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The department delivers payments and programs that support families, people with disability, carers, older Australians, job seekers and students.

In 2017–18 the department delivered $112.4 billion in Social Security and Welfare payments to customers.

The department also improved the readability of the department’s website—in particular, job seekers now have clearer information on how to claim Youth Allowance as a student or apprentice or Youth Allowance as a job seeker.

Customers who use the Centrelink Online Account now have a new landing page for their account. The new page makes it easier for them to interact with the department in the digital channel.

The department uses Virtual Assistants on the ‘Families’ and ‘Students and job seekers’ web pages on the department’s website. Virtual Assistants assist users by providing quick answers to many questions and encourage customers to stay in the digital channel.


In 2017–18 the department processed more than three million claims for Social Security and Welfare. When compared with 2016–17, the volumes of claims finalised remained steady across most payment types. Due to legislative changes to the Age Pension qualifying age in 2017–18, fewer Age Pension claims were finalised. Seniors Health Care Card and Low Income Card claim numbers returned to normal levels after a legislative change increased levels in 2016–17.

The department is committed to transforming the delivery of welfare payments and making it easier for people to claim online. An enhanced online claim was released for Newstart and Parenting Payment, which reduced the touch points throughout the claim experience.

The enhanced online claim provides:

  • upfront advice about eligibility, allowing customers to stream out if they are unlikely to qualify
  • the ability for customers to monitor the progress of their claims
  • an enhanced customer experience by reusing information already at hand, making it easier to claim.
Table 7: Claims finalised for each payment type

Payment type

Claims finalised 2016–17

Claims finalised 2017–18








33 000

26 000

7 000

32 000

25 000

7 000

Age Pension

174 000

129 000

45 000

127 000

95 000

32 000

Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) Scheme

5 000

4 000

1 000

7 000

5 000

2 000

Bereavement Allowance

1 500

1 000


1 400

1 000


Carer Payment and Carer Allowance

219 000

139 000

80 000

236 000

149 000

87 000

Child Care Benefit

355 000

313 000

42 000

389 000

357 000

32 000

Crisis Payment

86 000

81 000

5 000

79 000

73 000

6 000

Dad and Partner Pay

101 000

95 000

6 000

103 000

93 000

10 000

Disability Support Pension

97 000

27 000

70 000

104 000

31 000

73 000

Double Orphan Pension







Family Tax Benefit

575 000

435 000

140 000

547 000

414 000

133 000

Low Income Card

362 000

288 000

74 000

283 000

205 000

78 000

Mobility Allowance

10 000

5 000

5 000

9 000

4 000

5 000

Newstart Allowance

661 000

483 000

178 000

562 000

424 000

138 000

Paid Parental Leave

307 000

287 000

20 000

294 000

273 000

21 000

Parenting Payment

189 000

102 000

87 000

142 000

82 000

60 000

Pensioner Education Supplement (incl. ABSTUDY PES)

44 000

38 000

6 000

43 000

37 000

6 000

Seniors Health Care Card

133 000

121 000

12 000

43 000

29 000

14 000

Sickness Allowance

32 000

16 000

16 000

28 000

15 000

13 000

Special Benefit

11 000

6 000

5 000

10 000

5 000

5 000

Stillborn Baby Payment

1 500

1 000


1 500

1 000


Widow Allowance

3 000

2 000

1 000

2 500

2 000


Youth Allowance (incl. Austudy)

430 000

268 000

162 000

351 000

240 000

111 000

Note: Figures in the table have been rounded. The total claims finalised in 2016-17 was presented in the 2016-17 Annual Report as a rounded figure and slight differences may occur.

Grandparent Advisers provide tailored assistance to non-parent carers

It can be very daunting for people who unexpectedly find themselves responsible for a child’s ongoing care. But support is available via the Department of Human Services’ Grandparent Adviser network.

Jennifer, who is a Grandparent Adviser, not only works with grandparents, but with non-parent carers as well to help them understand the payments and services they might be eligible for, such as child care payments and Medicare services.

‘Being a Grandparent Adviser gives me the opportunity to link people directly to financial support as well as other services,’ Jennifer said.

‘We help make a positive difference in the lives of the young people they care for.’

Jennifer knows that not everybody finds it easy to make that first call for help.

‘Many people find it hard or embarrassing,’ she said.

‘When they do call us, it is often during a traumatic time in their lives—there are many reasons why someone becomes a long-term carer for a child who isn’t their own.

‘By the time they reach out, they’re often in financial hardship.

‘We urge people to call us before visiting an office, because we can walk them through the process and let them know what to expect ahead of time.

‘We help with tasks such as booking appointments with the department, and can step people through how to use our online services.

‘In addition to helping people access services through the department, we can also link people to services in their local areas, such as support groups.’

Grandparent Advisers are located all around Australia.


The department administers a range of payments to help families to meet the costs of raising children. The payments help families with:

  • the general costs of raising a child
  • costs associated with newborn babies or newly adopted children
  • schooling costs
  • costs faced in special circumstances.

The department also runs programs to help parents who are planning to return to work or education; and grandparents and non‑parent carers who are seeking information about payments and services.

General costs of raising a child

The payments that help families with the general costs of raising children are:

  • Family Tax Benefit
  • Parenting Payment
  • Child Care Program payments.

The Family Tax Benefit assists families with the day‑to‑day cost of raising children. The Family Tax Benefit has two parts—Family Tax Benefit Part A, which is paid per child; and Family Tax Benefit Part B, which is paid to the family. Both payments are income tested, and the amount each family is paid is based on the family’s individual circumstances.

The Parenting Payment is an income support payment for parents or guardians to help with the cost of raising children. To qualify for the Parenting Payment, customers must be:

  • single and caring for at least one child aged under eight years, or
  • partnered and caring for at least one child aged under six years.

Parenting Payment is income tested and assets tested (for both the parent and their partner). The customer must also meet residency requirements and participation requirements where necessary.

The Child Care Program helps families to cover the cost of child care. It consists of:

  • the Child Care Benefit, which assists with child care fees
  • the Child Care Rebate, which assists with out‑of‑pocket expenses for child care
  • Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance, which supports eligible parents who are entering or re‑entering the workforce.

The existing Child Care Program ended on 1 July 2018. From 2 July 2018 the three payments listed above were replaced with two new payments:

  • the Child Care Subsidy, which is a single means‑tested subsidy paid directly to Child Care services to reduce the out‑of‑pocket costs for families
  • the Additional Child Care Subsidy, which gives families extra help with the cost of approved child care.

In 2017–18 the department worked closely with the Department of Education and Training to implement the new Child Care Program and develop a new integrated information and communications technology (ICT) system for the program. The department also provided families with information about how their current entitlements may change under the new program and how to move to the new payment system.

Newborns and newly adopted children

Payments that help parents with expenses for newborn or newly adopted children are:

  • the Newborn Upfront Payment
  • the Newborn Supplement
  • Parental Leave Scheme payments.

The Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement increase a person’s rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A for up to 13 weeks to help with the upfront costs of a newborn child, a child aged under one year who becomes entrusted to a person’s care or a child placed for adoption. Families cannot receive Parental Leave Pay as well as Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement for the same child.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme payments help eligible parents to take time off work to care for a new baby or recently adopted child. There are two payments under the scheme:

  • Parental Leave Pay, which is a payment to parents of newborns and newly adopted children
  • Dad and Partner Pay, which is a short‑term payment to fathers or partners who are on leave to help care for a new child.

To receive the payments, a person must meet an income test and work test and also meet residency requirements.


The School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) operated in the Northern Territory and was designed to raise the level of children’s education by linking school enrolment and attendance to income support payments. SEAM ceased on 31 December 2017.

Special circumstances

The department administers payments to families who are in special circumstances. Currently there are two payments:

  • Stillborn Baby Payment
  • Double Orphan Pension.

The Stillborn Baby Payment assists families with the extra costs they face when their child is stillborn. These families cannot receive both Parental Leave Pay and the Stillborn Baby Payment for the same child.

The Double Orphan Pension is available to help with the cost of caring for children who:

  • are orphans
  • have one parent who has died and the other parent unable to care for them due to special circumstances, or
  • are refugees and cannot be cared for by their parents.

This payment is not income tested or asset tested.

Other projects to assist families

The ParentsNext Program helps parents with children under six to plan and prepare for future study or work. Providers work with parents to help them to identify their education and employment goals, develop pathways to achieve their goals and link them to activities and services in the local community.

ParentsNext is delivered in local government areas in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. The department refers eligible people in these areas to a ParentsNext provider.

As part of the announcement in the 2017–18 Budget that the program will be rolled out nationally, from 1 July 2018 ParentsNext will be expanded. The national expansion will be delivered in two streams:

  • the first stream will deliver a targeted ParentsNext to the most disadvantaged parents in all 51 Employment Regions
  • the second stream will deliver a more intensive ParentsNext in the existing ten locations and a further 20 locations where there is a high proportion of Parenting Payment recipients who are Indigenous. The more intensive stream of ParentsNext will have a stronger employment focus to help meet the employment Closing the Gap target.

The Grandparent Adviser Program was established for grandparents and other non‑parent carers who have ongoing caring responsibility for children. Grandparent Advisers understand the unique challenges that grandparents and non‑parent carers face. They give tailored information about payments and services that are available through the Australian Government, state and territory governments and community service providers.

Grandparent Advisers give assistance through the Grandparent Adviser Line and when attending community forums and working with care organisations in each state and territory.

In 2017–18, 18 873 calls were answered through the Grandparent Adviser Freecall phone service.


The department delivers payments to people with disability who cannot earn a full income because of a medical condition; and to carers who cannot earn a full income because they are providing care for someone with a disability of medical condition, or someone who is frail aged.

In 2017–18 a new assessment process for the Disability Support Pension (DSP) was introduced. The new process has led to a reduction in the number of DSP claims requiring a full Job Capacity Assessment (JCA) as well as a decrease in DSP claim processing times.

People with disability

The department delivers the following payments for people with disability:

  • DSP
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Mobility Allowance.

DSP provides financial support to people who have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops them from working. People who claim DSP must undertake an assessment process.

Sickness Allowance is for people who are employed or self‑employed or in some cases in full‑time study. It provides a short‑term payment to those who are temporarily unable to do their usual work or study because of a medical condition.

Mobility Allowance helps people with disability, illness or injury who cannot use public transport without substantial assistance. The allowance provides help with transport costs for study, training or work or to look for work.


In July 2017 the department implemented a new and improved assessment process for DSP after a successful pilot in May 2017. The new process makes it simpler and faster to claim DSP. It also clarifies the claiming process. It ensures that claimants have clear advice on the medical evidence they must have when claiming DSP. The assessment process aims to:

  • provide claimants and their treating doctors with clear information about the evidence they will need when they submit a claim for DSP
  • conduct earlier expert assessments of medical evidence for people who are clearly unable to work, so that their claims can be fast‑tracked
  • use the earlier expert assessments to also identify those who are not eligible for DSP. This ensures that ineligible claimants do not attend multiple assessments only to find that they are not eligible
  • ensure that only those who require a comprehensive medical assessment need to attend JCAs. This serves to improve the time frames for these assessments and reduce requests to claimants for additional medical evidence to support their claim.

The department supports the following payments to carers:

  • Carer Payment
  • Carer Allowance.

Carer Payment is an income support payment for carers who cannot take on substantial paid employment because they are providing care for another person who has high care needs. To be eligible for Carer Payment, a carer must be providing constant care for:

  • an adult or child with disability or a medical condition, or
  • an adult who is frail aged.

In 2017–18 nearly 53 000 new claims for Carer Payment were granted.

Carer Allowance is an income supplement for people who provide additional daily care and attention for:

  • an adult or child with disability or a medical condition, or
  • an adult who is frail aged.

In 2017–18 more than 96 000 new claims for Carer Allowance were granted.

Working with the National Disability Insurance Agency on the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The department has a longstanding relationship with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). In 2017–18 it supported the rollout of the NDIS by:

  • successfully building and supporting the NDIA ICT business system, which incorporates the NDIA’s business systems, information management and corporate systems
  • providing contact centre services that help providers and participants transition to the full‑scheme NDIS
  • providing corporate shared services, including human resources and payroll services
  • providing property accommodation solutions through a national co‑location program
  • seconding senior staff to the NDIA.

On 20 April 2018, the NDIA announced it had engaged Serco Citizen Services Pty Ltd (Serco) as its service delivery partner for contact centre services with a two year contract. Serco is now operating the NDIA contact centre services out of locations in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Since 12 June 2018, the department has been assisting the NDIA to transition contact centre services to Serco.


The department delivers the following payments to older Australians and aged care providers on behalf of older Australians:

  • Age Pension for those aged 65.5 years and over who meet residence and income and assets requirements
  • subsidies and supplements to approved aged care providers to assist in providing care for older Australians
  • incentive payments to eligible aged care workers for specified education and training programs.
Age Pension

Age Pension is a regular payment for eligible older Australians. It also gives customers access to a range of concessions.

Age Pension is income and assets tested. Age Pension customers’ entitlements are assessed under the Social Security Income and Assets Tests.

In 2017–18 there were approximately 2.5 million Age Pension customers.

From 1 July 2017, the age pension age increased to 65.5 years for people born on or after 1 July 1952. The age pension age will progressively increase by six months every two years until it reaches 67 on 1 July 2023.

In 2017–18:

  • 61 per cent of age pensioners received the full‑rate pension and 39 per cent received a part‑rate pension based on their income and assets
  • women made up 55 per cent and men 45 per cent of the Age Pension population
  • the department paid over $44.6 billion in Age Pension payments.

The department uses an online transfer system to make it easier for eligible people to transfer from some income support payments to Age Pension. The system uses existing information to pre‑populate fields. This means people need to provide only the information that the department does not already have.

Automation of income stream reviews

Age Pension recipients, concession cardholders and their partners must give the department information about their income streams so that the department can calculate their entitlements under the Social Security Income and Assets Tests.

From 1 January 2018, the Automation of ISRs measure introduced an electronic data transfer to allow the department to collect income stream information directly from income stream providers. The information received is used to review and update the income stream products held on customer records.

From 1 January 2019, the electronic data transfer will be mandatory for all income stream providers other than SMSFs and SAFs.

Real estate valuations

When the department assesses whether a person qualifies for a pension, benefit or allowance, it takes into account the value of that person’s assets. The department analyses the individual circumstances of a customer and their real estate (excluding the family home and up to two hectares on one title) to determine whether a valuation is required.

When needed, the department arranges for a professional valuation or estimate verification of assets. To maintain the current value, an annual indexation percentage is applied to eligible assets.

Income and assets assessments for people entering aged care

The department continues to perform means‑testing assessments for people who are entering aged care. The means test is based on a combined assets and income based assessment and calculation. The means test for people accessing a Home Care Package is based on an income‑based assessment only. The means test for those accessing a Residential Care Package is based on both assets and income to determine to what extent the recipient is eligible for government‑subsidised care.


The department provides income support payments to job seekers and those in full‑time study.

Job seekers

The department delivers the following payments to job seekers:

  • Newstart Allowance
  • Youth Allowance (Job Seekers).

The department also administers the Jobs PaTH Internship Program, which gives people an opportunity to gain experience and skills in the workplace.

The department assesses payment eligibility for those who are seeking employment but who have medical conditions and other barriers to employment.

Newstart Allowance gives financial help to people looking for work. Recipients must be looking for suitable paid work. Also, they must be aged 22 years or over but under age pension age.

Newstart Allowance recipients need to meet income and assets tests and residency requirements. They may also need to meet mutual obligation requirements (see below).

In 2017–18 the department introduced pre‑submission requirements for Newstart Allowance customers. Claimants now need to provide their supporting documentation before they submit a claim (exception rules apply to vulnerable customers). The new requirements have resulted in a reduction in the number of claims being submitted for assessment. In the past these claims would have been made, processed and rejected because the claimant had failed to supply documents or information.

Youth Allowance is an income support payment to job seekers generally aged between 16 and 21 years.

Youth Allowance recipients need to meet income and assets tests and residency requirements. They may also need to meet mutual obligation requirements (see below).

In 2017–18 the department introduced pre‑submission requirements similar to those for Newstart Allowance customers (see above).


The community expects income support recipients to do all they can to find suitable work.

The Job Seeker Compliance Framework, which was introduced in 2009, aims to ensure that job seekers who are receiving income support payments are actively seeking work and contributing to the community that is supporting them while they are looking for work.

Under the framework, job seekers who receive payments must meet mutual obligation requirements—that is, they must attend appointments and participate in activities designed to help them get into work. If a job seeker does not meet the requirements without a good reason, they may have their payments suspended.

For example, if a job seeker does not attend a compulsory appointment and does not have a good reason for that, an employment services provider may suspend their income support payment. That job seeker’s payment will usually be suspended until the job seeker attends a rescheduled appointment. This approach prompts the job seeker to quickly re‑engage with their employment services provider and to meet their mutual obligation requirements.

If a job seeker does not meet a mutual obligation requirement, the provider may report this to the department for investigation. When a job seeker does not have a reasonable excuse for not meeting their mutual obligation requirements, they may face a financial penalty.

Job seekers who receive Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment Single or Special Benefit (paid under Newstart Allowance conditions) must meet mutual obligation requirements.

Table 8 below shows the number of payment recipients who had mutual obligation requirements in 2017–18.

Table 8: Customers with mutual obligation requirements, by payment type




Newstart Allowance

732 100

733 088

727 533

Youth Allowance

98 100

101 045

94 009

Special Benefit(d)

1 030

2 687

3 043

Parenting Payment Single(e)

50 406

49 535

48 734


881 636

886 355

873 319

(a) Source: Department of Social Services on 6 July 2016.

(b) Source: Department of Social Services on 6 July 2017.

(c) Source: Department of Social Services on 29 June 2018.

(d) The majority of Special Benefit recipients are not activity tested.

(e) Parenting Payment Single recipients are not subject to compulsory mutual obligation requirements until their youngest dependent child turns six years of age.


The Seasonal Work Incentives Trial, which commenced on 1 July 2017, allows eligible job seekers who participate in specified horticultural seasonal work to earn up to $5000 in a 12‑month period before their income is assessed under the income test. As at 30 June 2018, the trial had 278 participants.

The trial is due to end on 30 June 2020.


The Jobs PaTH Internship Program was implemented on 1 April 2017. Under the measure, young job seekers can gain real work experience within businesses. While job seekers are participating in the internship, they receive an Incentive Payment of $200 per fortnight on top of their regular income support payment. Each job seeker can be paid up to six payments.

To participate in the program, the job seeker must be:

  • receiving income support
  • accessing employment services from a provider for six months or more.

In 2017–18, 5059 individual job seekers participated in 5393 internships, and the Department of Jobs and Small Business paid $3.3 million in Incentive Payments.


The department, through assessment services, undertakes assessments of job seekers who have medical conditions so that it can identify their work capacity and what type of employment service is best suited to their circumstances. The two assessments are:

  • Employment Services Assessments (ESAts)
  • Job Capacity Assessments (JCAs).

An ESAt identifies the most appropriate type of employment service for job seekers with multiple and/or complex barriers. For job seekers with long‑term disability, illness or injury, an ESAt assesses the job seeker’s capacity to work.

Job seekers assessed as being able to work fewer than 30 hours per week have reduced mutual obligation requirements and may be eligible for supplementary payments such as Pharmaceutical Allowance and Youth Disability Supplement.

There are two types of ESAts:

  • medical—helps the department to assess capacity to work of a job seeker with long‑term illness, injury or disability and to identify the most suitable employment service for the job seeker
  • non‑medical—where no, or insufficient, medical evidence has been provided, a non‑medical ESAt is used to identify the most suitable employment service for the job seeker.

A JCA helps the department determine the impact of medical conditions and disabilities on a person’s ability to work and whether the person would benefit from employment assistance. A JCA is used as part of determining medical eligibility for DSP. People may be referred for a JCA if they are:

  • claiming DSP
  • undergoing a review of medical eligibility for DSP
  • seeking to have DSP paid indefinitely while they are outside Australia.

Assessment Services teams conduct the ESAts and JCAs. These multidisciplinary teams are located across Australia. Currently there are 50 teams in 210 locations.

The department employs the following types of qualified health and allied health professionals to perform assessments:

  • exercise physiologists
  • medical advisers
  • occupational therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • psychologists
  • registered nurses
  • rehabilitation counsellors
  • social workers
  • speech pathologists.

In 2017–18 the department employed 480 qualified health and allied health professionals in assessment roles.

Table 9 below shows the number of medical and non‑medical ESAts and JCAs the department completed each year.

Table 9: Types of assessments completed(a)




% change since 2016–17

Employment Services Assessment: non‑medical

13 596

17 367

12 524


Employment Services Assessment: medical

159 250

152 340

182 524


Job Capacity Assessment

97 698

88 717

49 701(b)



270 544

258 424

244 749


(a) Source: Department of Social Services.

(b) The significant reduction in the number of Job Capacity Assessments in 2017–18 is a positive outcome of the improved assessment process for new DSP claims that was introduced in 2017–18, as outlined on page 44 of this report.

Health Professional Advisory Unit

The Health Professional Advisory Unit (HPAU) strengthens DSP decision‑making by providing expert advice to departmental assessors and decision‑makers and providing medical opinion on matters before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It is a multidisciplinary unit comprising seven medical advisers and 17 health and allied health professionals across a virtual network.

The involvement of the HPAU on more complex issues provides assurance that the correct assessments are being made (observed by the Australian National Audit Office in its report Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension).

The HPAU provides ongoing specialist advice and input into training materials and procedures used by Assessment Services. This supports the quality and consistency of assessments provided by the department.

The HPAU also provides advice relating to ministerial complaints, media‑related cases and high‑profile matters. It works closely with the Department of Social Services (DSS) on DSP policy matters.

In addition, the HPAU carries out medical assessments for the department for:

  • foreign pensions
  • portability extensions due to a medical condition
  • indefinite portability of DSP.

HPAU medical advisers and health professionals also provide educational and professional development forums to relevant groups across the department.

In 2017–18 the HPAU received 1350 referrals, and there was a strong trend toward more complex, appeal‑based referrals.


The department administers the following payments to students:

  • Youth Allowance (Student Program)
  • Austudy
  • the Pensioner Education Supplement.

Youth Allowance (Student Program) is an income support payment for full‑time students and Australian Apprentices generally aged 16 to 24 years. Youth Allowance customers need to meet income and assets tests and residency requirements.

In 2017–18 the department finalised approximately 170 000 Youth Allowance (Student Program) claims.

ABSTUDY provides a means‑tested allowance and other supplementary benefits to eligible Indigenous students.

In 2017–18 the department administered $31.9 million in ABSTUDY travel and finalised approximately 32 000 ABSTUDY claims compared with $30.5 million in ABSTUDY travel and 33 000 finalised claims in 2016–17.

ABSTUDY claimants can provide an over‑the‑phone verbal declaration, removing the need for a paper‑based signed declaration form. In 2017–18, around 80 per cent of ABSTUDY claims were accepted over the phone through a staff‑assisted service.

Austudy assists full‑time students and Australian Apprentices aged 25 years or over.

In 2017–18 the department finalised approximately 51 000 new Austudy claims compared with approximately 64 000 in 2016–17.

The Pensioner Education Supplement is available as extra help with ongoing study costs for recipients of some department and DVA income support payments. The supplement is available to full‑time students and, in certain circumstances, to students approved to undertake part‑time study of at least 25 per cent of a full study load.

In 2017–18 the department finalised approximately 43 000 Pensioner Education Supplement claims compared with 43 000 in 2016–17.

Special Benefit

Special Benefit helps people in severe financial hardship who are not able to support themselves and their dependants and are not eligible for another payment.