Life as a single parent can be incredibly tough. Rewarding, sure, but incredibly hard work. If you’re a single mother or a single father you’re going to want all the help you can get to make your home life as stable and smooth as possible.
If you’re curious about the single parent pension then you might not be aware of everything Centrelink has to offer parents in your position. Here’s a look at what’s on the table so you can make sure you’re getting the hand up that you deserve.
What is the Single Parent Pension?
The Single Parent Pension is known as the Parenting Payment. Rates are updated yearly on the 20th March and the 20th September.
This payment is impacted by a number of factors – where you live, who you live with, how much you earn, your other Centrelink payments and whether or not you receive any child support from the other parent of your child. Many single parents who receive the Parenting Payment also qualify for things like Rent Assistance so make sure you look into both.
What qualifies you for the Single Parent Pension?
To receive the single parent pension or Parenting Payment, you must:
• Be the main carer (day-to-day, welfare and development of the child)
• If you are single – the child must be younger than 8
• If you are in a relationship – the child must be younger than 6
If your care is more equal than that (shared care), the parenting payment would go to the person who provides more care. If you’re equal, you will have to nominate one of you to Centrelink as the principal carer.
You also must:
• Be an Australian resident AND
• Be living in Australia (for 104 weeks prior to payment beginning)
Some other circumstances allow for the single parent pension:
• You have refugee status
• You hold a special visa
• You became a single parent during the most recent period of time you lived in Australia
• You worked or lived in a country that has a social security agreement with Australia (this is a complex claim but Centrelink may be able to assist you)
Your income is also taken into account when calculating the Single Parent Pension or Parenting Payment. To test your specific entitlements, you can use this calculator provided by the Department of Human Services.
As figures are updated twice a year, it would be remiss of us to list them online only to have them go out of date. You can find a link here to the frequently updated page that discusses specific figures per the number of children you have.
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have to fulfil a number of mutual obligation requirements that relate to your parenting payment. Part of this means that if you are single, when your youngest child turns six you must meet part-time work requirements in order to keep receiving your payment.
Please note – you cannot claim the Single Parent Pension or Parenting Payment if you have not yet given birth to a child.
Can you work while you’re receiving a Single Parent Pension?
Yes. You may work while receiving this payment. As previously discussed, the amount you work and your relationship status will have an impact on your parenting payment.
When your youngest child turns six, you must begin part-time work in order to maintain your eligibility for these payments.
When your youngest child turns eight, you will be moved to another payment (Newstart).
What other payments might you be entitled to?
There may well be a number of Centrelink payments that you were not aware you were eligible for. Have a look at this list and see if any may apply to you.
• Family Tax Benefit Part A & B. This is a payment that helps with the costs involved when it comes to raising children in Australia.
• Health Care Card. This allows you to have access to cheaper medicines as well as a number of concessions towards services like education and public transport.
• Carers Allowance. If you provide unpaid care for a family member who has a disability or illness then you may be eligible for payments.
What paperwork and proof of identity and circumstances are involved?
There are a number of steps to take when claiming Single Parent Pension.
• Make sure your Centrelink online account is up and running.
• The income and asset details of both parents.
• Your bank details
• The tax file numbers of both parents.
You can claim after the birth of your child and Centrelink will pay you from the date your claim was submitted.
The best way to start this process is online (you have 14 days to complete it). If you’ve never had involvement with Centrelink before you’ll need to go into a service centre to register for an online account (make sure you bring ID with you).
Is there anything else to be aware of?
Ensure that you keep Centrelink up to date with any changes to your personal circumstances. If you move house, get into a new relationship or begin a higher (or lower) paying job – Centrelink will need to know as this will impact your payments. If Centrelink is not paying you correctly and you owe them a debt, this will be followed up on when their system becomes aware of it. It is better to be safe than sorry so make sure you keep accurate records.