Special Benefit (SpB) may be granted to people who do not qualify for any other income support payment, are unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for themselves and their dependants and are in financial hardship. To qualify, a person must be in Australia and an Australian resident, or hold an approved visa. The rate at which Special Benefit is payable is discretionary, but cannot exceed the Newstart, Youth Allowance or Austudy rate that would be paid to the person.
Payment of Special Benefit is subject to an income test, an assets test and an available funds test. The assets test is the same as that applying to Newstart Allowance customers, but both the income test and the available funds test are specific to Special Benefit.
Ancillary payments provide targeted financial assistance to income support recipients to help them meet expenses associated with a range of specific circumstances. These circumstances include residing in remote areas, having a telephone connected, the purchase of prescription pharmaceuticals, and financial adjustment following the death of a partner, child or care recipient.
Each of the ancillary payments has a different set of qualifications attached and a person's eligibility for payment depends upon their prior eligibility for income support. The amount of expenditure on each income support payment reported in this chapter also includes any ancillary payments made as part of that payment.
Bereavement Allowance is a short-term payment for recently widowed persons, both male and female, without dependent children, who were not previously recipients of social security pensions or benefits. The availability of Bereavement Allowance allows the claimant a period of adjustment to make funeral arrangements, settle financial affairs, seek employment and determine an appropriate longer term social security payment.
Bereavement Allowance is paid at the Age Pension rate and is generally payable for up to 14 weeks from the date of the partner's death.
Centrelink issues concession cards on behalf of FaCS to people who receive an income support payment. Concession cards may also be claimed by low income earners. The available cards are the Pensioner Concession Card, the Health Care Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
The Commonwealth's primary purpose in issuing a concession card is to assist the cardholder and the cardholder's family with the cost of prescription medicines. State and local governments may provide cardholders with a reduction in household rates, energy bills, public transport fares, motor vehicle registration and a range of other health, educational and recreational concessions. Some private organisations also provide concessions on various goods and services to holders of Commonwealth concession cards.
International agreements and payment of pensions abroad
Pensions for old age, severe disability and widowhood can usually be paid abroad indefinitely. Pensions for some other contingencies can be paid outside Australia for periods of up to 26 weeks (the period was changed from 12 months to 26 weeks on 20 September 2000), except in New Zealand where the recipient will normally have to apply to the New Zealand Government for payment. At June 2001, Australia was paying 55,856 pensions to residents and former residents who were absent from Australia for more than 12 months. At December 2000, other countries' social security systems were making over 273,000 similar payments to Australian pensioners.
Australia has social security agreements with Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands. The agreement with the United Kingdom terminated on 1 March 2001 and no new agreement has been signed. It is expected that a new agreement with New Zealand and agreements with Germany and the United States will be implemented in July 2002.