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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
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Contents >> Income and welfare >> Income and community support programs

This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services.


The Australian income support system administered by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), provides financial assistance to a variety of groups, including families, job seekers, the aged, people with a disability, carers, mature age people, students and Indigenous Australians. Over 4 million individuals are direct beneficiaries of the FaCS portfolio’s income support payments at any one time. In June 2003, 1.8 million families with more than 3.5 million children were receiving fortnightly family payments through the Family Tax Benefit. Recent and ongoing reforms to the income support system in Australia aim to improve social and economic participation while retaining a strong and effective safety net for people unable to support themselves.

The main income support payments provided by the Australian (Commonwealth) Government for the financial years 1999-2000 to 2002-03 are listed in table 7.12. Details of the payments in effect in the 2002-03 financial years, together with associated statistics, are presented in this chapter.

7.12 INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS(a)(b)

1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000

Family assistance
Family Allowance(c)
6,573,857
-39,532
-37,291
-1,306
Family Tax Payment(c)
531,927
-2,286
-3,348
-2,620
Family Tax Benefit(c)
-
10,076,463
10,927,703
10,473,856
Maternity Allowance(d)
195,809
217,899
216,887
216,634
Double Orphan Pension
1,779
1,977
1,976
2,052
Youth and student support
Youth Allowance
2,002,830
2,101,915
2,213,719
2,235,020
Austudy
253,870
249,258
280,794
270,623
Student Financial Supplement
290,681
161,510
500,967
114,359
Fares Allowance
569
644
525
1,304
Child care support
Child Care Benefit(e)
-
1,037,137
1,315,912
1,364,358
Child Care Cash Rebate(e)
164 447
-14,597
63
20
Child Care for eligible parents undergoing training(f)
11,050
7,301
11,067
12,985
Labour market assistance
Newstart Allowance
4,954,450
4,918,349
5,078,220
4,831,069
Parenting Payment
5,494,230
5,325,681
5,571,718
5,731,117
Mature Age Allowance
367,250
352,596
364,210
381,155
Partner Allowance
646,460
728,679
817,599
860,768
Widow Allowance
270,825
324,919
389,550
429,662
Bereavement Allowance
782
719
813
986
Pensioner Education Supplement
49,571
58,248
65,784
68,574
Special Benefits
98,704
114,778
119,811
116,286
Support for people with a disability
Disability Support Pension
5,238,449
5,849,799
6,404,351
6,851,608
Mobility Allowance
53,379
59,367
67,852
74,975
Wife Pension (DSP)
486,740
446,564
401,969
351,491
Sickness Allowance
90,575
95,554
93,724
85,528
Support for carers
Carer Payment
369,723
480,944
595,810
702,649
Carer Allowance(g)
412,334
533,247
645,722
744,488
Support for the aged
Age Pension
14,037,940
15,616,477
16,665,653
17,740,214
Aged Persons Savings Bonus
-
1,581,231
23,723
-144
One-off Payment to Seniors(h)
-
536,581
(f)10,454
-2
Self Funded Retirees' Supplementary Bonus
-
582 828
28,519
569
Telephone allowance for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Holders
-
-
8,668
11,668
Widow Class B Pension
89,849
84,296
59,787
39,804
Wife Pension (age)
240,751
233,080
216,160
195,071
Total Special Appropriations(i)
42,926,761
51,753,433
53,118,246
53,891,837

(a) Outlays on Pensions, Allowances and Family Tax Benefits include expenditure on rent assistance. Details of rent assistance are included in 'Chapter 8, Housing'.
(b) Negative values are recoveries from previous years.
(c) Family tax benefit replaced Family Allowance and Family Tax Payment on 1 July 2000.
(d) Maternity Allowance includes Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
(e) Child Care Benefit commenced on 1 July 2000 and incorporated the Child Care Cash Rebate.
(f) Not included in the Special Appropriations total as they are Other Administered Expenses.
(g) Carer allowance was introduced on 1 July 1999. It combined Child Disability Allowance with Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefit, which was the responsibility of the Department of Health and Ageing.
(h) Program included both an annual and a special appropriation. Program now ceased and recoveries relate to the annual appropriation.
(i) Components do not add to total as some minor allowances and appropriation adjustments are excluded.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Most allowance types are adjusted once or twice a year in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to maintain purchasing power. Pension payments are adjusted in line with the CPI and male total average weekly earnings, ensuring the single pension rate does not fall below 25% of male total average weekly earnings. Many income support payments are subject to income, assets and activity tests, to ensure benefits are targeted to those in greatest need. Details of the rates in effect at 30 June 2003 are listed in table 7.13.

Since September 1997, Centrelink has delivered most income support payments on behalf of FaCS. Centrelink is a statutory agency established to deliver a range of Australian Government services to the Australian community. It operates under the Services Delivery Agency Act 1997 (Cwlth). Centrelink provides advice about payment entitlements, provides referrals to Centrelink specialist staff for additional assistance, and may refer customers to other departments, agencies or community organisations where appropriate. The Department of Veterans Affairs delivers the Service Pension to eligible veterans and their families.

Numbers of income support customers referred to in this section generally relate to June of the reference year. These numbers are taken from extracts of administrative data as close to 30 June as possible. The dates of extracts, however, can vary between payment types. All financial data refers to the full financial year.

In July 2002, FaCS introduced a new method to more accurately measure the number of people receiving labour market and related allowance payments. Under the new method, eligibility and entitlement determine whether a customer is included in the count, not whether payment is actually made. This method is simpler and more consistent with the way Pension and Parenting customers are counted.

The change increased the count of Newstart Allowance customers by around 4%, Youth Allowance (other) by around 7% and other allowance payments, such as Partner Allowance and Widow Allowance, by around 1%. The allowance customer numbers in this chapter have been updated and are consistent with this new methodology.

7.13 MAXIMUM RATES FOR INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS AND BENEFITS - 30 June 2003

$

Age Pension(a)
Single
440.30
Couple(b)
367.50
Age Pension Savings Bonus
variable
Austudy(a)
Single or partnered, no children
310.10
Single, with children
406.40
Partnered, with children
340.60
Bereavement Allowance(c)
440.30
Carer Allowance(a)
87.70
Child Care Benefit
Approved care(d)
Non-school age child
2.74
School age child
2.33
Registered care(d)
Non-school age child
0.46
School age child
0.39
Disability Support Pension(a)
Single
440.30
Couple(b)
367.50
Double Orphan Pension(a)
44.00
Education Entry Payment(e)
208.00
Family Tax Benefit Part A(a)
For each dependent child
Aged under 13 years
130.48
Aged 13-15 years
165.48
Aged 16-17 years
42.00
Aged 18-24 years
56.42
Family Tax Benefit Part B(a)
Age of youngest child
Aged under 5 years
112.00
Aged 5-15 years
78.12
Aged 16-18 years and full-time students
78.12
Maternity Allowance One-off lump sum, per birth
822.72
Maternity Immunisation Allowance One-off lump sum
208.00
Mobility Allowance
66.20
Newstart Allowance(a)
Single
Aged 21 or over, no children
380.10
Aged 21 or over, with children
411.10
Aged 60 or over, after 9 months
416.90
Partnered(b)
342.80
Parenting Payment(a)
Sole parents
440.30
Partnered parents
342.80
Partner Allowance(a)
342.80
Pensioner Education Supplement(a)
At least 50% study load
62.40
At least 25% study load
31.20
Student Financial Supplement Scheme
Maximum loan, per year
7,000.00
Youth Allowance(a)
Single, no children
Aged under 18 years, at home
169.70
Aged 18 years and over, at home
204.20
Away from home
310.10
Single with children
406.40
Partnered with no children
310.10
Partnered with children
340.60

(a) Per fortnight.
(b) Each.
(c) Per fortnight for a maximum of seven fortnights.
(d) Per hour.
(e) One-off.
Note: For Carer Payment, Widow Class B Pension, Wife Pension (Age) and Wife Pension (DSP) see Age Pension. For Mature Age Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance see Newstart Allowance. Special Payment generally as for Newstart/Youth Allowance.
Source: Centrelink.

Income support programs

Family assistance

Family assistance policies are formulated to provide income support to families to assist with the costs of raising children, including newborns, in a way that recognises the needs and choices of both single and dual income families.

Family Tax Benefit Part A helps people with the cost of raising dependent children. It is paid to families with children up to 21 years and young people between 21 and 24 who are studying full-time (and not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment).

Family Tax Benefit Part B provides extra assistance for families with only one main income earner, particularly those with children under 5. It is paid to families for children up to the age of 16 and children aged between 16 and 18 years who are studying full-time.

As at end of June 2003, Centrelink paid fortnightly instalments for Family Tax Benefit Part A to 1.8 million families to provide support for 3.5 million children, and Family Tax Benefit Part B was paid to 1.2 million families to provide support for 2.3 million children.

Both payments are administered by the Family Assistance Office and are available as a direct payment from Centrelink, either fortnightly or as a lump sum, or via tax instalment deductions or an end of year lump sum payment through the tax system. Some Family Tax Benefit recipients can receive fortnightly payments for part of the tax year with the balance as a lump sum at the end of the tax year. Both payments are subject to income tests.

Maternity Allowance is a one-off lump sum paid at around the time of the birth of a baby, designed to help meet the costs associated with the birth. Claimants must be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A. There is also a Maternity Immunisation one-off payment. To be eligible for this, claimants must have been paid Maternity Allowance or be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A.

Double Orphan Pension is not means tested and is a payment for children who have at least one deceased parent and who cannot have contact with the other parent (e.g. because that parent is a long-term prisoner or their whereabouts is unknown).

Table 7.14 shows the number of recipients and expenditure for Family Assistance.

7.14 RECIPIENTS AND EXPENDITURE FOR FAMILY ASSISTANCE

Units
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Family Tax Benefit
Centrelink
Recipients(a)
Part A - fortnightly instalments(b)
no.
1,801,285
1,795,355
1,785,123
Part B - fortnightly instalments(b)
no.
1,181,069
1,199,233
1,223,572
Lump sum payments(c)
no.
n.a.
40,319
59,323
Claims lodged with ATO but paid by Centrelink
no.
n.a.
16,792
14,016
Total payments (Part A and Part B)(d)
$'000
10,076,463
10,927,703
10,473,856
Australian Taxation Office
Recipients(a)
Paid by tax instalment deduction or on assessment
no.
n.a.
80,326
83,762
Payments
Paid by tax instalment deduction or on assessment(e)
$'000
(f)11,000
171,380
193,796
Reconciliation credits(e)
$'000
n.a.
164 570
217,975
Maternity Allowance
Recipients
no.
210,120
212,237
207,029
Payments(d)(g)
$'000
217,899
216,887
216,634
Maternity Immunisation Allowance
Recipients
no.
203,939
206,803
203,900
Payments(d)(g)
$'000
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
Double Orphan Pension
Recipients
no.
1,242
1,207
1,137
Payments(d)
$'000
1,977
1,976
2,052

(a) Recipients who claimed assistance using more than one payment method for the year are included in each category.
(b) Number of recipients at 30 June.
(c) Includes recipients of Family Tax Benefits reconciliation credits. 2001-02 figures refer to total payments made in the 2001-02 tax year for the 2000-01 tax year. 2002-03 figures refer to total payments made in the 2002-03 tax year for the 2001-02 tax year. FTB lump sum payment commenced in 2001-02.
(d) Expenditure refers to total payments in the year ending 30 June.
(e) Data are presented on an accruals accounting basis. Most Australian Taxation Office payments of Family Tax Benefit are paid on assessment of taxation returns. Thus, most payments made in 2002-03 relate to the taxpayer's entitlements for the previous financial year.
(f) Estimated.
(g) Separate expenditure figures are not available for Maternity Allowance and Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services; Department of the Treasury.

Youth and student support

Youth and student support policy is aimed at promoting a family orientation in developing youth policy. It is formulated to help low- to middle-income families by providing income support for young people undertaking education or training or seeking work. The policy is also trying to develop new partnership arrangements within and across levels of government and with community organisations to support innovations in youth and family support arrangements around young people’s transitions to independence and adulthood.

Youth Allowance is the main income support payment for people aged 16-20 years actively seeking employment and for full-time students 16-24 years old. It is subject to an individual income and assets test and a parental income and assets test. A person may be exempt from the parental test if they meet the Youth Allowance independence criteria. In addition a person must undertake approved activities that may include full-time study or a combination of activities such as job search, work for the dole, literacy and numeracy courses, part-time education, part-time employment and voluntary work. People on Youth Allowance, who are not full-time students, may be required to undertake Mutual Obligation activities.

The rate of Youth Allowance is determined on whether the person is single, partnered, if they have children, if they live at home or need to live away from home.

Austudy payment is paid to students 25 years and over whose financial circumstances are such that without financial help, full-time study would not be possible. The rate of Austudy is dependent on whether the person is single or partnered, whether they have children and whether the person is a ‘long-term income support student’.

Eligible students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or Pensioner Education Supplement, who live away from home to study, can receive a Fares Allowance which contributes to travel costs.

Table 7.15 shows the number of Youth and Student Support recipients and expenditure by payment type.

7.15 RECIPIENTS(a) AND EXPENDITURE FOR YOUTH AND STUDENT SUPPORT

Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Youth Allowance
Full-time students
no.
315,346
314,635
313,068
304,946
Other
no.
85,661
90,913
90,339
87,486
Total
no.
401,007
405,548
403,407
392,432
Total payments
$'000
2,002,830
2,101,915
2,213,719
2,235,020
Austudy
Recipients
no.
43,228
42,490
41,187
38,779
Total payments
$'000
253,870
249,258
280,794
270,623
Student financial supplement payments(b)
$'000
290,681
161,510
500,967
114,359
Fare allowance payments
$'000
569
644
525
1,304

(a) Number of recipients at 30 June.
(b) The Government announced on 24 April 2003 that no loans would be issued under the Student Financial Supplement Scheme from 1 January 2004. The closure of the Scheme from 1 January 2004 does not affect repayment arrangements.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Child care support

Child care support policies have been developed to help families to participate in the economic and social life of the community through providing support for child care.

Child Care Benefit (CCB), which replaced Childcare Assistance and the Childcare Rebate from 1 July 2000, helps families with the cost of child care, with financial assistance proportionally higher for lower income families. Eligible families can have the benefit paid directly to the child care service to reduce their ongoing fees. Alternatively they can receive the benefit as a lump sum refund at the end of the financial year. Families using informal carers (i.e. care provided by a friend or neighbour), rather than formal care in an approved service are eligible for the minimum rate of CCB. This is paid for up to 50 hours per week of work related child care.

The Jobs, Education and Training (JET) program assists jobless parents to improve their employment prospects by participating in study, work or job search activities. All parents eligible for JET assistance (mainly single parents) are on very low incomes and are aiming to enter or re-enter the workforce. The JET Child Care program provides assistance with child care to parents undertaking approved activities. Assistance can be provided with paying child care fees so parents usually only have to make a small co-payment of $2 per day. Flexible child care services are also provided for targeted vulnerable groups, such as creches associated with educational activities for teenage parents and creches located in Indigenous communities.

Table 7.16 shows the number of recipients and expenditure for CCB.

7.16 RECIPIENTS(a) AND EXPENDITURE FOR CHILD CARE SUPPORT

1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03




no.
$'000
no.
$'000
no.
$'000
no.
$'000

Child Care Benefit(b)
Approved service
-
-
630,156
-
672,000
-
n.a.
-
Registered carers
-
-
47,236
-
53,900
-
n.a.
-
Total expenditure
-
-
-
1,037,137
-
1,315,912
-
1,364,358
Child Care for Eligible Parents Undergoing Training
8,592
11,050
13,276
7,301
(b)18,352
11,067
(c)12,941
12,985

(a) Number of families at 30 June.
(b) Does not include five months of data for NT and seven months of data for the ACT.
(c) Number of children in childcare assisted through JET. Due to improved recording methods, comparisons between previous years and 2003 are not appropriate.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Labour market assistance

Labour market assistance programs are designed to help people of working age through providing income support to those seeking work or undertaking other activities such as training or community work or caring for children. Most income support payments are subject to a means test, which assesses family income and assets.

There are two main income support payments for labour market assistance: Newstart Allowance (NSA) and Parenting Payment.

NSA is paid to people aged 21-64 years who are unemployed and actively searching for work. They must be willing to undertake suitable paid work, which includes full-time, part-time or casual employment. They may also qualify if undertaking a vocational training course, participating in a labour market program or undertaking other agreed activities to improve their employment prospects.

NSA jobseekers may be asked to undertake Mutual Obligation activities, in addition to their job search, after six months of unemployment and annually thereafter. Mutual Obligation requires people to take part in activities to improve their skills and work habits. It aims to enhance the person’s job prospects and competitiveness in the labour market, promotes involvement in community work and facilitates transition from welfare to employment. From 1 July 2002, Mutual Obligation requirements apply to all job seekers up to 49 years of age. People aged 50 and over on NSA have a Personal Adviser to ensure that their requirements are appropriate, and that they have access to appropriate services.

Other payments for labour market assistance include: Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Bereavement Allowance and Special Benefit. Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance and Widow Allowance all recognise the labour market difficulties faced by some older unemployed people who have no recent workforce experience. Bereavement Allowance is a short-term payment for recently widowed people without dependent children, payable for up to 14 weeks. Special Benefit provides assistance to people in severe financial need and for whom no other pension, allowance or other support is available.

Since 20 September 2003, the non-activity tested Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance have been closed to new entrants. People receiving Mature Age or Partner Allowance immediately before 20 September 2003 can stay on these payments while they remain eligible. The closure of Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance complements other measures in the Australian Government's Australians Working Together (AWT) initiative that are designed to improve the job prospects of older Australians of workforce age. Most people who would have qualified for these payments will be eligible for NSA. This gives them full access to support services and programs to help them increase their economic and social engagement, including the new flexible participation requirements and individually focused support for recipients aged 50 and over.

Parenting Payment is paid to single and partnered low-income parents who are primary carers for children under 16. The policy recognises the important contribution made by parents caring for children at home and aims to ensure parents’ future options are not being limited by long periods out of the workforce. From September 2003, parents whose youngest child is aged 13 and over will have a participation requirement of 150 hours in each six month period in activities like study, training or part-time work. These activities are intended to help prepare them for future workforce engagement. Assistance is being provided to these customers through the services of specially trained Centrelink Personal and JET Advisers.

Pensioner Education Supplement, Education Entry Payment and Employment Entry Payment provide supplementary financial assistance to help with the costs of taking up study and entering the work force. Work for the Dole (WfD) Supplement and Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) Participant Supplement provide supplementary financial assistance to help with the costs of participating in the WfD and CDEP programs.

Table 7.17 shows the number of labour market assistance recipients by expenditure and payment type.

7.17 LABOUR MARKET ASSISTANCE(a)

Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Newstart Allowance
Short-term (less than 12 months)
Males
no.
159,340
186,789
162,441
146,266
Females
no.
69,038
72,959
66,142
59,262
Persons
no.
228,378
259,748
228,583
205,528
Long-term (12 months and over)
Males
no.
251,420
232,878
229,067
216,097
Females
no.
100,980
92,065
97,171
100,052
Persons
no.
352,400
324,943
326,238
316,149
Total payments
$'000
4,954,450
4,918,349
5,078,220
4,831,069
Parenting Payment
Single
Males
no.
28,463
31,661
32,966
33,909
Females
no.
368,851
385,000
394,880
403,049
Persons
no.
397,314
416,661
427,846
436,958
Total payments
$'000
3,407,804
3,861,774
4,145,834
4,350,133
Partnered(b)
Persons
no.
592,077
205,379
191,576
181,405
Total payments
$'000
2,086,426
1,463,907
1,425,884
1,380,984
Mature Age Allowance
Recipients
no.
41,792
38,907
40,132
41,078
Total payments
$'000
367,250
352,596
364,210
381,155
Partner Allowance
Recipients
no.
89,391
92,107
102,330
102,810
Total payments
$'000
646,460
728,679
817,599
860,768
Widow Allowance
Recipients
no.
33,077
36,789
41,277
43,209
Total payments
$'000
270,825
324,919
389,550
429,662
Special Benefit
Recipients
no.
11,260
12,691
13,091
12,228
Total payments
$'000
98,704
114,778
119,811
116,286
Bereavement Allowance
Recipients
no.
44
51
41
55
Total payments
$'000
782
719
813
986
Pensioner Education Supplement
Recipients
no.
40,925
46,569
50,361
52,923
Total payments
$'000
49,571
58,248
65,784
68,574

(a) Number of recipients at 30 June.
(b) From 1 July 2000 the basic component of Parenting Payment (partnered) was incorporated into Family Tax Benefit. As a result 375,233 customers were transferred from Parenting Payment (partnered) to Family Tax Benefit Part B.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Support for people with a disability

The policy to support people with disabilities is designed to promote independence and self-reliance through the provision of rehabilitation services, specialist employment services and other services for people with a disability. It also aims to help support people with a disability with limited means through the provision of income support.

Disability Support Pension (DSP) is the main form of income support for people with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment resulting in an inability to work for at least 30 hours per week at award wages, or be retrained for work, for at least two years. DSP is income and assets tested. However, the permanently blind are exempt from the income test. DSP for people aged 21 years and over is paid at the same rate as Age Pension. Youth rates apply to those aged under 21 years. These are largely tied to Youth Allowance rates, but include a supplement of $87.70 per fortnight. Youth rates are not subject to parental income or assets tests.

From September 2002, the Better Assessment and Early Intervention measure, part of the AWT package of measures, provides for an increased focus on the assessment of work capacity for people who are ill, injured or have a disability and on the early identification of interventions, such as rehabilitation and employment assistance, to help people maximise their economic and social participation.

Other support for people with a disability includes Mobility Allowance and Sickness Allowance. Mobility Allowance is intended to help those who are involved in paid work, vocational training or voluntary work or a combination of these, who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance. Sickness Allowance may be paid to people between 21 and Age Pension age, who are temporarily unable to work or continue with their full-time study due to illness or injury but who have a job or study to return to.

Wife Pension (DSP) provides an income for a woman who is a partner of a DSP recipient, is aged below Age Pension age and is not receiving any other payment in her own right. This payment is gradually being phased out, with new grants of Wife Pension ceasing after 30 June 1995.

Table 7.18 shows the number of recipients of support for people with a disability, and expenditure by payment type.

7.18 SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY(a)

Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Disability Support Pension
Males
no.
382,351
392,354
406,893
412,777
Females
no.
219,929
231,572
252,022
260,557
Persons
no.
602,280
623,926
658,915
673,334
Total payments
$'000
5,258,449
5,849,799
6,404,351
6,851,608
Wife Pension (DSP)
Recipients
no.
59,935
51,225
44,238
37,880
Total payments
$'000
486,740
446,564
401,969
351,491
Mobility Allowance
Recipients
no.
35,154
37,574
41,456
44,239
Total payments
$'000
53,379
59,367
67,852
74,975
Sickness Allowance
Recipients
no.
10,733
10,942
9,522
8,927
Total payments
$'000
90,575
95,554
93,724
85,528

(a) Number of recipients at 30 June.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Support for carers

There are two forms of Australian Government financial assistance that may be available in a caring situation - Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.

Carer Payment provides income support to people who, due to the demands of their caring role, are unable to support themselves through substantial workforce participation. Carer Payment is subject to income and assets tests and is paid at the same rate as other social security pensions.

Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment that is available to people who provide daily care and attention at home for an adult or child with a disability or severe medical condition. Carer Allowance is not income or assets tested. It can be paid in addition to a social security income support payment.

Table 7.19 shows the number of support for carer recipients and expenditure by payment type.

7.19 SUPPORT FOR CARERS(a)

Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Carer Payment
Recipients
no.
47,550
57,190
67,260
75,937
Total payments
$'000
369,723
480,944
595,810
702,649
Carer Allowance(b)
Recipients
no.
194,887
235,041
272,045
299,609
Total payments
$'000
412,334
533,247
645,722
744,488

(a) Number of recipients at 30 June.
(b) Carer Allowance was introduced on 1 July 1999. It combined Child Disability Allowance with Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefit, which was the responsibility of the Department of Health and Ageing. Figures do not include Health Care Card only customers.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Support for the aged

Policies relating to support for the aged are designed to help retirees make best use of their own financial resources to maintain their standard of living, and to support the aged with limited means through providing income support. They are also intended to provide information and foster opportunities for older people to participate in the community.

The principal form of support is the Age Pension. Age Pension age for men is 65 and for women is being progressively raised to 65 by 2014. The qualifying age for women depends on their date of birth, with the minimum age increasing by six months at two year intervals until it reaches 65 for those born on or after 1 January 1949.

Other payments available for older Australians include Wife Pension and Widow B Pension. These payments were designed to provide financial assistance to women below the pension age who are either the partner of an age pensioner or who have lost the financial support of a male partner through death, separation or divorce. The concepts behind these payments have been updated to reflect a more modern society and consequently these payments have been closed to new entrants. From 1 July 1995 for Wife Pension, and from 21 March 1997 for Widow B Pension, payments have been confined to women already receiving the payment on those dates.

The ageing of the Australian population will increase the financial commitment of the Australian economy to support the aged. It is expected that Age Pension expenditure will increase from 3.0% of gross domestic product to 4.6% by 2050.

Table 7.20 shows the number of recipients and expenditure by payment type for support for the aged.

7.20 SUPPORT FOR AGED(a)

Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

Age Pension(b)
Males
no.
654,557
684,219
710,170
735,263
Females
no.
1,075,303
1,101,335
1,100,609
1,118,749
Persons
no.
1,729,860
1,785,554
1,810,779
1,854,012
Total payments
$'000
14,037,940
15,616,477
16,665,653
17,740,214
Widow B Pension
Recipients
no.
8,892
6,456
5,130
2,986
Total payments
$'000
89,849
84,296
59,787
39,804
Wife Pension (Age)(b)
Recipients
no.
31,406
26,476
23,730
20,230
Total payments
$'000
240,751
233,080
216,160
195,071

(a) Number of recipients at 30 June.
(b) Includes the Pension Savings Bonus Scheme from 1 July 1998 (first payments were made in 1999-2000); and amounts paid by the Department of Veterans' Affairs in relation to the Aged Pension, related Wife Pension and Disability Support Pension.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

Other support programs

Family assistance support

Family assistance support programs help support and strengthen families through services to enhance family relationship, lower the incidence of family breakdown and prevent child abuse.

The aim of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is to enhance the strength of families and communities. The Strategy is a four year program that commenced in 2000-01. It takes a prevention and early intervention approach to helping families and communities build resilience and the capacity to deal with problems before they develop. It encourages the development of practical and innovative projects that address locally identified issues.

The Strategy focuses on three important family areas: early childhood and families with young children; marriage and relationships; and balancing work and family. It targets the following groups:
  • families with young children
  • isolated families
  • families at risk
  • young people, particularly in rural and regional Australia
  • emerging non-traditional community leaders such as older women and young people
  • Indigenous families and communities.

A longitudinal study of child health and development was also initiated under the Strategy.

The Australian Government has been funding the Family Relationships Services Program (FRSP) since the early-1960s. The Program aims to enable children, young people and adults to develop and sustain safe, supportive and nurturing family relationships and to minimise the emotional, social and economic costs associated with disruption to family relationships. The Australian Government Attorney-General's Department (AGD) contributes part of the funding for the FRSP.

Early Intervention and Parenting projects are aimed at preventing child abuse, improved parenting skills and strengthening families. A key focus of these projects is meeting the special needs of families in rural and remote areas, Indigenous families and families from multicultural backgrounds. Opportunities are also provided for children under five, and their carers, to interact with other children and their carers.

The Australian Government Financial Counselling Program provides free financial counselling services to people in low-income groups experiencing financial crises due to circumstances such as unemployment, sickness, credit over-commitment and family breakdown.

Youth and student support

Youth and community support programs develop new partnerships within and across levels of government and with community organisations to support innovations in youth and family support arrangements around young people’s transition to independence and adulthood.

The Strengthening and Supporting Families Coping with Illicit Drug Use Measure provides funding to state and territory governments to provide services to families where a young person is suffering from the effects of illicit drug use.

Reconnect is an early intervention program for young people, aged between 12 and 18 years, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and their families. Reconnect services offer counselling, adolescent mediation and practical support to both young people and their families.

The Youth Activities Services Program provides innovative structured activities and positive peer support programs after school, over the weekend and during vacations for 11-16 year olds in disadvantaged areas.

The Youth Activities Services Family Liaison Worker Program provides practical support and guidance for young people aged 11-16 and their families, to help them deal with difficulties such as family conflict and lack of communication, and refer them to specialist services as required.

The Job, Placement, Employment and Training (JPET) program assists young people, 15-21 years of age who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to overcome personal and social barriers and engage more fully in the life of their communities to achieve greater social and economic participation.

Green Corps is a youth development and environmental training program for young people aged 17-20 years. The program provides young people with the opportunity to conserve, preserve and restore Australia’s natural environment and cultural heritage. Each Green Corps project involves 10 young people for 26 weeks who receive an allowance. Projects are located mainly in regional and remote areas of Australia and focus on areas where environmental and heritage restoration, protection and conservation is a high priority.

The Mentor Marketplace Program encourages the use of mentoring to increase outcomes for young people, particularly those at greatest risk of disconnection from their families, community, education and work.

The Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA) provides one-off assistance (with a value of up to $1,000) to young people between 15-25 years of age who are approaching their independence and making the transition from state-supported care arrangements to independent living. TILA targets young people in greatest need exiting care arrangements.

Child support

The Child Support Scheme is a joint FaCS and the AGD scheme, administered by the Child Support Agency (CSA). The scheme is the framework for assessment, collection and enforcement of child support liabilities. It aims to ensure that parents continue to financially support their children after separation, according to their capacity to do so. Parents may transfer their assessed liability privately, or have it collected and transferred through CSA. Parents are required to take reasonable action to obtain child support if they wish to receive Family Tax Benefit Part A at more than the basic rate.

The total amount transferred between parents in 2002-03 was $1.9b. This includes child support assessed by CSA and transferred directly between parents, as well as child support assessed and collected by CSA. In 2002-03, 50.6% of all parents registered with CSA transferred their child support privately, with minimal CSA intervention. It is the first year that over half of CSA’s client base made private transfer arrangements.

Child care

Child care support policies are designed to help families balance their work and parenting roles by providing flexible child care services to promote quality child care, contributing to the development and education of children; and provide a focus for early intervention initiatives for vulnerable families and children.

Child care services include centre-based long-day care, family day care, in-home care, before and after school hours care, vacation care, occasional care, and Multi-functional Aboriginal Children’s Services. Flexible services that can combine various models of care are also available to meet the needs of families in rural and remote areas.

Housing support

Housing support policies are in place to assist low and moderate income householders access appropriate affordable housing, and provide supporting initiatives to assist homeless people.

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program is a joint Australian Government and state/territory government program, which provides transitional, supported accommodation and a range of related support services to people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. It also aims to resolve crisis, re-establish family links where appropriate and re-establish the capacity of clients to live independently of the program.

FaCS housing assistance programs are discussed further in Housing.

Community support

Community support programs and policies cover a wide range of goals and outcomes. They include developing community capacity and self-reliance by supporting leadership, volunteering and innovative local responses. Another goal is to help people in rural and regional areas access services that support their special needs and to take advantage of opportunities. They are also designed to help improve the living conditions of Indigenous peoples and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Other goals and outcomes involve encouraging partnerships between business, community and government sectors, helping in crisis situations and assisting low-income families and individuals with living costs.

The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy recognises that strong communities have strong leadership, skills and knowledge, partnerships between public and private sectors, and a solid core of committed volunteers. The Strategy aims to strengthen these characteristics in communities where they are weak and so increase their capacity to meet the challenges of economic and social change and to cope with the pressures that lead to family and social breakdown. The communities targeted by the Strategy include those communities ready and willing to tackle local problems, rural and regional communities, as well as communities facing particular challenges and communities at risk.

The Volunteer Small Equipment Grants 2003, part of the Stronger Families and Community Strategy, funds $3m nationally to organisations that provide family support and strengthen local communities. Grants of up to $5,000 are available to help organisations purchase equipment that directly assists volunteers by making their volunteering activities easier, safer or more enjoyable.

The National Skills for Volunteers Program is also part of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, providing skills development opportunities to volunteers designed to improve the standard of service to the communities those volunteers support. This is provided through a number of strategies including the National Volunteer Skills Centre and National Skills Development Grants. Grants with a rural and remote training focus are being funded to find sustainable support strategies for volunteers in rural, regional and remote Australia. Other strategies include providing funding for volunteers in FaCS funded areas such as Emergency Relief and jointly funding the National Arts and Museums Regional Volunteer Skills Project with the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts.

The Volunteer Management Program supports matching, referral and training activities through funding to 26 volunteer resource centres, including 17 regional centres. The aim of the program is to enhance the operation of family and community services that involve volunteers by increasing the number of effectively trained and placed volunteers in those services. People interested in volunteering can approach these services and be matched to volunteering work. Organisations who need volunteers can also approach volunteer resource centres. In addition, the volunteer resource centres provide training to volunteers and volunteer managers.

The Voluntary Work Initiative also refers and matches people to volunteer positions. It aims to improve the take-up and effectiveness of voluntary work among income support customers of working age. Volunteering Australia manages the Voluntary Work Initiative on behalf of FaCS.

Under the AWT initiative, changed participation requirements for 40-49 year old job seekers applied from 1 July 2002. Further participation requirements will apply from 20 September 2003 to older customers on Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payment customers whose youngest child has reached the age of thirteen.

These changes will increase the number of income support customers being referred to volunteer resource centres funded under the Voluntary Work Initiative program. AWT provides additional funding to boost the volunteer matching and referral capacity of voluntary resource centres throughout Australia and assists community organisations in offering suitable volunteer places.

The Emergency Relief Program provides grants to charitable, community and religious organisations so that they can assist individuals and families in emergency financial crisis. The program also provides training support for paid and voluntary workers in the sector. The Volunteer Management Program provides funding for centres to provide referral services to community organisations and training for volunteer managers.

Remote Area Allowance offsets some of the additional costs associated with living in remote areas of Australia. It recognises that income support customers do not receive the full benefits of the zone tax offset amounts that are available to taxpayers. A quarterly Telephone Allowance payment is paid to pensioners, long-term allowance customers and eligible Australian Government Seniors Health Card holders to assist with the cost of domestic telephone services. Pharmaceutical Allowance is paid to pensioners and some other income support customers to help with the cost of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme prescription items.

Australian Government Concessions Cards, (the Pensioner Concession Card, the Health Care Card and the Australian Government Seniors Health Card), are also part of Community Support policies. They are issued mainly to assist eligible individuals and/or their families with the cost of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription items.

Labour market assistance

Labour market assistance policies are designed to foster a culture of self-reliance in the community by promoting appropriate understanding, expectations and behaviours.

The AWT initiative, which is being progressively implemented from 1 July 2002, provides assistance to people of workforce age including job seekers, parents, people with disabilities, the unemployed, mature age people and Indigenous Australians. Initiatives include a Working Credit to encourage people on income support to take up full-time, part-time or irregular casual work, Training Credits, a Literacy and Numeracy Training supplement, more places in employment services and initiatives to assist Indigenous Australians.

The Personal Support Programme (PSP), which commenced on 1 July 2002, helps those people on income support payments who face multiple non-vocational obstacles to employment. These barriers include homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, psychiatric disorders or domestic violence problems. The PSP has broad objectives that recognise social as well as economic participation. Social outcomes are often more achievable and appropriate to participants with these sorts of multiple barriers to employment.

Personal Advisers are providing extra help to a range of eligible customers including those at a high risk of long-term dependency on income support or, in the case of parents and some mature age customers, because they will face activity requirements for the first time after July 2003. Personal Advisers work with people to identify goals and options, and to develop a plan to achieve them. They make sure people get the right help by referring them to service providers, linking them to other community support specialists within and outside Centrelink such as psychologists, and keeping in touch with them about their progress. Over 450 Personal Advisers commenced in Centrelink offices throughout Australia in September 2002, which will rise to 850 by 2005.

JET is a joint program of the FaCS, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training. JET is a voluntary program that assists with skill development and entry or re-entry into the paid workforce. Assistance provided includes: development of a plan to achieve labour market readiness; access to education, training and employment assistance; referrals to government and community services; and child care assistance. People receiving Parenting Payment, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow B Pension, Carer Payment and some Special Benefit recipients are eligible to participate in JET.

The Voluntary Work Initiative was introduced in 1996 and aims to improve the take-up and effectiveness of voluntary work among income support customers of working age, particularly Newstart and Youth Allowance customers. Initiatives are also being developed that aim at increasing take-up by Indigenous customers and customers of a multicultural background, as well as extension of the program to meet the needs of new AWT customers from 1 July 2002. Volunteering Australia manages the scheme on behalf of FaCS.

Support for people with a disability

The Australian Government and state/territory governments share responsibility for providing specialist disability services under the Commonwealth-State/Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA). The Government is responsible for providing employment assistance for people with disabilities while the state/territory governments provide non-employment services such as respite and accommodation. The Government contributes funds towards the states and territories’ service responsibilities.

The Disability Employment Assistance Program funds organisations under the Disability Services Act 1986 (Cwlth) to provide employment support to people with a disability who require assistance to gain and/or retain paid employment. This assistance may be provided in the open labour market or within a supported employment setting.

In addition to this support, the Australian Government also funds programs designed to encourage employers to provide durable job opportunities for people with disabilities: workplace modifications; supported wage assessments; wage subsidies; and the provision of information and job placement services.

The Australian Government also funds an Advocacy program which is designed to enable people with a disability to more fully participate in community life, and achieve and maintain their rights as citizens. The Advocacy program involves families of individuals where possible and appropriate. Advocacy is a shared Commonwealth-State responsibility under the CSTDA.

Other services supporting people with disabilities funded by the Government include:
  • carer respite centres which provides short-term and emergency respite for carers of young people with severe or profound disabilities who have been unable to access existing state respite care
  • print disability services which provide materials in alternative format such as audiotape and Braille to people who, because of their disabilities, are unable to read, hold or manipulate printed materials in standard form
  • information and captioning services which assist people with disabilities to access information on recreation, tourism, sport and the arts, and captioned entertainment videos for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.

Support for people with disabilities is also provided through rehabilitation services to improve function and independence in people with a disability so they can gain or retain suitable employment, or live independently.

Retirement planning assistance

The National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI) is an independent consumer service funded by the Australian Government. It provides the public with free information on planning and saving for retirement, investment options and effective use of financial resources in retirement. NICRI provides investment information, not investment advice.

NICRI delivers its services to the public through a toll-free telephone inquiry service, a web site, and presentations at external seminars and Centrelink Financial Information Service seminars. NICRI also provides an extensive range of information leaflets.

The Financial Information Service (FIS) program, delivered by specialised Centrelink officers, aims to ensure that clients, potential clients and others planning their retirement have sufficient information to make effective use of their private resources for self support, informed decisions about retirement issues and adequate financial preparation for a retirement that allows participation in their community. FIS Officers provide investment information, not investment advice.

FIS also runs a seminar program across Australia for pre-retirees, retirees, people becoming redundant or retrenched, and rural communities. They provide information for intermediaries such as financial, welfare, community and industry groups. The seminars are directed at changing community attitudes and approaches to retirement planning, and assisting and encouraging pre-retirees to commence planning for retirement.

FaCS portfolio publications for retirees and pre-retirees aim to give seniors information on a range of issues. The publications are distributed through Centrelink, NICRI, financial planners, solicitors, accountants and community groups. They are also available on the web sites for FaCS and Centrelink.

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