Special Benefit from 1945

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Milestones

Details

1945
July

Special Benefit introduced

Special Benefit (SpB) designed to provide for those ineligible for other pensions and benefits. Granted at Director-General’s discretion to a person who because of age, physical or mental disability, domestic circumstances or any other reason, was unable to provide for themselves and dependants.

SpB rate determined by Director-General, but not exceeding UB or SB rate, whichever most appropriate to beneficiary’s situation. Commencement date and payment period of payment also at Director-General’s discretion.

Payment could be made conditional on beneficiary undertaking training, undergoing a medical examination, receiving treatment or doing work as required.

1947
July

SpB recipients exempt from requirement to undertake training or medical or rehabilitation treatment.

1960
February

Restrictions on eligibility of Aboriginal people removed.

1975
May

SpB payable to newly-released prisoners to bridge one-week UB and SB waiting period.

1976
July

SpB became taxable.

1986
May

Rent Assistance payable

RA payable to SpB recipients on benefits for over six months, excluding those aged 18 to 24 years living with parents or guardians.

1988
August

A more stringent test of hardship, which took greater account of a person's liquid assets, applied to SpB applicants. Reviews of SpB recipients, especially long-term recipients, conducted on a regular basis.

1988
September

Migrants entering Australia with an Assurance of Support from another person to be supported by that person for up to 10 years. SpB payments to such migrants created a debt recoverable from the assuror.

1988
November

Revised SpB guidelines to avoid payments in unintended circumstances.

1989
January

Initial SpB payment to ex‑prisoners doubled.

1989
November

Applicants for, and recipients of, benefit required to provide tax file number.

1990
August

SpB eligibility extended to holders of four-year temporary entry permits.

Disaster relief payment, equivalent to two weeks of maximum age pension rate, introduced for those beneficiaries experiencing disruption because of a major natural disaster. Backdated to December 1989 to cover Newcastle earthquake.

1991
January

SpB applicants and recipients required to provide spouse’s tax file number.

1991
April

Computerised data matching to detect inconsistent payments made to people by two or more Commonwealth agencies. DSS, Department of Veterans' Affairs, Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, Department of Employment, Education and Training and Australian Taxation Office involved.

People who held conditional two-year residence permits on the basis of a relationship with an Australian resident which had been applied for after 15 April 1991 eligible for SpB at discretion of Secretary of DSS.

1991
December

People who entered agreements with the Commonwealth undertaking to assure support for migrants who were unlikely to be able to support themselves were required to lodge a refundable bond with the Commonwealth Bank. SpB expenditure on these migrants to be deducted from the bond with any residue refunded when the migrant had been settled in Australia for two years.

1992
August

The 1992–93 Budget announced that from March 1993, 20 000 reviews of SpB recipients would be conducted to determine whether they should be receiving other DSS pensions or benefits.

1993
March

SpB claimants not expected to qualify for more than a 13-week period subject to reviews before payment continued beyond 13 weeks. These claimants restricted to a maximum duration on SpB of 52 weeks with a further 13 week-extension at Secretary’s discretion.

1997
March

Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period of 104 weeks for a range of payments introduced for migrants arriving after 4 March 1997. Refugees and their immediate family, and certain spouse visa holders, exempt. However, SpB payable to those serving the waiting period if had suffered a substantial change in situation because of circumstances beyond their control.

2000
July

GST compensation

Allowances rates for all recipients increased by four per cent as part of a package of measures to compensate for the impact of the introduction of the GST. Indexation provisions adjusted so that half of this increase was an advance on whatever rate increase occurred in March 2001, leaving an effective long-term increase of two per cent in the allowance rate.

2003
January

Certain classes of newly arrived residents of work force age applying for SpB subject to an activity test. Exemptions from this requirement similar to those applying to NSA.

2007
August

Income management

Allowances could be subject to income management in the Northern Territory and Cape York. Income management involved diversion of 50 per cent of a recipient’s income support into an account that could only be drawn on to pay for priority needs, such as food, clothes and rent.

2007
September

Non-resident parents with care of a child between 14 per cent and 34 per cent of nights per year were paid at the ‘with child’ rate.

2008
December

SEAM

SEAM provisions commenced. Centrelink empowered to suspend for up to 13 weeks and then cancel income support payments where a recipient’s child does not comply with school enrolment or attendance requirements.

SpB recipients of age pension age received economic security strategy payments of $1400 for singles and $2100 for couples—part of the Economic Security Strategy to boost the economy after the GFC.

2009
July

Definition of ‘member of a couple’ changed to include same-sex couples.

2010
April

Disadvantaged income support recipients able to receive payments weekly rather than fortnightly.

2010
July

Principal carers with school aged children eligible for participation requirement exemptions in specified circumstances, such as those who experienced domestic violence or cared for four or more children.

2012
January

Provisional Partner Visa holders applying for SpB no longer exempt from the requirement to demonstrate a substantial change in their circumstances beyond their control.

2012
June

Clean Energy Advance paid to compensate those receiving allowances for the expected impact of the Carbon Tax.

SEAM extended compelling recipients to attend conferences regarding their child’s attendance, and to comply with school attendance plan.

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