The partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), the Integrated Services Project (ISP), aims to improve client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively.
This month we’d like to jump straight into some salient information for people in flood affected areas.
Direct Disaster Assistance
Often where people are impacted by a disaster, they become eligible for new payments. The payments we have identified as available for people impacted by the floods are:
- Disaster Payments and Allowances are now available through Centrelink for specified local government areas affected by the Victorian floods. Disaster payment is a one-off lump sum payment, and Disaster Allowance is a temporary income support payment for people who have lost income due to the floods. The payments have specific eligibility requirements, more information can be found here. When applying for Disaster Allowance we recommend keeping records of documents which show loss of income.
- Centrelink recipients, or persons eligible to receive Centrelink, who have had to relocate may be able to access the Crisis Payment. More information about eligibility requirements can be found here.
- A one-off lump sum emergency payment is available through the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (‘DFFH’) for people affected by the floods, to assist with immediate and essential needs, like emergency shelter, food, clothing or personal items. This is not a social security payment but we thought it important to raise awareness of its availability. Further information about the payment and application process can be found here.
The following is a brief overview of other relevant social security information and issues which may arise as a result of a disaster.
- Suspension of mutual obligation requirements and debt repayments can be requested by contacting Centrelink and explaining the impact of the floods upon meeting these responsibilities.
- Identification documents are often required to apply for new payments. Where a person loses their identity documents due to a disaster, an Alternative Identity Form can be used to temporarily establish identity for the purpose of receiving payments.
- Centrelink recipients must update Centrelink about any change in circumstances that might affect their payment, within 14 days. This includes relocation and changes in care of children. Updating Centrelink about changes in circumstances decreases the risk of overpayments and future debts.
- Relocating from the principal home can mean the home is included in Centrelink’s assets test, as it is no longer subject to the primary residence exemption. Centrelink recipients who relocate from their principal home due to the floods, can seek to have their home be exempted from the assets test under ‘temporary vacation of property’ provisions for up 12 months (with a further extension of 12 months available upon request). These exemptions are not automatic and usually need to be requested in consultation with Centrelink. There are also provisions which allow insurance payouts to be exempted from the Centrelink assets test.
- Centrelink will sometimes send important notices and correspondence via post, particularly where legislation requires this. Centrelink recipients should turn their mind to whether they will be able to receive post, and update their postal address with Centrelink if necessary. Many post offices allow post to be sent to their care.
- Experiencing a disaster can be considered a ‘special circumstance’ for the purpose of a Compensation Preclusion Period reduction or waiver of a debt. We are available to speak about how this may apply to specific client circumstances.
Social security law is complex, and the above is not comprehensive legal advice. But hopefully this helps you identify issues that may arise for your clients in flood affected areas. You can reach out to us if you would like to discuss any of these in more detail. Our contact details are available below.
Disability Support Pension (DSP) Webinar
We’re running an online webinar about the DSP on Thursday, 10 November 2022, 10:00-11:30am. If you missed the sessions we ran at the FCVic Conference this year this is your chance to catch up on the content, and also a great opportunity for anyone else who wants more info about the DSP. You can find all the details here.
We’re also going to be running another session on the DSP in November. Sign up to our mailing list to get details about this as soon as they’re available.
Keep in touch
SSRV is now producing a regular newsletter. If you aren’t receiving it already,you can subscribe using the link at the bottom of our website. We regularly post news and other updates there. You can also follow up on Facebook.