The Morrison Government continues to deliver the essential social services that Australians depend on while providing a supercharged social security safety net as part of our Economic Recovery Plan for Australia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the Government has acted swiftly and decisively to address the significant impacts of the pandemic on Australians, their jobs and the economy by providing an unprecedented level of support.
“This Budget delivers a range of initiatives to support Australia’s economic recovery, including extending and further targeting temporary measures specifically aimed at improving the wellbeing of individuals and families across Australia,” Minister Ruston said.
Measures in the 2020-21 Federal Budget include:
- Two additional $250 Economic Support Payments, the first to be provided from December 2020 and the second from early 2021.
- Supporting more vulnerable welfare recipients through the Cashless Debit Card.
- Temporary changes to the independence test for Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY applicants.
- Temporary changes to the Paid Parental Leave work test.
- Securing the pay of thousands of community sector workers.
Economic support payments
About 5.1 million Australians on lower incomes will benefit from two separate $250 Economic Support Payments at a cost of $2.6 billion over three years from 2020-21. The $250 payments will be delivered progressively from December 2020 to Age Pensioners, Disability Support Pensioners, eligible veterans, concession cardholders and other social security recipients. When combined with the first two $750 Economic Support Payments earlier this year, a total of $12 billion in additional assistance is being delivered to Australian households.
In addition, funding of $28.3 million will be provided to extend the successful Be Connected partnership with the eSafety Commissioner and the Good Things Foundation to 30 June 2024 so older Australians can learn online skills to safely bank, pay bills and access services online while also remaining connected with their families and communities.
Cashless Debit Card
The Government will make the Cashless Debit Card ongoing in the existing sites of Ceduna region, South Australia, the East Kimberley and the Goldfields regions, Western Australia, and the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, Queensland. This will provide certainty to participants and the wider communities and allow for further investment to enhance the technology which sits around the CDC to improve user experience. The Government remains committed to the transition of Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card in the Northern Territory and the Cape York region in Queensland. The CDC is becoming one of the most sophisticated bank cards in Australia and supports vulnerable welfare recipients to improve their financial literacy.
Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY
To support young Australians affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, the Government is making a temporary change to the criteria used to determine independence for Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY. Each year thousands of young Australians take a gap year to meet the workforce participation criteria which requires them to work 30 hours per week for at least 18 months within a two-year period to be deemed independent of their parents and thus not subject to the Parental Income Test. From 1 January 2021, all Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY applicants will automatically be deemed to have worked over the six month period 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020. This will assist young people who sought work while on a gap year in 2020 and means they only need to meet the balance of the workforce participation criteria.
Paid Parental Leave
The Government is also supporting new parents whose employment was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing an alternative Paid Parental Leave work test period for a limited time. Under normal circumstances parents must have worked 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of their child to qualify but that is being temporarily extended to 10 months out of the 20 months for births and adoptions that occur between 22 March 2020 and 31 March 2021. This measure is estimated to allow about 9,000 mothers to regain eligibility for Parental Leave Pay and allow a further 3,500 people to claim Dad and Partner Pay.
This Budget also provides a boost of $84.5 million over three years from 1 July 2021 to extend critical frontline parenting and financial support programs. This funding will ensure ongoing access to children and parenting support services and financial services such as no or low interest loans, money support hubs and financial counselling for problem gambling.
The Government is securing the pay of thousands of social workers, disability advocates, financial counsellors and others employed by charities and community organisations which run programs for the Department of Social Services. From 1 July 2021 more than $44 million a year has been allocated to top up the base funding for grant programs impacted by the cessation of the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account. There are more than 500,000 people working in these vital industries including youth, disability, family, financial counselling and emergency relief support services where women represent about 84 per cent of the workforce.
To support parents who have lost a child to stillbirth with the personal, social and financial impacts, the Government has committed $7.6 million to address inconsistences in payments for families impacted by the devastating event irrespective of whether the child is stillborn or passes away within its first year and irrespective of whether it is their first or subsequent claim.