Budget 2017: Welfare Changes
With the recent release of the 2017 Budget, here are five Centrelink changes that may affect you as a student at university. These are just a few of the changes that has occurred and hence if you would like to know more about the welfare changes please refer to the Department of Human Services page here: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/corporate/budget/budget-2017-18
1. Drug Testing and Drug Addiction Treatment
New recipients of the Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance (other; not student) will be subject to a random drug testing in a two year trial. This trial will start on the 1st of January 2018, and will be limited to 5000 welfare recipients in three trial locations. These locations are yet to be known.
Those who test positive on the initial drug test will be given a limited amount of money that they can withdraw as cash. The rest may be given in the form of a Cashless Debit Card, which works like a normal debit card however, it cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products, or to withdraw cash.
Those who test positive to more than one drug test in a 24 month period will be referred to a health professional to seek treatment options for their circumstances. Drug and alcohol addiction treatments will be included as an approved activity to count towards Annual Activity Requirements.
2. Personal Responsibility Phase (demerit point system) & Intensive Compliance Phase (three strikes phase)
From 1 July 2018, the Government will commence a Personal Responsibility Phase (demerits phase) to all job seekers. Failure to comply with requirements (such as missing an appointment without good reason), will result in payment suspension and demerit.
If someone accrues four demerit points in six months, they will enter the Intensive Compliance Phase (three strikes phase). Those will enter this phase will face incrementally stronger penalties:
- Lose 50% of their fortnightly payment on their first strike
- Lose 100% of their fortnightly payment on their second strike
- Payment cancelled for four weeks on their third strike.
Those who have a genuine reason for not meeting their requirement will not be subject to the Intensive Compliance Phase. Their capabilities will be assessed after their third demerit.
3. Changes to the eligibility criteria for the Disability Support Pension
The government will remove Impairment Table 6 – Functioning related to Alcohol, Drug and Other Substance abuse from the Social Security Determination Act 2011 from 1 July 2017. This means claimants suffering from substance abuse will be required to undergo treatment before any associated functional impairments can be considered to be fully diagnosed and assessed against the other remaining DSP impairment tables. This means, after 1 July 2017, people will no longer be able to qualify for DSP on the basis of their substance abuse alone.
Those currently on DSP before 1 July 2017 will not be affected.
4. Youth Allowance (Student) changes
- Increase in the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
At present, the maximum waiting period is 13 weeks for singles with more than $11500 and members of a couple with more than $23000. From 20 September 2018, the maximum length of the Liquid Assets Waiting Period will increase to 26 weeks. This is to encourage self-reliance prior to accessing welfare payments.
- Tightening of Relocation Scholarship
From 1 January 2018, students with a parental home, or have lived overseas in their family home for 6 months before they started their course will no longer be eligible to receive the relocation scholarship. Those who also have relocated to undertake part of their Australian course overseas will not be eligible for the Relocation Scholarship either.
5. Consolidation of payments:
A single JobSeeker Payment will replace or consolidate seven existing payments to simplify the current system. The seven existing payments are: Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Wife Pension, Partner Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, Widow B Pension, and Widow Allowance. This change will take place (progressively) on the 20th of March 2020.
These changes may affect a wide variety of students. The ANUSA Student Assistance Unit has a range of financial assistance available, including a range of grants. If you have been negatively impacted by these changes and require financial assistance, please contact a Student Assistance Officer. You can contact a Student Assistance Officer at email@example.com or 6125 2444.
If you would like to get involved in an ANUSA campaign opposing the parts of these changes that affect students, contact the Education Officer, Robyn Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would just like clarification on the changes proposed in the 2017 Budget, feel free to contact either the Robyn the Education Officer or a Student Assistance Officer via the email addresses listed above.