Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Social Security Asset Test exemption for Canberra fire victims extended for 12 months

The Australian Government will extend for a further 12 months the assets test exemption to those people on income support whose homes were destroyed in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson announced today.

“Centrelink customers normally have a 12-month period from the date they leave their family home during which time the value of their home and land is exempt from the social security assets test,” she said.

“Because of the delays and difficulties faced by people who want to rebuild their homes in Canberra, the Australian Government has moved to ensure their social security payments will continue as if the value of the principal home and land continues to be exempt for social security purposes for up to a further 12 months. ”

To ensure customers’ needs are met, Centrelink has established a dedicated unit to receive information from eligible Centrelink customers and to review individual circumstances.

Customers should call Centrelink on (02) 6200 5639 if people are unable to inhabit their principal homes and wish Centrelink payments to continue.

Senator Patterson said: “For those Centrelink income support customers whose owner-occupied homes were destroyed in the bushfires and have faced a delay outside their control in the rebuilding, it is only fair to exempt the value of their home and land for a further year.

“In the ACT, 488 homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable. The scale of fire damage to properties requiring rebuilding, combined with the residential housing and renovation boom, has resulted in substantial delays in repairing and rebuilding.

“The Australian Government is well aware of the loss and dislocation suffered by those affected by the bushfires and the challenges many have faced in rebuilding their homes and lives. We have moved quickly to ensure those people who receive income support can continue to be confident they will receive ongoing assistance while they get back on their feet.”

The social security system provides a continuing exemption for the home where a customer vacates the home for any reason up to 12 months. If the absence is beyond 12 months, the residence ceases to be treated as a home and becomes an assessable asset.