Problem with Centrelink? Welfare Rights Centre is here to help
Have you ever spent hours on the phone waiting to talk to Centrelink about Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Subsidy or perhaps a Covid-related payment? Are you confused about what Centrelink benefits you or your family might be entitled to? Has someone in your family been told they have a Centrelink debt that seems wrong or unfair? You may want to get in touch with Welfare Rights Centre.
Welfare Rights Centre is the most experienced organisation in NSW providing specialist, independent advice and assistance about social security and family assistance payments. They’ll provide free legal advice to members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association and their families about any payment administered by Centrelink including where you or a family member:
- have left employment – how to meet the ‘activity test’, waiting periods, and the income and assets test
- can no longer work due to injury or disability – eligibility criteria, evidential requirements and waiting periods
- need help understanding family support payments – how to report family income
- are trying to sort out issues after separating – proving separation, how assets and shared care of children affects payments
- have a Centrelink debt – appealing debts and debt waiver
- are retiring or just planning retirement – maximising income, and access pensions and concession cards
Their legal expertise regularly sees decisions changed and issues sorted.
If you contact Welfare Rights Centre, make sure you tell them you’re a member of the NSW Nurses & Midwives Association so you can be fast-tracked for advice. If your case has merit but isn’t easily resolved, a Welfare Rights Centre solicitor can represent you for free in an appeal to Centrelink or to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
How to contact Welfare Rights Centre
- By phone – 1800 226 028 (Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30 am to 1:30 pm) or 9211 5389 (Monday to Friday if the matter is urgent)
- Anytime via their website inquiry page
- Anytime by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Welfare Rights Centre has a long history supporting NSW union members. These are a couple of their recent successes:
Accessing income during unpaid leave
After experiencing complications during her second pregnancy, Freya took leave without pay from her nursing position while her husband continued working, earning about $900/week. It wasn’t enough to cover their mortgage and bills so Freya contacted Centrelink. She was told that she wouldn’t be entitled to any payments until the baby was born. Fortunately, she contacted her union, the NSW Nurses & Midwives Association, to ask for help, and was referred to Welfare Rights Centre.
Welfare Rights Centre’s solicitor spent time with Freya to establish the full circumstances of her situation. After confirming that she had a job to return to, the solicitor advised Freya that she should be eligible for Sickness Allowance, which was available to employees who were too unwell to work and had exhausted all their leave entitlements.
The solicitor also explained that Freya’s rate of Sickness Allowance would be reduced due to her husband’s income, which helped her get her head around their budget. Importantly, the solicitor stressed that she should claim Sickness Allowance as soon as possible, as it usually can’t be backdated, and outlined the documents she’d need to get her claim processed quickly.
Welfare Rights Centre’s support included checking Freya’s family assistance payments, confirming that Freya was receiving Family Tax Benefit for her first child and advising her to lodge a claim for Family Tax Benefit and Paid Parental Leave soon after the birth of her second child. Finally, the solicitor advised Freya of her appeal rights in case her claim was rejected. Freya was very happy with the advice and extremely relieved!
Support for teacher supporting brother with intellectual disability
Rose, a primary school teacher, referred to Welfare Rights Centre by her union as she was struggling to support her brother Lucas, as well as her young son.
Lucas, who was born with a disability in the UK, migrated from New Zealand to live with Rose as he required ongoing care. Lucas’s claim for Disability Support Pension (DSP) was rejected because the Australia/New Zealand Social Security Agreement effectively prevents payment of DSP if a person’s disability arose before they came to live in Australia or New Zealand.
As Lucas was not eligible for any Centrelink benefits in Australia, the Centre made an application for an Act of Grace to the Department of Finance. To demonstrate there were no viable alternative options available to Lucas to secure payments, the Centre undertook an intensive and exhaustive process of gathering evidence to demonstrate that Lucas was not eligible for income support from New Zealand or the United Kingdom, and also had no prospect of obtaining Australian citizenship.
The Australian Minister for Finance granted Lucas’s application for an Act of Grace payment equivalent to DSP until he would otherwise qualify for the Age Pension. Lucas and his sister were very happy, and the Centre held a Zoom meeting with him to celebrate!
This article was provided by the Welfare Rights Centre.