Centrelink Payments for Students
There are three main fortnightly Centrelink payments for full time students:
Youth Allowance (student) – For students under 25 years old. There are 2 types of Youth Allowance:
‘Independent’ if you are 22 years old and over, or you satisfy another ‘independence’ criteria.
‘Dependent’ if you are under 22 years of age and do not satisfy any other ‘independence’ criteria.
Abstudy – For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students. Most Youth Allowance rules apply.
Austudy – For students 25 and over (at the time you apply). You are automatically considered independent. You have some different ‘satisfactory progress’ rules.
To get any payment you need first to ‘Qualify’, but you also need to be ‘Payable’ under the various income tests.
Check you qualify as a full-time student by:
1. Being a Resident of Australia
• Citizen, or an ‘Australian Resident’ for 2 years or more, and in Australia when you claim and there is no indication you will not remain a long term ‘resident’;
2. Studying an ‘Approved Course’
• That includes most undergraduate (and some professional Master**) courses at the University of Sydney;
3. Being a ‘Full Time’ student
• Must be studying a minimum ¾ load (0.375) HECS load (18 cp) each semester
• If not full-time you may potentially qualify for YA (jobseeker) or Newstart Allowance**
• It is possible to stay on the payment when part-time in certain limited ‘special circumstances’, where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ and when ill where you have a medical certificate saying you have a ‘temporary incapacity’ for full-time study.**
4. Making ‘Satisfactory Progress’
• Generally that means that you have not exceeded the ‘allowable time’, which is normally the minimum time it takes to complete your current course, plus one semester.
• Austudy rules also look at study in past degrees at the same level. **
• Part time (under ¾) study is counted pro rata in any semester when calculating the allowable time
• Units failed or discontinued may not be counted in certain circumstances that are beyond your control.**
5. Not having Assets over $268 000 (or often higher depending on your circumstances**), and, if seeking Austudy, not having ‘completed’ a Doctorate here or overseas.**
** seek the advice of an SRC caseworker for more information
6. Determining if you are ‘Independent’ under the legislation.**
Being an ‘independent’ for Youth Allowance purposes means you are not subject to a Parental Income Test in determining your payability for Youth Allowance. If ‘independent’ they will only look at your own income and assets (and your partner’s, if you have one) when determining whether you can receive a payment.
You are considered ‘independent’ if:
a. You are 22 years of age or over (if you are 25 or over then you would apply for Austudy),
b. It is ‘Unreasonable’ for you to live at home because the relationship with your parent/s or other family member has broken down and/or you cannot live in the parental home due to extreme circumstances, including physical, emotional and/or sexual violence,
c. You have worked at least 30 hours a week on average over 18 months in a 2 year period,
d. You are classified as an ‘inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote student’ who has either:
• earnt over $26 550 from paid employment over any consecutive 14 month period since you left school (as at Jan 2020, less for periods before Jan 2020**), or
• worked at least 15 hours per week for at least 2 years since leaving school.
Your parent/s must also have earnt less than $160 000** (can be higher if there are more children in the family) in the last tax year and you have to leave the family home to study at university, because it is more than 90 minutes away by public transport (or there is another reason about the study space or relationships in the home such that it is ‘not possible to study’ at home),
e. You are or have been married, in a registered relationship, or in a de-facto relationship for more than 12 months [see the next section on what de facto means],
Other ways of being YA ‘independent’:
• you are a refugee, orphan or have been in state care
• your parent/s cannot exercise their responsibilities
• you have or had a dependent child
Additional ways of being ‘independent’ under the ABSTUDY rules. **
****Seek the advice of an SRC caseworker. Also, google: Guide to Social Security Law 3.2.5
7. Having a ‘partner’ may lead to you being considered ‘independent’ (from your parents and their income). However if you are assessed as having a ‘partner’ then your partner’s income and assets** will then be assessed in determining what you get paid. Centrelink will assess you as having a partner if you are:
A/ legally married (and not separated),
B/ in a ‘registered’ relationship under state or territory law
C/ in a de-facto relationship for 12 months or more **
D/ in a de-facto relationship for less than 12 months (which won’t generally qualify you for independence by itself, but does make you liable for the partner income test)**
A de-facto relationship is assessed under s.4.3 of the Social Security Act. Centrelink look at ‘all the circumstances of the relationship including, in particular, the following matters:’
(a) ‘the financial aspects of the relationship’, including: joint ownership of major assets , significant pooling of financial resources, joint legal obligations;
(b) ‘the nature of the household’, including: children, living arrangements & housework…;
(c) ‘the social aspects of the relationship, including: you hold yourselves out as married or in a de facto relationship, the assessment of friends about the nature of their relationship; and joint social activities….;
(d) ‘any sexual relationship between the people’;
(e) ‘the nature of the people’s commitment to each other’, including: the length of the relationship, whether you consider that the relationship is likely to continue indefinitely; and whether you see your relationship as a marriage‑like relationship or a de facto relationship…’
Centrelink must not form the opinion that the relationship is currently a de facto relationship if you are ‘living separately and apart’… ‘on a permanent or indefinite basis’.
Centrelink should make a decision about you being in a de-facto relationship based on the elements listed above and your circumstances overall. The length of time together may be relevant to ‘commitment’. Sharing a room or apartment may be relevant to any sexual relationship. You need to decide if overall your circumstances fit the listed criteria, or not, and put your case to Centrelink.
You might be seeking ‘independence’ status arguing that you are in a de-facto relationship (and have been for 12 months or more). If you are otherwise already ‘independent’ under other criteria and wish not to be subject to the Partner Income Test you might be arguing that you are not de-facto. Whatever the case, it is OK to disagree with a Centrelink decision on this but it is important you provide full, accurate and truthful information to them.
**Seek the advice of an SRC caseworker. Also, google: Guide to Social Security Law 126.96.36.199
8. If you do not fit any of the criteria for ‘independence’ then you will be treated as financially ‘Dependent’ even if you are not getting any support from your parent/s. This means you will be subject to a test of your parent’s income. They will also look at your income. Only one test applies – if the Personal Income Test has a greater effect on your payment it will be used instead of the Parental Income Test.
Maximum Rates Paid
9. The Maximum Basic Rate you get paid, which will depend on whether you are living with your parents. There are two rates of payment:
The ‘At Home’ rate (called the ‘Accommodated’ rate if on Austudy):
If you live in your parents’ home the maximum amount payable is $304.60 per fortnight.
The ‘Away from Home’ rate:
If you live away from your parent’s home the maximum you will receive is $462.50 per fortnight.
If you are ‘independent’ (see above) and away from home you automatically get this higher rate
If you are ‘dependent’ you need to show you have to move out of the family home to study at university because it is more than 90 minutes away by public transport, or there is another reason about the study space or relationships in the home such that it is ‘not possible to study’ at home. (Note these conditions are not enough to establish ‘independent’ status.)
If you do not meet these study criteria you get the lower at home rate, even if you have moved out.
10. If you get the ‘away from home’ rate you may also be eligible for an additional Rent Assistance (RA) payment. This is added to your Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy.
You can’t receive it by itself.
If you pay rent in a share house the maximum Rent Assistance is $93.07 per fortnight.
You will get less if the rent you pay is less than $248.69 a fortnight.
If you pay rent alone as a single person the maximum Rent Assistance is $139.60 per fortnight.
You will get less if the rent you pay is less than $310.73 a fortnight.
The Income Tests
11. The amount of Centrelink payment you get each fortnight (if anything) is the Maximum Basic Rate plus any Rent Assistance minus any reductions due to one of the Income Tests:
If you are ‘Independent’ (with no ‘Partner’) Centrelink look at your own fortnightly income using the Personal Income Test
If you are ‘Independent’ with a ‘Partner’ they look both at your own fortnightly income and your partner’s fortnightly income using the Partner Income Test and the Personal Income Test
If you are ‘Dependent’ they look at your parent’s annual income with a Parental Income Test or your own fortnightly income with the Personal Income Test, whichever has the greater reduction.
The Personal Income Test
12. Your payment is reduced by $0.50 for every dollar that your pre-tax income exceeds $437.00 per fortnight plus a further reduction of $0.60 for every dollar above $524.00 per fortnight.
Your payment stops (i.e. the ‘cut out’ point) when your income per fortnight is $966.84 if ‘at home’, and $1 234.00 if ‘Away from Home’, or higher if you get Rent Assistance.
However a mechanism called the ‘Student Income Bank’ is also used to average out your income for this income test. If you earn less than $437.00 in a fortnight then you can credit the amount under $437.00 towards future income tests. E.g. If you have no earnings in your first fortnight of Centrelink, the next fortnight the test starts at $874.00 ($437 plus $437) (Also see the SRC’s leaflet ‘How Income Affects Payments’).
**Always report to Centrelink any changes to your income each fortnight.
ALWAYS APPLY TO CENTRELINK TO TEST THIS!
The Partner Income Test
13. Centrelink’s Guide to Australian Government Payments (to 19 March 2021 p.41) says:
“Your partner’s income may affect your payment.
In general, if your partner receives an allowance payment (such as JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance), their income won’t affect your payment until their payment is reduced to nil.
If they don’t receive a payment from us, their income won’t affect your payment until it reaches the partner income free area. The partner income free area is generally $1,165 per fortnight if your partner is aged 22 or over, or $1,083 per fortnight if your partner is aged under 22 and does not have dependent children.
Partner income above the partner income free area reduces your payment by 60 cents in the dollar.
Different rules apply if your partner receives a pension.
These values are a guide only and may vary depending on your circumstances as a couple. Please contact us for further information”
ALWAYS APPLY TO CENTRELINK TO TEST THIS! – Seek up-to-date figures
The Parental Income Test
14. If you are ‘‘Dependent’ Centrelink will assess your parental income in the last financial year. Income can include combined parental taxable income, income from overseas, adjusted fringe benefits, maintenance payments from a former partner and net passive business losses.
If parental income in the current tax year changes ‘substantially’ (e.g. by 25% up or down) then Centrelink may use an estimate for the current year.
Centrelink will not look at parental income for the period when one parent has a designated income support payment from Centrelink, or holds a Low Income Health Care Card. If your parents are separated you are only considered ‘dependent’ on the parent you live with, and sometimes any new partner they may have. If you don’t live with either parent, Centrelink ordinarily assesses the parent you last lived with. **
**seek the advice of an SRC caseworker for more information
The Parent Income Test – cut out points
15. If combined parental income is less than $55 626 a year, you can receive the full payment.
If parental income is above this you can receive a reduced rate of payment by 20c for every extra dollar until your parental income hits the ‘cut out’ point where it is too high to get any student payment from Centrelink. This ‘cut out’ point varies according to your family situation.
Family situation/’Dependent’ children Parental Income Cut Out Points
1 child 18yrs+ at home $ 95 224 per year
1 child 18yrs+ away from home $115 751
If there are more siblings these thresholds increase significantly
2 children 18yrs+ at home $134 822
1 child 18yrs+ at home, and one away from home $155 349
2 children 18yrs+ away from home $175 875
You and your sibling both need to apply and be considered dependent (ie under 22), and eligible for Youth Allowance to get the benefit of this ‘sharing’ of the income test.
If you want to check the current Parental Income Test cut out point that applies to you:
• Find the current maximum fortnightly rate for each dependent child over 16 but under 22 [$304.60 at home or $462.50 ‘away from home’]
• If there is more than one dependent student, add the amounts of their max. payment
• Then multiply the payment amount/s by 130
• Then add the current parental cut in point [$55 626] to find the cut out point.
WARNING – THIS IS AN INDICATIVE GUIDE ONLY – DO NOT RELY ON IT WHEN DECIDING TO APPLY – CIRCUMSTANCES MAY VARY – WHEN IN DOUBT ALWAYS APPLY AND HAVE THIS TESTED BY CENTRELINK
Date paid from?
16. You can only get paid from the Date you Apply so do not delay. It could be later if you do not yet qualify- ie the start of semester – but apply before then. It may take some weeks before Centrelink assess you application but they will pay you a lump sum back to that date of application if you qualify and are payable at that date. They often seek further information – respond promptly to those requests (generally within 14 days) to be backpaid.
17. You may face further delays in payments due to ‘Waiting’ or ‘Penalty Periods’. You start serving the ‘waiting period’ from the date you apply so do that first, then serve the period.
The most common waiting period is the Liquid Assets Waiting Period; when you have $5,500 or more in cash, trust funds, shares etc. The waiting period is one week for $5,500, plus another week for every additional $500. The maximum period of time you will wait is 13 weeks. There are many exceptions, including if you have immediate expenses for study. **
** seek the advice of an SRC caseworker for more information
Information updated on 16th February, 2020. (CL-PAY)
Important Notice and Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Check with a caseworker for the most up-to-date information. Do not accept verbal advice by itself from any source including Centrelink. Get a decision in writing. Without this subsequent appeals or backdating are at risk.
Government Response to Covid – Please note that information in this leaflet can change as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s response to Covid. Check Government (Services Australia and the ATO) websites to identify current payment details.