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This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (October 2004).
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 2004 are listed in table 7.10.
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 refer to the full financial year.
Income support programs
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 (FTB Part A) helps families with the cost of raising dependent children. It is paid to families with dependent children up to 21 years and young people between 21 and 24 years who are studying full time (and not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment). Payment is payable in respect of each dependent child and is means tested on family income.
Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB Part B) provides extra assistance for families with only one main income earner, particularly those with children under 5 years. It is paid to families for children up to the age of 16 years and children aged between 16 and 18 years who are studying full time. Payment to a family is based on the age of the youngest child, and is assessed on the income of the family’s second income earner.
At the end of June 2004, payments for FTB Part A were made to 1.8 million families to provide support for 3.5 million children, and FTB Part B payments made to 1.2 million families to provide support for 2.3 million children. FTB Part A and Part B 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 Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Some FTB 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.
The 'More Help for Families' package introduced in the 2004-05 Budget includes a universal Maternity Payment, which recognises the extra costs associated with the birth or adoption of a child. All families with a child born or adopted from 1 July 2004 will be eligible for the payment. There is no income or assets test. This payment replaced Maternity Allowance and the Baby Bonus (administered by ATO) from 1 July 2004.
Other measures in the package included a one-off $600 per child bonus payment to over 2 million families and an ongoing increase of $600 per child in the base and maximum rates of FTB Part A, payable as a lump sum supplement. The Maternity Immunisation Allowance is not subject to an income test for children born on or after 1 January 2003.
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 7.11 shows the number of recipients and expenditure for Family Assistance.
Youth and student support
Youth and Student Support contributes to FaCS ‘Stronger Families’ social policy outcome by:
Youth Allowance is the main income support payment for young people aged 16-20 years who are actively seeking employment and for full-time students aged 16-24 years old. It is subject to a personal income and assets test. If the person does not meet the Youth Allowance independence criteria then parental income, family assets, and family actual means tests also apply. If the person is independent and partnered, a partner income test applies and the couple’s combined assets are assessed.
To qualify for Youth Allowance a young person must meet the Youth Allowance activity test by undertaking 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. Unless exempt, young people aged under 18 years are required to undertake full-time study in order to receive payment. Youth Allowance recipients aged 18 years and over who are not full-time students may be required to undertake Mutual Obligation activities.
The rate of Youth Allowance is determined on the young person’s age, whether they are single or partnered, whether they have children, whether they live at home or need to live away from home, and whether the person is a ‘long-term income support student’.
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’. An individual and (if applicable) partner income and assets test applies.
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 their travel costs.
Table 7.12 shows the number of Youth and Student Support recipients and expenditure by payment type.
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.
The availability of affordable quality child care helps families balance their work and parenting roles; contributes to the development and education of children; and provides 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.
Child Care Benefit (CCB) 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 if the carer is registered with the Family Assistance Office. This is paid for up to 50 hours per week of work-related child care.
The Child Care Support Program (CCSP) provides targeted support to child care and related services to promote access to quality child care for children, families and communities with thorough strategies that complement the assistance provided through CCB. The CCSP includes programs to improve access to child care services for Indigenous and rural/remote communities; support for inclusion of children with additional needs into quality child care; professional support for child care workers; and support for the child care quality assurance system.
Jobs Education and Training (JET) Child Care provides flexible child care assistance to parents receiving certain Centrelink payments who wish to undertake study, work or job search activities and are aiming to enter or re-enter the workforce. JET Child Care can help meet the costs of child care which for many parents is one of the barriers preventing them from studying, training or seeking entry or re-entry into paid employment. Most parents will still make a small contribution towards the cost of child care.
JET Child Care also supports JET crèches. Crèches are flexible and innovative services that enable particularly vulnerable groups of parents to participate in training and work activities in areas where no other suitable child care services are available.
Table 7.13 shows the number of recipients and expenditure for CCB.
Labour market assistance
Labour market assistance programs help people of working age by 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 and Youth Allowance jobseekers aged 18-49 years 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. People aged 50 years and over on NSA are not subject to Mutual Obligation but have a Personal Adviser to ensure that their requirements are appropriate, and that they have access to appropriate services.
Parenting Payment is paid to single and partnered low-income parents with responsibility for the care of at least one dependent child aged under 16 years. It provides a safety net for parents who would otherwise be at risk of hardship. From September 2003, parents whose youngest child is aged 13 years and over 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 personnel and JET Advisers. Parents whose youngest child is aged 6 years or over are required to attend annual interviews with these Centrelink staff.
Other non-activity tested payments for people of workforce age include Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance and Special Benefit. Special Benefit provides assistance to people in severe financial need and for whom no other pension, allowance or other support is available. There is also a Bereavement Allowance, which is a short-term payment for recently widowed people without dependent children, payable for up to 14 weeks.
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 who face added difficulty in the labour market. Most people who would have qualified for these payments are now eligible for NSA. This gives them full access to support services and programs to help them increase their economic and social engagement, including new flexible participation requirements and individually focused support for recipients aged 50 years and over.
Additional assistance is provided through Pensioner Education Supplement, Education Entry Payment and Employment Entry Payment, which 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) Scheme Participant Supplement provide supplementary financial assistance to help with the costs of participating in the WfD and CDEP programs.
Table 7.14 shows the number of labour market assistance recipients by expenditure and payment type.
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 disabilities who have limited private income 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 that prevents them from working for at least 30 hours per week at award wages, or being retrained for such work, for at least two years. DSP is income and assets tested, however recipients who are 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 $90.10 per fortnight in recognition of the additional costs faced by people with disabilities. Youth rates are not subject to parental income or assets tests.
In September 2002 the Better Assessment and Early Intervention measure (part of the AWT package of measures) introduced a greater 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 aged between 21 years 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 7.15 shows the number of recipients of support for people with a disability, and expenditure by payment type.
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 7.16 shows the number of support for carer recipients and expenditure by payment type.
Support for the aged
Policies relating to support for the aged are designed to help retirees make the 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 years and for women is being progressively raised to 65 years 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 years 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 Age Pension expenditure will increase from 3.0% of gross domestic product to 4.6% by 2050.
Table 7.17 shows the number of recipients and expenditure by payment type for support for the aged.
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:
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 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 5 years 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 initiative is an early intervention, family-focused part of the wider National Illicit Drugs Strategy - Tough on Drugs - demand reduction measures. Programs funded under this measure provide support, advice, information, referral and outreach services to families with members coping with, or at risk of, illicit drug use and substance abuse before the problem becomes entrenched.
Reconnect is an early intervention program for young people, aged 12-18 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/Family Liaison Worker Program (YAS/FLW) 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. YAS/FLW also provides practical support and guidance to young people 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 aged 15-21 years 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. Green Corps provides young people with the opportunity to volunteer their commitment to conserve, preserve and restore Australia's natural environment and cultural heritage.
Projects are mostly located in regional and remote areas and are developed in conjunction with a range of partner agencies including non-government conservation organisations, community groups and local, state and territory governments.
Each Green Corps project involves 10 young people taking part in a range of activities and experiences over a 26-week period. During their placement, participants receive a weekly participant allowance. Green Corps participants gain improved career and employment prospects through accredited training and personal development opportunities in areas such as leadership and teamwork. Participants are also provided with an opportunity to develop improved connections with the community.
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 aged 15-25 years 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.
The Child Support Scheme is administered by the Child Support Agency (CSA) within FaCS. The Agency manages the 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 2003-04 was $2.19b, an increase of $250m over the previous financial year ($1.94b). This includes child support assessed by CSA and transferred directly between parents, as well as child support assessed and collected by CSA. In addition, Child Support associated with parents who elect to transfer payments privately amounted to approximately $1.4b in 2003-04.
In 2003-04, 51.8% of all parents registered with CSA transferred their child support privately, with minimal CSA intervention. This was an increase on 2002-03 (50.6%).
The CSA is also the central authority for the collection of international child maintenance originating overseas or requiring referral overseas.
Housing support policies are in place to assist low and moderate income householders to 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 crises, 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 Chapter 8 Housing.
Volunteering is an essential part of the Australian Government’s objective to promote social and economic participation, and to strengthen connections within communities. Volunteering provides benefits to individual volunteers, the organisations for which they volunteer and the broader community in which they participate. The Australian Government supports volunteering through a number of programs.
The Volunteer Small Equipment Grants provide funding to volunteer involving 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 Volunteer Management Program funds 26 Volunteer Resource Centres to provide volunteer matching and referral services throughout Australia. People who wish to volunteer can approach these centres for assessment and referral to organisations needing volunteers. The centres provide information and advice on volunteering and access to a wide range of volunteering opportunities. Under the Volunteer Management Program, Volunteer Resource Centres also provide training to volunteers and volunteer managers in community organisations. Volunteer involving organisations can also use Volunteer Resource Centres if they need assistance with recruiting and training volunteers.
The Voluntary Work Initiative also refers and matches people to volunteer positions with a specific focus on income support customers. The program 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 through its national network of Volunteer Resource Centres.
Community support programs and policies support and strengthen communities by developing community capacity and self-reliance, supporting leadership, volunteering and innovative local responses, helping people in rural and regional areas access services that support their special needs and helping them to take advantage of opportunities. Other strategies 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 supports early intervention and prevention approaches to help families with young children and communities deal with issues before they become serious problems. It recognises that families and communities all have some degree of strength that can be built on to respond to issues and create opportunities. The Strategy is about community involvement and ownership and giving community organisations the chance to think about local issues and how they can best be addressed. It is about building partnerships between all spheres of government, community organisations and business to provide easier access to a comprehensive range of services that will help our children and our families have better outcomes. The key focus of the Strategy is to provide better chances for children and their families, and to build stronger communities that allow these children and their families to flourish and achieve their potential.
The Emergency Relief Program provides grants to community and charitable organisations so that they can assist individuals and families in a financial crisis. Typical forms of assistance include food vouchers, help with accommodation, payment of outstanding accounts, sometimes cash, and where possible, referrals to other services, programs and supports. Assistance is provided in a way that promotes self-reliance and maintains the dignity of those needing assistance. The program also provides training support for paid and voluntary workers in the sector.
The Family and Community Networks Initiative (FCNI) aims to enhance the capacity of communities and services to work together effectively to address the needs of families and communities. Since February 2003, FCNI has been primarily focused on supporting Indigenous communities participating in the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots (ICCP) and other Indigenous projects around Australia. Grants are available to incorporated community bodies, businesses and local government agencies to fund projects that contribute to the overall aims of the COAG ICCP and projects aimed at strengthening Indigenous community networks, leadership and community governance across Australia.
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.
The Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership is a group of prominent Australians from the community and business sectors that have been advising and assisting the Government on initiatives to develop and promote a culture of corporate and individual social responsibility. The Partnership operates on the premise that communities are stronger and more cohesive when individuals, not-for-profit organisations, governments and business all work together - each offering its own set of unique skills. Key achievements of the Partnership have been: a new Community Business Partnership ‘brokerage’ service to help businesses link up with community groups; a celebratory Partnerships Week in July 2004 that rewards and features best practice partnerships; an annual awards program and an essay competition to encourage students - the future business and community leaders - to think about corporate social responsibility.
The Australian Government funds the Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program which provides access to quality financial counselling services, free of charge, to people in low-income groups experiencing financial crisis due to circumstances such as unemployment, sickness, credit over-commitment and family breakdown.
The Government continues to offer a wide range of assistance and support to survivors and families of those who died as a result of the Bali bombings (October 2002). This has included the provision of: streamlined access to income support (assistance with airfares, accommodation and funeral costs); medical and other costs not otherwise covered by Medicare and private health insurance; lifetime rehabilitation assistance for those injured; emergency financial assistance; and continuing personal support from Centrelink Family Liaison Officers. In addition, the Baliassist web site (http://www.baliassist.gov.au) and BaliUpdate newsletter continue to provide information to survivors and families.
The Australian Government is concerned with the potential consequences associated with gambling and in response has taken a number of steps to try and address the issue and minimise the impact on the community at large. These include the establishment of the National Advisory Body on Gambling, and a Ministerial Council on Gambling.
The responsible regulation of gambling is primarily a state and territory function. The Ministerial Council on Gambling brings states and territories together to consider policy issues related to problem gambling, and has established a national research program relating to problem gambling. Research priorities have been developed, and the Australian Government has committed $0.3m per year to the program for five years as well as continuing its own research.
The National Framework on Problem Gambling was agreed to at the Ministerial Council meeting held in July 2004. The Framework provides a platform to share information and best practice between jurisdictions on issues associated with problem gambling. It will build on work already undertaken by jurisdictions.
The National Framework has four themes:
The National Problem Gambling Research Program is focusing on various aspects of problem gambling and related issues to build our knowledge base and inform policy development.
The major outcomes for the program will be:
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 behaviour.
The AWT initiative 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, the Language, Literacy and Numeracy 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 Advisors are providing extra help to a range of eligible customers including those at a high risk of long-term dependency on income support. Personal Advisors 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.
JET is a voluntary program that assists with skills development and entry or re-entry into the paid workforce. Assistance provided includes: 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.
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 participate more fully 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:
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 body funded by the Australian Government to provide the public with free information on financial investments, financial industry services and saving for retirement. NICRI can assist customers to provide for their retirement and to make the investment choices that are best for them. NICRI does not represent government or the financial industry. NICRI delivers its services to the public through a toll-free telephone inquiry service, a website, and an extensive range of information leaflets. NICRI also publishes media articles and makes presentations at external seminars and Centrelink Financial Information Service seminars.
The Financial Information Service (FIS) provided by specialist Centrelink officers, is an education and information service available to everyone in the community. FIS helps people make informed decisions about investment and financial issues for their current and future financial needs. FIS is independent, free and confidential, and provides services by phone, personal interview and through its seminar program.
FaCS produces a range of free publications that provide practical and easy to read information on topics such as investment options, accommodation choices, concessions, seniors’ organisations and other support available. These publications have been produced with financial industry bodies, other agencies and community groups to help people improve their lifestyle in retirement.