Social Security Benefits

From paternity and maternity leave to sick pay and pensions, understand the cover and entitlements of the Australian social welfare system...

A range of social security benefits are available to eligible Australian residents. Many benefits are means tested and thus depend on an individual's income and assets.

Sickness Allowance

Sickness Allowance is paid to employees and the self-employed who are temporarily incapable of working as a result of illness. To be eligible a medical certificate must be signed by a doctor to confirm that the individual is unable to work as normal. In most cases there is no payment for the first seven days of a period of ill health. The amount paid is means tested and is reviewed regularly if the illness is prolonged.

Individuals claiming sickness allowance are also eligible for a Pharmaceutical Allowance to help with the cost of prescription medicines. Claims for sickness allowance should be submitted as soon as possible after the onset of ill health. Claim forms can be found on the Centrelink website.

  • The Australian Government Department of Human Services has more on claiming for the relevant sickness allowance 
Completed claim forms must be returned to the nearest Centrelink Customer Service Centre or submitted online. When submitting a claim, proof of identity must be shown and a signed medical certificate submitted. Individuals are then informed of any other forms which are necessary. These have to be submitted within 14 days.

The outcome of a sickness allowance claim is made by letter informing the individual of the amount of their payment and the date it starts.

Disability Support Pension

A Disability Support Pension is available to those who are permanently blind or unable to work for two years due to injury, illness or disability. To be eligible an individual must be unable to work for 15 hours per week for the following two years. A report from a treating doctor is needed as confirmation.

The payment is means tested, unless the claim is due to being permanently blind. There are specific forms to make a claim for a variety of circumstances.

Proof of identity and a medical report must be submitted with a claim.

Child Care Benefit

Child Care Benefit provides assistance with the cost of child care. Individuals are eligible for the benefit if they are responsible for paying child care fees and use a registered child care service. All eligible families can get up to 24 hours of benefit for approved child care, per child, each week.

The amount of child care benefit received depends on annual income. Assets are not included in the calculation. There is no Newly Arrived Resident's period for child care benefit, which is available to all Australian residents. The benefit can either be claimed as a lump sum at the end of the year or paid directly to the chosen child care service to reduce fees.

Note: There will be changes to child care assistance from 2 July 2018.

Read more about the New child care package on the Department of Education and Training website.

Family Tax Benefit

Family Tax Benefits help with the cost of raising children. Family Tax Benefit Type A is available to all families with a dependent child up to the age of 15, or the age of 19 if the child remains in full time secondary education. There is an income test to determine a family's eligibility for the benefit. This benefit is available to all Australian residents and the payment amount is dependent on the number and ages of the children in the family. Family tax benefit can be claimed as an annual lump sum or as a regular fortnightly payment. Proof of each child's birth is needed to make a claim. An additional benefit, Family Tax Benefit Type B, is available for single parent families or those with one main income. This benefit can be claimed if the family has a dependent child up to the age of 16, or 18 if the child is in full time education. An income test is used to determine the amount of the benefit and is generally dependent on the age of the youngest child in the household.

Paid Parental Leave

Australia has a Paid Parental Leave scheme for working parents. It allows eligible individuals to be paid the National Minimum Wage for up to 18 weeks. Parental Leave Pay is available to Australian residents who are the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the birth mother or initial primary carer for adopted children should make the application. To receive the benefit the Paid Parental Leave scheme work test must be passed. To do this an individual must have worked for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption. A minimum of 330 hours must have been worked during this period, with no gaps of more than eight weeks.

It is not necessary to be in full time employment to be eligible for the benefit. The benefit stops if the claimant makes the decision to return to work. The timing of leave from work should be discussed with the employer, ideally at least ten weeks prior to taking it.

The benefit is either paid by the employer as per the usual salary or fortnightly by the Family Assistance Office.

If a parent has worked for the same employer for at least 12 months then they are also entitled to a maximum of 12 months of unpaid paternal leave.

Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement

A Newborn upfront payment or Newborn Supplement is also available to help with the costs of a newborn baby or adopted child. It is available to all families who are eligible for Family Tax Benefit in the 26 weeks following the birth or adoption of a child.

An income test is used to determine the size of the payment. Only one of the newborn payments or Paid Paternal Leave can be claimed. For most families the Paid Paternal Leave scheme is more beneficial.

A Comparison Estimator is provided to assist with the choice of which benefit to claim.

Age Pension

The Age Pension provides for people of retirement age so they have an adequate income. To receive Age Pension an individual must have been an Australian resident for ten years. This ten year period should be continuous, or be a period greater than ten years made up of several periods in the country, including one of at least five years duration. The main exceptions are if the claim is being made as part of an international social security agreement, or the claimant is a woman who has been resident for at least two years and whose partner died while they were Australian residents.

The pensionable age for men in Australia for Age Pension is 65. For women it is 65 for those born on or after 1 January 1949 and 64.5 years for anyone born on or between 1 July 1947 and 31 December 1948. For those eligible to claim Age Pension the amount received is subject to both income and assets testing. People who have minimal income but significant assets may be expected to provide for themselves. Assets include anything that an individual owns, in Australia or another county, as well as any debts that they are owed. If an individual receiving Age Pension has lived and worked in a different country during their lifetime they can be asked to apply for a pension from that country. If a pension is being collected from another country then this amount affects the quantity received in Australia.

Unemployment Benefits

The Newstart Allowance is a benefit for the unemployed, and gives financial assistance while a job is sought. It is available to individuals between the age of 22 and pensionable age of 65-67who are actively seeking paid work. This benefit is income and assets tested and may not be payable immediately if an individual is deemed to have sufficient funds available to them.

To claim Newstart Allowance an intent to claim must be registered at the nearest Centrelink Customer Service Centre. Eligibility for this benefit is assessed following an interview to determine individual circumstances. At the interview proof of identity, income and assets must be shown.

Bereavement Allowance

Bereavement Allowance is a short term benefit payable to people who have been recently widowed. The benefit is designed to help with financial changes after a partner's death. It is not available if an individual is claiming another form of income support. Bereavement Allowance is subject to both income and assets testing.

To be eligible an individual must have been resident in Australia for 104 weeks and both partners resident in Australia when the death occurred. A claim must be made within 14 weeks of the partner's death, unless the claimant was pregnant at the time of the death. If the claim is made within four weeks the benefit is paid from the date the partner died. Otherwise, it is paid from the date that the claim was submitted. Proof of identity is needed to make a claim.

Other Social Security Benefits

  • A full list of Australian social security benefits, eligibility for them and how to claim is given on the Centrelink website

Further Information