Annual Report 2017-18

Services for people needing other support

The department has a role in providing specialist services for people with greater or special support needs and for vulnerable customers.

In 2017–18 the department established a National Redress Information Line that provided information about the proposed National Redress Scheme (see below). In addition, the service delivery processes and the ICT systems needed to deliver the National Redress Scheme from 1 July 2018 were developed. The department also offers services to individuals affected by domestic violence; people with complex circumstances who cannot access the department’s services without assistance; children and young people who are at risk of homelessness; and prisoners.

The department manages other support services for vulnerable customers and those in emergency situations, including:

  • two superannuation programs to assist small business and those who are experiencing financial difficulty and wish to draw on their superannuation before retirement age
  • social work services for those with complex needs, working within specific priority areas. The department also provides specialist social work services for a range of customer groups, including carers, vulnerable job seekers and those involved in emergencies
  • the Farm Household Allowance to rural farming families who are in financial hardship
  • special programs and service specialists for Indigenous people who face particular challenges because their communities are in remote areas
  • services to help customers to manage their money, such as financial information services, bill‑paying services, rent payment services, tax payment services and Income Management
  • two Tasmanian transport equalisation schemes: the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme and the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme
  • various concession cards for customers
  • applications for advance payments, urgent payments and bereavement payments
  • programs to ensure that the department’s services are suitable for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This includes translation and interpreter services, services in languages other than English, Multicultural Service Officer (MSO) assistance, and support for refugees and humanitarian entrants
  • several disaster recovery payments: the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) and Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA), and ex‑gratia payments to New Zealand residents (in 2017–18, these payments were made to victims of Tropical Cyclone Debbie)
  • the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP).

Superannuation programs

The department manages two superannuation programs:

  • the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House
  • the Early Release of Superannuation Benefits program.

Small Business Superannuation Clearing House

The ATO Small Business Superannuation Clearing House is a free government service to help small businesses with 19 or fewer employees or an annual aggregated turnover of below $10 million to meet their superannuation guarantee obligations and reduce red tape. Under the superannuation guarantee requirements, small businesses must make superannuation payments at least four times a year.

The department managed the clearing house on behalf of the ATO until December 2016, when service delivery for the clearing house was transferred to the ATO following a machinery of government change. On 26 February 2018 the system functionality was transitioned to the ATO. The department’s system was decommissioned in June 2018.

Early Release of Superannuation Benefits

The Early Release of Superannuation Benefits program allows eligible people to draw on their superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds in times of need. Applicants can be granted early release of superannuation only for help in meeting costs for:

  • medical expenses for an applicant or their dependant
  • home and vehicle modifications to accommodate a severe disability for an applicant or their dependant
  • funeral expenses for a dependant
  • palliative care for an applicant or their dependant
  • mortgage arrears for an applicant.

Superannuation funds can also approve early release on severe financial hardship grounds.

The department’s role is to assess applications for early release on compassionate grounds and provide an approval letter if the person is eligible. The role for severe financial hardship is to confirm that a person has received a qualifying income support payment for the required period either via a letter or through the Centrelink Confirmation eService.

In February 2018 the government announced that responsibility for the Early Release of Superannuation Benefits program would be transferred from the department to the ATO. Legislation to facilitate this transfer was passed by the parliament on 29 March 2018, and from 1 July 2018 responsibility sits with the ATO.

In 2017–18 the department received 39 662 applications for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds, and 24,073 applications were approved either in full or in part. The total amount approved for the release in 2017–18 was $343.9 million.

Vulnerable people

The department has a role in helping people in challenging or special circumstances, including:

  • people who have experienced complex trauma, including institutional child sexual abuse
  • people affected by family and domestic violence
  • people with complex circumstances who find it difficult to access the department’s mainstream services
  • young people who are at risk
  • people in prison or recently released from prison.

National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse

The National Redress Scheme is in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The scheme acknowledges people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse in Australia and aims to help them to move forward with their lives in the way that is best for them.

The scheme will run for ten years to 30 June 2028.

The department is providing the service delivery processes and the ICT for the scheme in two stages:

  • On 9 March 2018 a National Redress Information Line was established to provide information about the scheme and refer people to specialist community‑based support services, including legal, financial and other social supports as required. As at 30 June 2018 the National Redress Information Line has answered 1,795 calls.
  • From 1 July 2018 the department began accepting and processing applications from survivors of institutional child sexual abuse for which the Commonwealth and other participating governments and institutions are responsible. A specific standalone Redress ICT case management system was developed for processing applications and exchanging information with the responsible institutions.

The scheme provides three components of redress:

  • access to counselling and psychological services
  • a direct personal response (an apology) from the institution/s responsible for the abuse
  • a redress payment.

Designing the service delivery response for the National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse

In 2017–18 the department in partnership with the Department of Social Services designed the National Redress Scheme.

The scheme is based on the following principles, outlined in a recommendation of the Royal Commission:

  1. Redress should be survivor focused.
  2. There should be a ‘no wrong door’ approach for survivors in gaining access to redress.
  3. All redress should be offered, assessed and provided with appropriate regard to what is known about the nature and impact of child sexual abuse— and institutional child sexual abuse in particular—and to the cultural needs of survivors.
  4. All redress should be offered, assessed and provided with appropriate regard to the needs of particularly vulnerable survivors.

Over the last 18 months, the department’s design hubs have hosted multiple user research sessions with survivors, support services, institutions, and Australian and state government agency staff.

The department has listened to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse and the people who care for them to understand their concerns and work out how its service should be delivered.

For example, in response to many survivors’ perception that information is being withheld from them, the department has established a Redress Team to keep each applicant fully informed about the status of their application from the start to end of the process.

The department’s iterative research and design process has enabled it to understand the survivor journey; shape and refine the service accordingly; and precisely calibrate the design, content and language of the digital and non‑digital application materials.

All staff involved have received trauma‑informed awareness training to ensure that they place survivors’ needs at the heart of all aspects of the scheme. The department’s policy, service delivery and ICT teams have developed a shared understanding of, and commitment to, the principles of survivor‑centric design. More broadly, the department’s multidisciplinary approach to this project has strengthened its culture and capacity for innovation.

The National Redress Scheme will accept applications from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2027.

Help for individuals affected by 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 affected by family and domestic violence, the department uses a risk identification and referral model. The model ensures that the department takes a consistent approach to identifying and supporting customers based on their individual circumstances.

For staff affected by family and domestic violence, the department has a phone support service. The department also conducts training to raise awareness and help staff and managers to support affected colleagues.

In 2017–18 the department’s dedicated Family and Domestic Violence web pages were viewed approximately 189,000 times.

In 2017–18 approximately 17,100 training sessions were completed by employees to help assist customers and/or departmental staff affected by family and domestic violence. These sessions were undertaken through a variety of methods, including self‑paced and facilitated face‑to‑face training.

In 2017–18 the department granted 17,180 Crisis Payments to support customers affected by family and domestic violence.

Community Engagement Officers help to customers with complex circumstances

The Community Engagement Officer (CEO) program is responsible for delivering services to people with complex circumstances who find it difficult to access the department’s mainstream services—for example, those experiencing a vulnerability (such as drug and/or alcohol abuse) that reduces their capability to navigate mainstream services in an effective and safe manner.

CEOs deliver services in locations such as mental health facilities, general crisis/support services, specialist accommodation services, youth services, drug and alcohol services, family and domestic violence services and organised meeting places.

CEOs are committed to assisting people with complex circumstances to increase their capacity for greater self‑sufficiency. They also work with third‑party organisations to support them in enabling and empowering these individuals to self‑manage their departmental business and access mainstream payments and services.

In 2017–18, the department had over 90 CEOs, who had relationships with over 1,700 third‑party organisations and their customers.

Youth Protective Assessments for at‑risk children and young people

The department makes referrals to the state and territory child welfare authorities for Youth Protective Assessments where there are concerns about the wellbeing of a child or young person. The aim of making the assessment is to protect young people from homelessness, abuse and violence. The assessments help the Australian Government and state and territory child welfare authorities to work together to support at‑risk young people aged between 12 and 17 years who are seeking income support.

In 2017–18 the Commonwealth and state/territory Youth Protocol ceased. However, the principles of the protocol still apply and inform Youth Protective Assessment arrangements.

Services for prisoners

The department provides a range of services to prisons and youth justice centres to help reintegrate prisoners into the community, including service measures that:

  • prevent social welfare payment debts
  • ensure that child support assessments for adults in prison are accurate
  • complete ESAts and JCAs
  • provide Medicare services
  • provide income support on release
  • assist Indigenous people with study expenses.

The services are delivered under program protocol agreements with state and territory correctional authorities.

The department has a strong and cooperative relationship with state and territory corrective services. During the year, the department’s Prison Liaison Officers participated in prison open days to provide information about payments and services to support reintegration.

Social work services

The department offers social work services through its service centres and smart centres for those who have highly complex needs and require more support.

Social workers provide a high‑quality professional service. They can help people to navigate a life crisis and to stabilise and reconnect with the support they need. Social workers also work with staff and the community to support individuals and families with multiple and complex issues.

In 2017–18 the department focused attention on three priority areas:

  • people at risk of suicide and self‑harm
  • young people without adequate support
  • people affected by family and domestic violence.

At 30 June 2018 the department had 737 social workers located in service centres, smart centres, rural and remote servicing teams and compliance teams. Social workers responded to 249,738 referrals for support in 2017–18.

Priority areas

Suicide and self-harm

Social workers provide support and intervention to people at risk of suicide or self-harm. This includes ensuring that the person is safe, making referrals for further assistance, and supporting service officers engaging with people who are at risk. Social workers also provide training to other departmental staff to ensure they are supported to identify and refer people who are at risk of suicide or self‑harm.

In 2017–18 social workers responded to 6,750 referrals for people at risk of suicide.

Young people without adequate support

Social workers provide targeted intervention and support for vulnerable and unsupported young people aged under 25 years. Specifically, social workers help unsupported young people to obtain employment, re‑engage in schooling or tertiary studies, rebuild family relationships and engage with community mental health supports and accommodation services. They also ensure that young people are connected with services in their community that will help them to meet their basic needs, such as accommodation.

In 2017–18 social workers worked with 3,576 young people.

Support for people affected by family and domestic violence

Social workers conduct private and confidential interviews and provide counselling and support for people affected by family and domestic violence. They help people to consider their options, link people with support services and determine their eligibility for specific payments and services when family and domestic violence concerns are identified.

During the year, social workers continued to support departmental staff assisting individuals affected by family and domestic violence. They helped to ensure that staff effectively identified at‑risk individuals and referred them on to the help they needed.

In 2017–18 social workers received 63,293 referrals for people experiencing family and domestic violence.

Specialist social work programs

In addition to their work in general social work programs, social workers undertake interventions, conduct professional assessments and make recommendations to departmental staff regarding customer eligibility for payments or consideration of special circumstances. Social workers undertake specific work such as:

  • social work carer assessments
  • social work assessments within the job seeker compliance model
  • social work services during emergency recovery.

Social work carer assessments

Carer Specialist Assessments are conducted to determine whether a carer can give a care recipient the required level of care. The assessments are carried out by social workers who specialise in the assessment of carers.

Where a service officer is assessing a claim for Carer Payment (child), the officer may identify a need to refer a claim to a social worker. The social worker then investigates any additional evidence relating to the assessment and provides support, information and referrals as required.

When a carer is under 18 years of age or over 80 years of age, a social worker assesses whether the carer can provide the care receiver with the constant care they require. Social workers also assess the carer’s capacity to provide the practical and emotional support to meet the care receiver’s needs. The social worker’s assessment assists the decision‑maker in determining qualification for Carer Payment or Carer Allowance.

Social work assessments within the job seeker compliance model

Social workers undertake Comprehensive Compliance Assessments for the most vulnerable customers within the job seeker compliance model. The assessment and information from social workers guides decision‑making about serious failures and assists in exploring opportunities for vulnerable job seekers to fully meet their mutual obligation requirements.

Social work services during emergency recovery

The department provides social work services to those affected by natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones. Social workers provide support via telephone and in recovery centres, service centres and communities.

In 2017–18 social workers provided personal support to individuals and families affected by disasters. This included assisting with their emotional, material, income support and community service needs.

In 2017–18 social workers assisted vulnerable people who claimed the AVTOP, ensuring that distressed victims had the offer of a social work contact.

Rural services

Farm Household Allowance

Farm Household Allowance is a payment for farming families in financial hardship. Help is available to eligible farmers and their partners to improve their capacity for financial self‑reliance. It is a time‑limited payment. From 1 August 2018, the time limit will be extended to four cumulative years (measured as 1,460 days) instead of the current three cumulative years of payment (measured as 1,095 days).

From the commencement of the program in 2014 to 30 June 2018, the department has finalised 10,307 claims.

Indigenous people

Indigenous people can often face particular challenges in accessing services if they live in especially remote areas.

The department’s framework for service delivery to Indigenous customers consists of:

  • the Indigenous Servicing Strategy, which guides the department’s approach to service delivery
  • Indigenous Service Officers, who are specialists in service delivery for Indigenous people
  • service specialists in remote areas
  • Indigenous interpreter services.

In planning services for Indigenous customers, the department is advised by the National Indigenous Coalition (NIC), which is the department’s peak strategic and advisory forum on the effective delivery of payments and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The department manages the Australian Government Indigenous Locations (AGIL) dataset, which is the government’s authoritative source of data on Indigenous locations.

Indigenous Servicing Strategy

The Indigenous Servicing Strategy 2018–22 (ISS) outlines the department’s commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by continuing its focus on effective service delivery. The ISS provides clear direction to all departmental staff who design and deliver services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The ISS follows on from the department’s original Indigenous Servicing Strategy 2016–17, which was replaced by the ISS in 2017–18.

The ISS draws on whole‑of‑government priorities and has three key themes:

  • healthy and safe families and communities
  • digital capability
  • education and employment outcomes.

Each theme has areas of focus, with corresponding measures and targets.

The ISS aligns with and supports the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2018–22 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees Strategy 2018–22.

Indigenous servicing specialists

Indigenous Service Officers (ISOs) support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities to connect with the department’s payments, services and programs.

ISOs help the department address operational and strategic service delivery issues, deliver key messages about the department’s services, and identify customer and community service gaps and trends through established stakeholder and community relationships.

As at 30 June 2018 there were 69 ISOs, compared with 70 as at 30 June 2017.

Remote servicing

Remote Servicing Model and services provision

The department’s Remote Servicing Model responds to the unique challenges that people living in remote regions face.

As part of the model, services are provided through:

  • service centres
  • remote service centres
  • Agents
  • Access Points
  • online options
  • remote servicing teams
  • place‑based services supported by an integrated remote smart centre to provide phone and claims‑processing services.

The department engages directly with people living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver services that are culturally appropriate, effective and empowering.

The department has partnerships with other Australian Government departments and agencies, and state, territory and local governments to deliver services in remote areas.

Remote servicing teams

A small number of departmental staff work in remote servicing teams. The teams visit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities regularly to provide departmental services. Remote servicing staff can proactively engage customers through community engagement activities.

The department recruits local Indigenous staff to work in remote servicing teams wherever possible. Staff from remote communities are more likely to speak Indigenous languages and understand local customs, traditions and relationships. Indigenous staff can also act as role models for young Indigenous people by exemplifying workforce participation in remote communities.

State‑of‑the‑art remote service centres

As part of the department’s commitment to provide better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, it is progressively replacing service centres in remote communities with new, environmentally friendly buildings. In the past year the department opened two newly built centres in very remote Northern Territory locations.

In November 2017 the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, officially opened the new Wadeye Remote Service Centre building; and in December 2017 the department opened the state‑of‑the‑art Groote Eylandt Remote Service Centre. The Halls Creek Remote Service Centre in Western Australia has been operating in new premises since June 2017.

All of these new buildings are designed to provide more opportunities for customers to access and learn how to use digital and other self service channels, while maintaining culturally appropriate face‑to‑face services for those who need them. They have more phones and self service terminals, upgraded equipment and more comfortable spaces for private interviews. Their designs also prioritise sustainability, with features such as energy‑efficient fittings, high‑grade insulation and photovoltaic solar panels.

The department prioritises employment of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Indigenous communities, reflecting the government’s focus on supporting more Indigenous Australians into work. These remote service centres are staffed almost entirely by people from the region, providing not only valuable employment opportunities but also meaningful connections back to the community.

Indigenous interpreting services

There are over 120 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. These languages have a vital cultural role in linking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to their history, spirituality and rites through story and song.

When Indigenous Australians interact with the department, the department offers an Indigenous language interpreter as required. These services are mainly supplied by the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) in the Northern Territory and Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia (AIWA) (formerly called Kimberley Interpreting Service) in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The department is the largest government user of both services. In 2017–18 it used 10,536 hours of interpreting services.

There are a number of ways the department helps customers in their preferred language:

  • Telephone interpreting provides immediate access to an interpreter over the phone in northern and central Australian languages.
  • Face‑to‑face interpreters are located in high‑demand service centres and frequently help departmental staff working in remote and extremely remote Indigenous communities.
  • The department also provides a Community Language Allowance to 28 bilingual staff from northern Australia and northern Queensland who can speak with Indigenous Australians in their own language.

An Indigenous Language Officer also works in the Wadeye community in the Northern Territory. Wadeye, on the western edge of the Daly River Reserve, is Australia’s biggest Indigenous town. It is 400 kilometres from Darwin and for six months of the year it is only accessible by air and sea. Wadeye’s location means access to formal interpreting services is limited, so an Indigenous Language Officer provides a valuable resource to the town in connecting local people to the department’s services.

National Indigenous Coalition

The NIC is the department’s peak strategic and advisory forum on the effective delivery of payments and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The NIC provides opportunities for the department’s Indigenous servicing network to engage with business areas on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and staff.

During the year, the department held two NIC face‑to‑face conferences—in November 2017 and May 2018—and hosted eight teleconferences.

Providing spatial services for government and community

The department manages the AGIL dataset, which is the government’s authoritative source of data on Indigenous locations. AGIL contains locational data for over 3,800 communities in approximately 1,600 Indigenous locations. Government departments and agencies, 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 at no cost to the general public at data.gov.au

In 2017–18 the AGIL dataset was viewed 519 times and downloaded 1,066 times.

Money management

The department provides services to help customers in challenging circumstances to manage their money.

It offers:

  • the Financial Information Service (FIS), which gives people information on financial matters
  • Centrepay, which is a voluntary bill‑paying service for Centrelink customers
  • the Rent Deduction Scheme, under which customers can opt to have public housing payments deducted from their income support payment
  • the Tax Deduction Service, which allows customers with taxable Centrelink income support payments to have their tax withheld from their payments
  • Income Management, which helps certain customers to manage their money and prioritise their spending so they can meet essential household expenses.

Financial Information Service

FIS is a free, independent and confidential service that helps people in various circumstances to make better informed decisions about their finances.

FIS can explain the risk of certain financial product categories, the roles of financial professionals, the benefit of reducing debt and how people can increase overall retirement income.

With this information, people are better able to:

  • undertake their financial matters like investment, salary sacrifice and superannuation with increased confidence
  • understand their own financial affairs and options
  • understand financial planners and how to use their advice
  • use credit sensibly
  • save and plan for the future through investing
  • plan for their retirement
  • understand what happens when a family member moves into aged care.

FIS is available by phone, by appointment and through seminars.

In 2017–18 FIS officers:

  • answered more than 83,400 phone calls
  • conducted more than 65,300 interviews
  • delivered 7,883 hours of outreach services
  • held 2457 seminars for more than 49,600 participants.

Providing financial information services in a rural community

Darienne Keizer has been the department’s Dubbo‑based Financial Information Service (FIS) Officer for 12 years. She provides free financial information through seminars, at face‑to‑face interviews and over the phone to farmers and the general community.

Darienne is passionate about what she does: ‘It’s a brilliant job; I love it so much. Being able to help my local community is a really fulfilling part of my role.’

In fact her work is much more than just a job; it’s part of her identity in the community. ‘I’ve lived in Dubbo since 1983, so people know me in the area and they feel comfortable asking questions. They’ll even ask me a quick question if I see them in the street.’

One of her career highlights was working with New South Wales farmers, lawyers, financial planners and accountants to run a series of seminars—some held in a paddock or a shearing shed—to help people in smaller farming communities understand and get help with financial matters.

Among the many financial challenges she helps farmers negotiate is transferring the farm to the next generation. ‘Succession planning is huge. When it’s time for the farm to be passed on, six or seven people involved in the farm might all come for a meeting with me, as well as their accountant, to find out information to help them make the right decisions.’

Darienne has also faced some unusual professional challenges—like competing in the town’s annual chook‑catching event while running an information stall at a family fun day. ‘Chook catching definitely isn’t my forte,’ she recalls. Luckily for her customers, ‘I prefer financial information any day!’

Centrepay

Centrepay is a voluntary bill‑paying service for Centrelink customers. It helps customers to manage their expenses by providing customers with the option of making regular deductions 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 2018:

  • 645,349 customers were using Centrepay
  • 12,497 businesses received a Centrepay deduction.

In 2017–18, 26.2 million deductions were made to the value of $2.58 billion.

During the year, the department made some important improvements to Centrepay. The department:

  • continued to expand the range of online options for businesses using Centrepay so businesses have more efficient ways to transact with the department
  • increased the number of assurance checks completed on businesses
  • increased its capability to identify potential instances of non‑compliance.

Rent Deduction Scheme

The Rent Deduction Scheme gives customers the option of having their public housing payments deducted from their income support payment and sent directly to their state or territory housing authority. The scheme is an easy, free way for customers to pay for their government housing.

At 30 June 2018, 336,381 customers were using the scheme. In 2017–18, 9.36 million rent deductions were made.

Tax deduction service

The tax deduction service allows customers who receive taxable Centrelink income support payments to choose to have tax withheld from their payments. The service is an easy and free way for customers to meet their tax obligations.

During the year the department continued to improve this service by:

  • enhancing the Tax Deduction Authority form to increase its functionality and update its content
  • improving the readability of the Centrelink online account tax deduction function.

Income Management

Income Management helps specific groups of people who receive income support to manage their money to meet essential household expenses. The Income Management system operates in specified locations.

Under Income Management, a percentage of a person’s income support, and 100% of lump‑sum payments, is allocated to pay for priority items such as food, housing, clothing, utilities, education and medical care. The remaining percentage of the person’s payment is paid to them in the usual way to be used at their discretion.

Income Management does not change the amount of money a person receives as payment, but it affects the way a person receives the payment.

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

In 2017–18 Income Management continued to be a stable welfare quarantining program, supporting vulnerable people to meet essential expenses. Customer numbers were constant across identified locations.

Accessing managed income

The department works with people on Income Management to identify how their income support can be used to pay organisations for items they and their families need.

Organisations can be paid in a variety of ways:

  • using the BasicsCard—a reusable, PIN‑protected card that can be used via EFTPOS at approved stores and businesses
  • making a direct deposit into a nominated bank account via scheduled transfer or BPAY
  • having a contractual arrangement through which the department will make a payment to a nominated bank account and send the organisation a deduction report to reconcile payment
  • using a credit card over the phone for urgent and immediate requests for expenses like food and travel.

There are also self service options available to help customers to access their Income Management money and be more self‑sufficient. These include the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app and online services. People can use these services to complete transactions such as transferring funds between their Income Management and BasicsCard account and checking their BasicsCard balance.

At 30 June 2018, 15,841 stores and businesses accepted the BasicsCard.

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

In 2017–18:

  • 96% of income‑managed customers used the BasicsCard
  • $202.3 million was spent using the BasicsCard.

Data on income management

Table 43: Numbers of Income Management customers

Measure

2015–16See footnote(a)

2016–17See footnote(a)

2017–18

Cape York Income Management

160

166

136

Child Protection Income Management

339

205

185

Disengaged Youth

4,096

4,280

4,096

Long Term Welfare Payment Recipient

12,856

14,487

14,944

Supporting People at Risk

223

275

<5

Voluntary Income Management

5,146

4,400

3,857

Vulnerable Welfare Payment Recipient

2,100

1,689

1,581

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

Cashless Debit Card

The Cashless Debit Card aims to provide customers with greater financial stability while reducing the social harm resulting from alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Currently the Cashless Debit Card operates in three locations in Australia.

Where a customer is using a Cashless Debit Card, 80% of their income support payment is paid to their card. The card operates like a normal debit card, except that it cannot be used to buy alcohol, gamble or withdraw cash.

The Cashless Debit Card started as a 12‑month trial in Ceduna, South Australia, on 15 March 2016 and in the East Kimberley region, Western Australia, on 26 April 2016.

As a result of the positive outcomes of these trials, the Cashless Debit Card trial was extended until 30 June 2019 in these two locations.

In September 2017, the Australian Government announced that the Goldfields region in Western Australia was to be the third Cashless Debit Card location. On 26 March 2018, the Cashless Debit Card was implemented across the Goldfields region to customers receiving working‑age income support payments.

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

As at 30 June 2018, 5,207 customers were using the Cashless Debit Card.

Ancillary services and support

Tasmanian transport schemes

The department administers two Tasmanian transport equalisation schemes:

  • the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, which helps to alleviate the sea freight cost disadvantage for shippers of eligible non‑bulk goods that are moved by sea between mainland Australia and Tasmania, given that there is no option to transport the goods by road or rail
  • the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, which helps to alleviate the cost of sea travel across Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia. The rebate is paid to passengers who are accompanying an eligible vehicle in the form of a reduction in the fare charged by the transport service operator.

In 2017–18, the department received 13,492 claims for assistance and processed $195.3 million in payments through the two schemes. This compares with 13,556 claims and $191.3 million in 2016–17.

Portability of payments

‘Portability’ refers to the continuation of Australian social security payments while a customer is outside Australia. The department assists customers to understand how their entitlements may be affected if they leave Australia. The department also assesses customers’ eligibility for payments while they are outside Australia.

A datalink between the department and the Department of Home Affairs identifies social security customers who depart from or return to Australia. The information that the datalink generates is used to automatically review payments for people who have departed from Australia.

In 2017–18, customers receiving income support payments, family assistance, allowances and concessions travelled outside Australia 1.95 million times, compared with 1.94 million overseas trips in 2016–17.

Concession cards

The department delivers six types of concession and health care cards:

  • 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.

Concession or health care cards give cardholders access to Australian Government health concessions. They also help with the cost of living by reducing the cost of certain goods and services.

Most people who receive an income support payment will automatically receive a concession or health care card. People who receive the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A will automatically receive a Health Care Card that covers their family. Partners and children may also be covered by a person’s card if the card is attached to an income support payment. For people who have a Low Income Health Care Card, their partner and their children may also be covered by the card.

Only the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card cardholder has access to the concessions available for the card—the cardholder’s family members cannot access them.

In addition to Medicare services, concession or health care cards can give cardholders, their partners and their children other concessions from state, territory and local government authorities and private businesses. Each card has its own eligibility requirements and concessions.

In 2017–18 Pensioner Concession Cards (PCCs) were reinstated to about 88,700 former pensioners who lost the PCC on 1 January 2017 due to the Rebalancing the Assets Test measure. From 9 October 2017, affected non‑pensioners automatically received their new PCC, which replaced their non‑income‑tested Low Income Health Care Card.

Rent Assistance

Rent Assistance is a payment to help people who are also receiving an income support payment or Family Tax Benefit (if they have dependent children).

Rent Assistance helps customers 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 villages, and fees paid to occupy a non-Australian Government funded bed in an aged care facility such as a hostel or nursing home.

Advance payments

In special circumstances, recipients of some payments can apply for an advance payment.

An advance payment is a lump‑sum payment made from a customer’s future entitlement. The advance payment amount can vary depending on the type of payment the customer receives. Non‑pension recipients—including Parenting Payment Single recipients—can receive a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $500 once in a 12‑month period. Pension recipients can receive multiple advance payments depending on the amount available at each application. Family Tax Benefit recipients can receive a regular advance that is paid every 26 weeks as long as the customer is still eligible.

From August 2017, customers are now able to repay their outstanding advance payment balances using an online repayment service or by making a payment at an Australia Post outlet using a special barcode Billpay receipt. Therefore, customers no longer need to attend a service centre with the exact amount to make these repayments.

In 2017–18 the department paid 2.6 million advance payments worth $1.8 billion, compared with 2.5 million advance payments worth $1.8 billion in 2016–17.

Urgent payments

If a customer faces severe financial hardship because of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances or because they need to pay for the funeral of an immediate family member, they can apply for an urgent payment.

An urgent payment is an early part‑payment of a customer’s regular fortnightly income support payment.

From 1 June 2017, customers can generally receive only two urgent payments for exceptional and unforeseen circumstances in a 12‑month period. This change to the urgent payment process helps to identify people who are experiencing ongoing financial difficulties so that early intervention and non‑financial help can be offered. Social workers will also provide additional support and make referrals to financial counselling, community organisations or accommodation help where necessary.

Bereavement payments

Bereavement payments help customers adjust to changed financial circumstances following the death of their partner, child or care receiver. The type of bereavement payment a customer receives and the amount they can receive will 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 the Family Tax Benefit Bereavement Payment, can be paid fortnightly.

Bereavement Allowance is a short‑term income support payment that supports eligible, recently widowed people.

Centrelink Payment Summary

A Centrelink Payment Summary is a document that sets out the amounts that the department has paid to a customer within the financial year. It is provided to people who receive taxable and certain non‑taxable payments.

The Centrelink Payment Summary information is automatically provided to the ATO. When completing an income tax return using myTax or a registered tax agent, a customer’s Centrelink Payment Summary information is automatically available.

People can view, download or request a copy of their Centrelink Payment Summary using:

  • the Centrelink online account through myGov
  • the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app
  • self service terminals at a service centre
  • Centrelink phone self service by selecting ‘request a document’.

Customers continue to choose to use the department’s digital services to access their payment summaries. In 2011–12 the department issued over 5 million payment summaries via surface mail. In 2017–18 the number of payment summaries issued via surface mail had declined to 220,000, and approximately 2.5 million payment summaries were accessed via the department’s digital services.

Multicultural Services

The department’s Multicultural Servicing Strategy 2016–19 guides its activities and ensure that services are suitable for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The department runs weekly Australian citizenship tests for those who are applying to become Australian citizens.

The department also offers customers:

  • translation and interpreter services
  • services in languages other than English
  • Multicultural Service Officer (MSO) assistance.

The department provides a range of support for immigration applicants, refugees and humanitarian entrants.

Multicultural Servicing Strategy 2016–19

The Minister for Human Services launched the three‑year Multicultural Servicing Strategy 2016–19 on 31 August 2016. The department developed the strategy to meet its commitments under the Australian Government’s Multicultural Access and Equity Policy.

The strategy continues the department’s long history of delivering culturally and linguistically tailored services. It outlines a number of actions, including:

  • ensuring that people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are taken into account in the design of future digital business models, especially when they need help with language
  • providing staff with multicultural awareness training to build cultural capability
  • allocating an MSO position to relevant business areas to increase accessibility of services for customers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • delivering actions in the department’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (Multicultural) Employee Plan 2016–19 to provide a socially inclusive workplace that delivers services that are responsive to the needs of customers.

In 2017–18 the department tracked well in delivering on the actions committed to in the Multicultural Servicing Strategy. Highlights in the last 12 months include:

  • The department conducted consultation and user testing of digital projects with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to ensure accessibility. Results showed there was a high level of engagement among participants.
  • 6,989 staff undertook multicultural awareness training to build cultural capability.
  • MSOs were actively engaged in the community and conducted over 30,000 activities aimed at ensuring access to services for customers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, reaching over 250,000 participants.
  • The department developed the Multicultural Communications Strategy 2018–20.

Citizenship testing

Weekly citizenship tests are available at 33 service centres in regional areas. The department delivers the tests on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs.

In 2017–18 approximately 87,693 citizenship tests were taken across Australia, with 8,048 tests taken in regional service centres.

Language services

The department provides free translation and interpreting services in over 200 languages to help people to conduct their business.

More than 2,476 contracted interpreters and translators deliver these services. The department also supplies regular, rostered onsite interpreters who work out of 61 service centres where demand for assistance in certain languages is high.

Bilingual staff may receive a Community Language Allowance if they use their language skills as part of their work.

In 2017–18, 658 staff received the Community Language Allowance.

Multicultural Service Officers

MSOs are community‑facing officers with expertise in multicultural servicing. They help to ensure that customers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can access payments and services with the department.

In 2017–18, a network of approximately 70 MSOs operated 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 with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Examples of MSO activities are:

  • 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
  • ensuring that local service centres can meet the language needs of people with a preferred language other than English
  • promoting multicultural resources to staff.

In 2017–18 the MSO program focused on six key priority areas:

  • Financial capability and debt prevention—helping the community to understand their rights and responsibilities to prevent them from incurring debt and build their financial capability
  • Refugee servicing—helping new arrivals, particularly refugees, to access appropriate departmental services early in their settlement in Australia
  • Family and domestic violence—ensuring culturally appropriate approaches to this community issue and promoting access to services in the department and the community
  • Cultural capability—ensuring the department delivers culturally appropriate services through culturally competent staff
  • Language services—supporting staff capability in engaging with language services and promoting language services to the community
  • Digital—working with the community to ensure access to digital services for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Support for refugees and humanitarian entrants

The department offers a range of services to help refugees entering the community—for example, income support assessments, Medicare enrolments, information sessions and referrals. The department works closely with the Department of Home Affairs, DSS, Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) providers contracted to DSS, and community groups to ensure that refugees have 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 provide tailored services for these entrants.

In 2017–18 the department’s income support claims for newly arrived refugees increased in line with Australia’s refugee humanitarian intake increase to 16,250 places compared with 13,750 in 2016–17. The department continued to monitor its services to ensure they met the evolving needs of refugees and to improve customer outcomes. This included providing support for the regional settlement of refugees in Armidale and working collaboratively with DSS to tailor the department’s service offer to align with settlement services delivered by HSP providers.

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 one, two or ten 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 support a migrant.

From April 2018, there is also now a third type of Assurance of Support which covers visa applicants under the Community Support Program. Potential assurers are now able to apply online and can check their eligibility before applying by using the Assurance of Support Checker on the department’s website.

Status Resolution Support Services Payment

The Status Resolution Support Services Payment provides financial help to people who are living in the community while their immigration status is being resolved.

The Department of Home Affairs determines eligibility for the payment, while the department administers the Status Resolution Support Services payment.

At 30 June 2018, approximately 6,970 customers had received the payment.

Innovative multicultural services

The department is working to ensure that customers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are included in the design and development of new services and digital transformation by:

  • facilitating user research to enable culturally and linguistically diverse user‑centric design
  • convening the Commonwealth Working Group on CALD Digital Design. This group was brought together to ensure a consistent approach across government to designing digital services for users with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Emergency responses

Payments and services

The department’s core responsibility in response to emergencies is to ensure continuity of payments and services to customers who are in emergency situations. Payments and social work services are delivered so that customers are supported during emergencies.

The department also administers the following payments:

  • Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP)
  • Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA)
  • ex‑gratia payments to New Zealand residents
  • Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP).

Services that the department delivers during an emergency can include:

  • assisting individuals to test their eligibility for an income support payment or service
  • assessing and paying Medicare benefits
  • supporting Medicare providers
  • tailoring collection and assessment services to affected child support customers
  • providing social work services.

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 relevant state or territory government.

In response to an emergency, the department can deploy:

  • staff to recovery centres
  • staff to take emergency calls and process claims for emergency payments
  • social workers to local and overseas locations to help Australians in emergency affected areas or to help Australians when they return from offshore disasters
  • 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. They help the department to respond quickly following emergencies, as they are a resource that can be called on at short notice.

There are 5,178 staff (15.7% of the department’s staff) registered for the Emergency Reserve. These staff have a range of skills which are used in various roles, including:

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

In 2017–18 no Emergency Reserve staff were deployed.

Current events

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

In 2017–18 the department’s response to emergencies included payment of AGDRP claims. This payment was provided to people adversely affected by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the Logan, Gold Coast, Mackay, Rockhampton, Scenic Rim, Whitsunday, Lismore, Tweed, Byron and Rockhampton local government areas.

Table 44: Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments in 2017–18
 

Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Claims finalised

1,217

Claims paid to affected people

930

Amount paid

$1,115,800

Disaster Recovery Allowance

The DRA was activated to help individuals, including employees, primary producers and sole traders, in specified areas who experienced a loss of income as a direct result of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Table 45: Disaster Recovery Allowance payments in 2017–18
 

Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Claims finalised

244

Claims paid to affected people

9

NSW East Coast Storms and Floods 2016

Claims finalised

1

Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Amount paid

$422,678.78

Ex‑gratia disaster recovery assistance for New Zealand non‑protected special category visa holders

In 2017–18, the department activated the Ex‑gratia Disaster Recovery Payment for New Zealand Non‑protected Special Category Visa Holders for individuals affected by Tropical Cyclone Debbie. These payments are equivalent to the AGDRP.

At 30 June 2018 the department had:

  • received more than 16 claims
  • paid more than 12 claims
  • paid $12,400 in total.

The department activated the Ex‑gratia Disaster Recovery Allowance for New Zealand Non‑Protected Special Category Visa Holders to help those who suffered a loss of income as a direct result of Tropical Cyclone Debbie. This payment is equivalent to the DRA.

At 30 June 2018 the department had:

  • received more than 21 claims
  • paid more than eight claims
  • paid $21,237.18 in total.

Emergency claim lodgement channel

People affected by disasters have various options to claim disaster recovery payments, including over the phone, online, by completing a paper claim form, and in person.

Table 46: Disaster recovery claims granted, by claiming channel

Claiming channel

2015–16
%

2016–17
%

2017–18
%

Phone

59

91

74

Online

18

0

0

Paper and in person

23

9

26

Note: These figures do not include AVTOP or rapid response payment claims.

Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment

AVTOP provides one‑off help 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.

In 2017–18 the department activated AVTOP for the following events:

  • April 2017 attack in Stockholm, Sweden
  • May 2017 attack in Manchester, United Kingdom
  • May 2017 attack in Baghdad, Iraq
  • June 2017 attack in London, United Kingdom
  • August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain
  • September 2017 attack in Parsons Green, London, United Kingdom.

The Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas hotline answered 52 calls.

In 2017–18, 36 claims were paid, totalling $1,962,390. The AVTOP payments were made for the following events:

  • August 2017: Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, attacks
  • 2017: Past overseas incidents
  • 2017: attacks in Stockholm, Sweden; Manchester, United Kingdom; Baghdad, Iraq; and London, United Kingdom (3 June 2017)
  • March 2017: London, United Kingdom, attack
  • December 2016: Berlin, Germany, attack
  • July 2016: Nice, France, attack
  • November 2015: Paris, France, attack.

Payments for events that are closed

The claim period for the AGDRP and the DRA is the period up to six months from the date the payment is activated. In 2017–18 the department paid claims that were lodged outside of the six‑month claim period for:

  • Tropical Cyclone Marcia (Queensland)—February 2015.

In 2017–18 the department paid a total of $967.83 for this event.

Australian Government Emergency Information Line

The Australian Government Emergency Information Line was activated in response to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the 2016–17 financial year. It continued until closure in 2017–18.

Table 47: Calls to the Australian Government Emergency Information Line

Australian Government Emergency Information Line

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

Calls answered

8,128See footnote(a)

59,570See footnote(b)

1,920See footnote(b)

  1. Pinery bushfires, South Australia; Waroona bushfires, Western Australia; storms and floods, New South Wales east coast; storms and floods, Tasmania east coast.
  2. Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Working in emergency recovery

No emergency payments were declared in 2017–18.

The department supported people affected by the flooding in Daly River/Woodycupaldiya in January and February 2018. The department assisted at the Daly River/Woodycupaldiya evacuations centre at the Darwin Showground for a period of six days from 2 February 2018.

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 April 2018 the NECCSC was activated for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in response to media coverage regarding Australia’s export of live animals.

Table 48: National Emergency Call Centre Surge Capability calls taken in 2017–18

NECCSC activation

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Calls answered

1,961

National Security Hotline

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

In 2017–18 the department was not called upon to assist the National Security Hotline.

Disaster Health Care Assistance Scheme

The Disaster Health Care Assistance Scheme (DHCAS) provides help with reasonable health‑related out‑of‑pocket costs for individuals who have suffered an injury as a direct result of specific international acts of terrorism and natural disaster events.

Under DHCAS, the department administers the following schemes:

  • Balimed: Bombing in Bali, Indonesia, on 12 October 2002
  • Tsunami: Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004
  • London: Bombing in London, United Kingdom, on 7 July 2005
  • Bali 2005: Bombing in Bali, Indonesia, on 1 October 2005
  • Dahab Egypt: Bombing in Dahab, Egypt, on 24 April 2006.

In 2017–18 the department updated the website to provide clearer information for eligible claimants about DHCAS and the requirements for claims.

Page last updated: 10 April 2019