June 23, 2020 |
Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV) is a statewide specialist community legal centre focused on providing information, advice and representation around Centrelink payments and decisions. SSRV also runs a range of education activities around Australia’s social security system.
The COVID-19 health crisis has impacted on their work, with huge numbers of Victorians facing unemployment, many for the first time. While Government changes to income support payments and job subsidies have provided much needed financial support, there has been some confusion in the community around those changes and demand for information and assistance regarding Centrelink matters.
SSRV Director, Gillian Wilks, says SSRV has received many coronavirus related enquiries, both from first-time Centrelink users and from people who currently receive payments but whose personal circumstances have been disrupted. Many people want help to understand the relationship between JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments.
Jane* called the Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV) telephone advice line with regard to her rejected Carer Payment application. Jane looks after one of her parents, who suffers from a chronic lung disease. Jane supports herself with Job Seeker payment and working on a casual basis. Jane had not previously applied for carer payment as her casual work provided enough money to support herself and care for her parent. Jane’s parent requires a lot of care including assistance with housework, and attending appointments.
Since Covid-19, Jane has been unable to go out into the work force. Jane’s parent is in a high risk category due to the chronic lung disease, and Jane does not wish to unnecessarily expose her parent to the risk of contracting Coivd-19. As Jane can no longer work casually, she needs extra financial assistance to care for her parent. SSRV assisted Jane by providing advice on how to appeal the rejected Carer Payment application. Jane later advised that her appeal had been successful.
Ms Gillian Wilks, Director of SSRV, said the economic shutdown had left tens of thousands of people with changed financial circumstances and many were turning to the SSRV for help in navigating the social security system.
“Our team is focused on providing the legal help and information people need during this stressful time. We are also working with others to advocate on important issues like inequities between payments, issues for people on the Disability Support Pension and those who are ineligible for income support payments, mutual obligation requirements as well as other policy matters,” she said.
“SSRV is also concerned about how the decisions people are making now around social security payments will impact on them in six to twelve months’ time. We’re anticipating an ongoing increased need for this service.
“Without good advice, people may make decisions now that leave them worse off or that open them up to action by Centrelink in the future.
“The way payments have been opened up to people during the crisis is unprecedented, but there will likely be auditing of people’s eligibility and compliance and the potential for people to repay money in the future. Vulnerable Victorians will need access to legal advocacy and representation to challenge unfair Centrelink decisions.”
Individuals and community workers can get assistance from SSRV Monday to Thursday. Visit www.ssrv.org.au for more information.
*Not caller’s real name.