Centrelink payments

Centrelink is an Australian Government agency responsible for delivering a wide range of services and unemployment benefits to Australians who find themselves on a low income or without an income. Centrelink works with other government departments and community organisations to link people to the services and resources they need.

How to contact Centrelink

It is important to contact Centrelink as soon as you become unemployed or have your income or work hours and income significantly cut to ensure you receive any payment/s you may be eligible for from the earliest possible date of your eligibility.

You can register an intention to claim Centrelink entitlements by phone or in writing.  After lodging an intention to claim, normally you will have to attend Centrelink at a scheduled time in order to lodge your claim and have your claim processed.

Click here for details about how to contact Centrelink by phone, mail, through its website or by visiting one of its Customer Service Centres.

Many people make initial contact with Centrelink by phone:

  • Employment Services (13 28 50) – if you’re looking for a new job, or
  • Retirement Services (13 23 00) – if you’ve decided to retire.

Some may choose to visit a Customer Service Centre.

In most cases, the first step to register for a Centrelink payment will be a phone interview. Centrelink may then arrange a face-to-face meeting  to finalise your registration, if appropriate.

Centrelink will confirm all details of your meeting in writing.

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How Centrelink can help you

When you’ve just lost your job or have to manage on less income it’s important that you understand your financial position, including how to best use the funds you have at your disposal.

Centrelink can provide information on a range of programs and services as well as providing a range of income support payments, including Newstart Allowance for people who are looking for work.

Centrelink’s Financial Information Service can help you understand your options when you’ve been retrenched by providing information on termination payments, superannuation, Centrelink payments and services and taxation implications. They can also provide information on investment and retirement planning.

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When to go to Centrelink

It’s never too early to familiarise yourself with what Centrelink does and seek information on how to best manage your way through a job loss experience.

Centrelink’s website  contains significant  information. It may help you decide when to register for payments and services you are entitled to receive in your circumstances.It is important to note that this website does not contain information you can rely on (it says so itself) and is only Centrelink’s view of the law.

If you’ve been retrenched, you should  immediately access assistance through Job Services Australia. This will help you get immediate, practical help to find a new job.

If you’re attending a Customer Service Centre to register, make sure you take all the required information and documents to complete your registration at a single visit. You’ll also need to supply Centrelink with details and information about the finances of your partner, if you have one.

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What to expect when you contact Centrelink

Centrelink has over 300 Customer Service Centres Australia-wide and a broad network of agencies. You can access Centrelink’s online services from any computer with internet access, or at a Centrelink office or agency.

Centrelink Call Centres

Centrelink’s phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm local time. The Family Assistance Office is open from 8 am to 8 pm local time. All Call Centres are closed for business on national public holidays.

Tips to save time when calling Centrelink:

  • Waiting times are usually shortest early in the morning or on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mid-to-late mornings are busy and so is the first day after a weekend or public holiday. Making calls outside these peak periods may save time.
  • Stay on the line – hanging up and redialling may mean a longer wait for customers than staying on the line.
  • Have your details ready.
  • Have a pen and paper ready.
  • Do not expect a quick call. Waiting times of up to an hour are usual for Centrelink’s phone lines.

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Centrelink Customer Service Centres

The majority of Centrelink’s Customer Service Centres are open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm local time, and are closed on national public holidays. Some locations close for State and Territory public holidays.

When your registration is complete, Centrelink will advise you in writing if you are eligible for a payment, when your payment will start, and how much you will receive.

It is very important to understand that Centrelink has a view of the law that is not necessarily one that others share. If you believe you have been rejected for a payment inappropriately or should be eligible when you have been informed you are not you should seek information from organisations that can assist you to review Centrelink’s decisions.

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When will your Centrelink payments start

The start date of any Centrelink payments you receive depends on your individual circumstances and may include one or more of the following waiting periods:

Ordinary Waiting period

People claiming Newstart Allowance or Sickness Allowance (but not Youth Allowance) must normally wait a period of seven days from the date of their claim before they can be paid.

Income maintenance period

Centrelink treats any payment for annual leave, long service leave and redundancy in your termination payment as income in advance for an equivalent period. So, if your termination payment includes three weeks annual leave and six weeks redundancy payment, you’ll have to wait nine weeks to satisfy the Income Maintenance Period before your income support payments start.

Liquid assets waiting period

The term “liquid assets” refers to cash or other assets, such as shares, that can be readily converted to cash. A Liquid Assets Waiting Period will apply at Centrelink whether or not you received a termination payment, and is based on your personal and financial situation.

When you register, Centrelink will want to know about your money and investments and any other payments you’re expecting to receive. They’ll also want this information about your partner’s finances. From this information, they’ll calculate your Liquid Assets Waiting Period.

The maximum Liquid Assets waiting period is 13 weeks. Your Income Maintenance and Liquid Assets Waiting periods may be served concurrently.

Note that your funds in superannuation and rollover funds are not included in determining your Liquid Assets Waiting Period.

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Other Centrelink payments and services

As part of your assessment, Centrelink will determine your eligibility to a range of additional payments and services:

Family Tax Benefit

Your entitlement to Family Tax Benefit may change as a result of redundancy.

Concession cards

As a low income earner you may receive a Health Care Card or Concession Card that may entitle you to discounts on health, transport and education expenses.

Rent assistance

If you rent in the private market you may receive Rent Assistance to help pay your rent. The amount you are entitled to depends on your individual circumstances.

Advance payment

As a Centrelink income support recipient, you may apply for an Advance Payment that you re-pay through fortnightly deductions from your benefit.

Automatic bill payment

You can choose to have money for regular bills like rent, gas, electricity and water deducted by Centrelink through their automatic debit system, Centrepay. Paying your bills by fortnightly instalments this way will make your monthly and quarterly bills more manageable.

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