Media Release by The Hon Dan Tehan MP

A sustainable welfare safety net to support all Australians

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Michael Keenan MP
    Minister for Human Services
    Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation

The Turnbull Government is continuing to provide a genuine safety net for those most in need, while making it more sustainable by strengthening the integrity of the system.

Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan said the Turnbull Government was focussed on helping Australians take advantage of the more than 1,000 jobs being created every day in the economy.

“A sustainable welfare safety net helps the Government live within its means, which guarantees support is provided to those who need it the most,” Mr Tehan said.

“That is why the Government is providing $53.9 million to enable more students from regional and remote Australia to qualify for Youth Allowance, or receive a higher rate of payment, and $92.6 million to ensure existing clients of Commonwealth disability support programs who are ineligible for the NDIS continue to receive the support they need.

“We will ensure our targeted safety net helps people when they need it, but that people receive only what they are entitled to – nothing more and nothing less. Where welfare recipients have received money they are not entitled do, we will ensure those debts are repaid.

“We will improve the integrity of the welfare system by working with the states to suspend payments to those who have outstanding warrants for indictable criminal offences, and enabling those with court-imposed fines to deduct payments from their welfare.”   

We are also improving the technology that powers the welfare payment system to make it faster and easier for Australians to deal with Centrelink.

Human Services Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said the funding for technological enhancements in this year’s budget would deliver multiple benefits such as reducing claim processing times and the cost of administering the payment system.

“Digital innovation is not just limited to the welfare system, it is being driven across the whole of government with the aim of making life as easy as possible for those dealing with a variety of departments,” Mr Keenan said.

“Enabling people to conduct most of their business online removes the need for them to visit government offices or call us with questions, speeding up the time it takes to process their claims.

“While we deliver these major transformation projects, we remain committed to ensuring Australians can access the services they need which is why we are also boosting our telephone capacity.”

Digitally transforming the welfare payment system

  • From 1 July 2018, $316.2 million will be rolled out over four years to enhance how welfare benefits are claimed and processed. The Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation Programme (WPIT) has already delivered significant improvements to the way students access Austudy and Youth Allowance payments. Those claiming job seeker, age and disability pensions and carer payments will be the next to reap the benefits from digital transformation.
  • Improving the way Australians interact with Government services is also a priority and we have allocated $50 million in 2018-19 to manage customer demand while the Department of Human Services continues to transform delivery of payments and services.

Delivering Australia’s digital future

  • From 1 July 2018, the Government will invest $92.4 million in the next phase of work on its whole of government digital identity solution. Govpass will unlock access to a host of online services, while reducing the burden on individuals to have to prove who they are each time they want to make a transaction. The funding will build the underlying infrastructure for Govpass and roll out pilot services to over 500,000 users, delivering a range of benefits such as being able to create a Tax File Number online from as early as October 2018.
  • The Government is also investing $20.5 million over the forward estimates to reform the Australian data system. A new data sharing and release framework will be introduced to strengthen the Government’s use, sharing and management of data. A National Data Commissioner will be appointed to oversee and monitor the framework. New legislation will streamline how government agencies use and reuse public data, subject to appropriate data safeguards. This measure is in addition to the measure and investment the Government is making in the Consumer Data Right.

Supporting families and people with disability

  • $64.3 million for the Jobs and Market Fund to support the growth of disability service providers and the disability care workforce to meet the needs of the NDIS.
  • $9.9 million in grants to Disability Employment Service providers to adjust to changes in the program while continuing to offer better quality support and services to Australians with disability seeking employment.
  • An additional $11.5 million over 18 months has been committed to meet increased demand whilst providing 48 trauma specialist counsellors to 1800RESPECT, the national domestic and family violence and sexual assault counselling, information and support service.  
  • An additional $6.7 million to train around 7,400 frontline workers such as nurses, counsellors, disability and settlement services workers to help them identify and support victims of domestic and family violence.

Supporting regional students

  • The Government is increasing the Youth Allowance parental income cut-off for the regional workforce self-supporting independence criteria from $150,000 to $160,000. The new $160,000 cut-off will be increased by $10,000 for each additional child in the family. The Government is also changing the year for assessing parental income to the year prior to any gap year. Students will know whether their parental income is above or below the cut-off before they make the decision to defer university studies, take a gap year and work, to qualify as independent.
  • $38.1 million for ABSTUDY recipients to ensure secondary students who move away from home to study remain supported. The Government will also make it easier for scholarships to be approved under ABSTUDY.

Ensuring welfare integrity and sustainability so Government lives within its means  

  • From 1 March 2019, welfare recipients who have not paid a court-imposed fine will have money deducted from their regular payment until the debt is paid. Welfare recipients with outstanding warrants for indictable criminal offences will have their payment suspended for up to four weeks or until the warrant is cleared, and cancelled thereafter where the warrant remains outstanding.  The Commonwealth Government will work closely with state and territory governments to identify welfare recipients with outstanding warrants for serious criminal offences and court-imposed fines.
  • From 1 July 2019, the Government will focus on the recovery of Centrelink debts over $10,000 and speedier repayments from people who have the capacity to pay and are no longer reliant on welfare. Over $1.2 billion in Centrelink overpayments is owed to the Government by people no longer on welfare payments and not in a repayment arrangement. The Government will also continue its data-matching programs for an additional year to reduce welfare overpayments and maintain the integrity of the welfare system.
  • From 1 January 2019, Disability Support Pension recipients who are in prison will have their payments suspended for 13 weeks rather than the current two years before being cancelled. This provides consistency with other income support payment recipients. Once released, they can reapply for the Disability Support Pension or an alternate income support payment, such as Newstart.