1 Get paid not penalised!
2 Welfare Rights Centres around the country ACT Canberra: (02) and New South Wales Sydney: (02) and Wollongong: (02) Northern Territory Darwin: (08) and Queensland Brisbane: (07) and Townsville: (07) Welfare Rights Centres are community legal centres that give free, independent legal advice about Centrelink problems. South Australia Adelaide: (08) and Tasmania Hobart: (03) Launceston: (03) and Victoria Melbourne: (03) and Geelong: (03) Western Australia Perth: (08) Fremantle: (08) Sussex St: (08) and
3 How to use this booklet This booklet tells you some of your rights and obligations when dealing with Centrelink and tries to help make sure you get paid the right money from Centrelink. If you need help you can call people in Centrelink who can help you. Or You can get free help from a Welfare Rights Centre (they are not part of Centrelink). All their telephone numbers are on the inside cover of this booklet.
4 How do I get money from Centrelink? u Contact Centrelink and tell them you want to claim a payment. You can get a claim form by phoning them, downloading it from their website or by going into a Centrelink office. u Centrelink will ask you lots of questions like which bank account you want your payments made to and your tax file number. The sooner you give Centrelink all the information they ask for, the sooner they can pay you. u You need to fill out the form as well as you can. You need to be honest on the form. If you don t know the answer to a question, don t just guess or make something up. Centrelink will help you if you have problems completing the form.
5 What payment could I get? u The most common payments for young people and unemployed people are: Newstart Allowance l Youth Allowance Austudy Payment l ABSTUDY u There are lots of other payments, eg. for people who are parents, carers, sick or disabled. Tell Centrelink about all of your circumstances to make sure you get the right payment. If you can t get any other payments ask for Special Benefit. Put in your claim form ASAP. u If you put in a form for the wrong type of payment, that can be fixed up later.
6 WHAT IF Centrelink wants ID? u If you do not have ID when you claim, Centrelink can pay you for two pays (4 weeks) while you try to find ID. u If you can t get ID, Centrelink will help you by contacting people such as family members, school principals or community workers to prove your identity.
7 But I don t have a fixed address? u Centrelink must pay you even if you have no place to live but you have to give them an address where you can be contacted. u You can ask them to send any mail or information to someone you know and trust to give you the mail. u If you are homeless or have problems living with your family, you should tell Centrelink and insist on talking to a social worker. A social worker will provide you with extra help quickly including making sure you are getting the right payment.
8 What do I have to do to get paid? u To receive your payment you will need to do things like look for work, study or another activity, unless you have a reason why you can t. Usually you will be sent to an employment service provider to work out what you have to do. u The law says Centrelink and employment service providers can only ask you to do things that are reasonable. They must consider things like your age, health, education, cultural background or being homeless. u That s why you need to tell them stuff that might make it hard for you to do things like study or look for work (eg if you have problems reading or with your health). You might be able to get extra help before you have to start looking for work or you might not have to do the usual activities. If you feel uncomfortable ask to speak to a social worker in private.
9 What if I can t look for work or study? u If you can t look for work or study, tell Centrelink (even if the reasons why you can t work or study are personal or embarrassing). You can ask to talk to a social worker if this would make it easier to explain your reasons. u If you are sick or homeless or have a crisis, you may not need to work or study for a while. This is called a temporary exemption from the activity test.
10 other stuff to tell CENTRELINK u You have to tell Centrelink about anything that could affect your payment, like if you move address, earn money, start living with someone, or if you stop studying. u If you can t get to an interview or activity tell Centrelink as soon as you know you can t make it before the appointment time if possible. u You have to have a reasonable excuse for why you can t do what you agreed to do. One example is if you were sick, but there are lots of other excuses that are reasonable.
11 What is a penalty? u A penalty means you might lose some or all of your payment for a while. u You can get a penalty if you don t do the compulsory activities that are in the agreement you signed with your employment services provider. u You can also get a penalty if you don t do certain things, like go to appointments or do activities that Centrelink or your employment service provider tells you to do. u Penalties are different if you re a full-time student and you stop studying full-time. But you might be transferred to an unemployment payment instead. Tell Centrelink when you stop studying full-time or you could get a debt or might even get prosecuted.
12 penalty FOR MISSING an appointment? u If you don t show up to an appointment with Centrelink or an employment services provider, your payments won t be stopped or suspended at first. u They will give you a second chance (eg, you will have to attend another appointment or hand in a job seeker diary). u But if you don t do this second chance thing, you might lose one day of your fortnightly payment every day until you do what Centrelink or an employment services provider has asked you to do.
13 penalty for missing compulsory activities u If you don t show up or you re very late to a compulsory activity (eg Work Experience, training or a job interview), Centrelink might cut your payment for every day that you miss. Centrelink can t give you a penalty if you have a reasonable excuse, so you should tell them the reason why you didn t go to the activity. u You might also get this penalty if you act inappropriately in an activity or job interview. This is called misconduct. To get out of the penalty, you will have to give your side of the story - explain what happened and why it was not misconduct.
14 I got an 8 week penalty - why? u You can get a penalty that stops your payment for 8 weeks if you: refuse a suitable job offer, or if you quit your job or get fired for misconduct, or if you ve had at least three other penalties in six months and Centrelink thinks you didn t go to the activities and interviews on purpose. u Before Centrelink gives you an 8 week penalty they must get your side of the story. Centrelink must not give you a penalty if you had a reasonable excuse or your actions were not voluntary or misconduct.
15 u For most penalties Centrelink will bring you in for an interview or assessment with someone like a social worker to discuss what is going on in your life and if there is anything that can be done to help. If they don t, you can still insist on talking to a social worker. MOST IMPORTANTLY all 8 week non payment penalties can be appealed. Centrelink must pay you while they are doing the review. This is called payment pending review.
16 How can I get out of AN 8 week penalty? u You can work off some 8 week penalties by doing certain intensive activities, like Work for the Dole. Centrelink will restart your payments as soon as you tell them you want to work off the penalty, but if you don t start the activity they can reapply the penalty. u You can get out of the penalty if you can t do the intensive activities and serving it will cause you severe financial hardship.
17 The 8 week penalty for quitting your job or getting fired for misconduct at work can t be worked off. You can get out of it if the penalty will cause you severe financial hardship and you: have someone you have to look after, or are sick and can t afford your medicine, or have a mental illness or certain other disabilities, or don t have adequate housing, or are in a refuge or emergency accommodation.
18 YOU CAN Appeal any Centrelink decision u This is free and easy. u All you have to do is say I want this decision reviewed by an ARO. If you need help you can call a Welfare Rights Centre for advice. u The ARO s job is to decide if Centrelink made the right decision and change it if it s wrong. u The ARO decision must be in writing, and if you think it is wrong you can appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal is not part of Centrelink and is not like a normal court, it s more friendly and they will listen to your side of the story. u If you think your rights have not been respected you can call the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
19 Some useful telephone numbers Centrelink Customer Relations Number: Centrelink Youth and Student line: Centrelink Employment Line: Social Security Appeals Tribunal: Commonwealth Ombudsman: Employment Services Information: Websites: Phone numbers of Welfare Rights Centres around the country are inside the front cover.
20 Key tips Don t panic. Keep your cool! Read this booklet. Get advice from a Welfare Rights Centre. Talk to a Centrelink social worker Appeal! Appeal! Appeal! July 2009 Funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations