015 and Western Australia in January 2016.

Current events

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments

The department’s response to current emergencies included payment of AGDRP claims. In 2015-16 the AGDRP was provided to people adversely affected in the following areas:

  • Western Australia Waroona bushfires-Peel and South West regions
  • South Australia Pinery bushfires-Barossa, Yorke and Mid-North regions
Table 39: AGDRP payments
  South Australia Pinery bushfires1 Western Australia Waroona bushfires2
Claims finalised 3,710 6,103
Claims paid to affected people 3,645 5,908
Amount paid into people’s bank accounts $4,245,600 $6,848,800

1. AGDRP activated for declared local government areas on 28 November 2015.

2. AGDRP activated for declared local government areas on 11 January 2016.

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:

  • Western Australia Waroona bushfires-Peel and South West regions
  • South Australia Pinery bushfires-Barossa, Yorke and Mid-North regions
  • New South Wales East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016
  • Tasmania East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016
Table 40: DRA payments at 30 June 2016
  South Australia Pinery bushfires1 Western Australia Waroona bushfires2 New South Wales East Coast Storms and Floods, June 20163 Tasmania East Coast Storms and Floods, June 20163
Claims finalised 41 139 NA4 NA4
Claims paid to affected people 27 61 NA4 NA4
Amount paid into people’s bank account $107,052 $115,966 NA4 NA4

1. DRA activated for declared local government areas on 28 November 2015.

2. DRA activated for declared local government areas on 11 January 2016.

3. DRA activated for declared local government areas on 27 June 2016.

4. Any public reference to data that is less than 20 increases the risk that an individual may be identified and have their privacy breached.

Ex gratia payments to New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders

Ex-gratia payments to New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders were also activated for individuals affected by the South Australia Pinery bushfires and the Western Australia Waroona bushfires. These payments are equivalent to the AGDRP.

At 30 June 2016 more than:

  • 70 claims had been received
  • 59 claims had been paid to affected people
  • $77,200 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 South Australia Pinery bushfires, the Western Australia Waroona bushfires and the NSW and Tasmanian East Coast Storms and Floods. This payment is equivalent to the DRA.

No figures have been reported for 2015-16 for the Ex-gratia Income Support Allowance for New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders as small numbers of distinctive claims may lead to individual claimants being identified.

Emergency claim lodgement 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 41: Percentage of disaster recovery claims granted by claiming channel1
Claiming channel 2013-14
Phone 21 61 59
Online 14 33 18
Paper and in person 65 6 23

1. These figures do not include AVTOP, or rapid response payment claims.

Australian Government Emergency Information Line

The Australian Government Emergency Information Line was activated in response to disaster recovery financial assistance for:

  • Western Australia Waroona bushfires-Peel and South West regions
  • South Australia Pinery bushfires-Barossa, Yorke and Mid-North regions
  • New South Wales East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016
  • Tasmania East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016
Table 42: Calls to the Australian Government Emergency Information Line
Australian Government Emergency Information Line South Australia Pinery bushfires Western Australia Waroona bushfires New South Wales East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016 Tasmania East Coast Storms and Floods, June 2016
Calls answered 1,843 6,251 23 11

Working in emergency recovery

In 2015-16, following the South Australia Pinery and the Western Australia Waroona bushfires, 11 staff were sent to the affected areas to assist in delivering emergency payments.

During these events the department had up to 7 ‘Points of Presence’ at any 1 time. Points of Presence are mobile computing equipment sites that have laptop computers, printers and internet connectivity. These sites provide staff with instant access to departmental systems, allow on-the-spot assessment of claims, and offer other departmental assistance.

The department tailored business-as-usual activities for the bushfire affected areas to streamline access to payments and services for those affected. In early December 2015 mobile service centre crews assisted in recovery after the South Australia Pinery bushfires. They spent 9 days in 2 disaster-affected communities, helping over 500 people.

Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment

AVTOP provides one-off assistance 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 December 2015 for the Paris attacks that occurred during November 2015, and in May 2016 for the Brussels attacks that occurred in March 2016.

In 2015-16 claims were paid for the following retrospective events which had been activated in 2013:

  • 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 2015-16, 223 calls were answered by the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Hotline.

Table 43: AVTOP payments in 2015-16
  Primary victims Secondary victims
Claims finalised 38 0
Claims paid to affected people 26 0
Amount paid into people’s bank accounts $1,489,000 $0

National Emergency Call Centre Surge Capability

The department provides surge assistance through the National Emergency Call Centre Surge Capability (NECCSC) on request from states, territories and other Australian Government agencies when their own resources are overwhelmed (this does not include calls to the state and territory emergency services and 000).

In 2015-16 the NECCSC was activated in response to the floods in Tasmania in June 2016 with the department taking 78 calls.

National Security Hotline

The department provides surge assistance for the National Security Hotline on request from the Attorney-General’s Department. The hotline is the single point of contact for people to report possible signs of terrorism or to request information.

In 2015-16 the department assisted in taking 1,744 calls for the National Security Hotline.

Events that closed in 2015-16

Claims for the AGDRP and DRA can be lodged up to 6 months from the date the payment is activated. Claims were paid in 2015-16 for events that occurred during the 2014-15 disaster season-that is, the period for claiming some payments did not ‘close’ in 2014-15. These events included:

  • South Australian bushfires-Mount Lofty Ranges region
  • Tropical Cyclone Lam-Arnhem region of the Northern Territory
  • 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

For these events, in 2015-16 the department paid:

  • 8,352 AGDRP payments, worth $10,157,879
  • 46 DRA payments, worth $429,401
  • 26 ex-gratia payments to New Zealand non-protected special category visa holders

Disaster Health Care 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)

Closure of Hunter River and Port Stephens Fisheries

In 2015-16 the department delivered payments on behalf of the Department of Defence to assist individuals and small businesses affected by the closure of Hunter River and Port Stephens fisheries. The payments consisted of:

  • a fortnightly Income Recovery Subsidy for individuals
  • the Business Assistance Payment and Business Hardship Payment for for small businesses
Table 44: Payments relating to the closure of Hunter River and Port Stephens Fisheries
  Income Recovery Subsidy Business Assistance Payment Business Hardship Payment
Claims finalised 26 37 60
Claims paid to affected people or businesses NA1 NA1 NA1
Amounts paid to people or businesses $135,219 $170,000 $419,792

1. Any public reference to data that is less than 20 increases the risk that an individual may be identified and have their privacy breached.

In 2015-16, 233 calls were answered by the Australian Government Information Line for people affected by the closure of the Hunter River and Port Stephens fisheries.

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Page last updated: 5 July 2018