Government payments

This is an overview of Centrelink payments to help single mothers start navigating the system.

The federal Department of Human Services (DHS), through Centrelink, is responsible for administering income support and emergency payments on behalf of the Australian government.

Income support payments
These are the most common payments single mother families may be entitled to:

Family Tax Benefit helps Australian families, up to a certain income level, with the costs of raising children. These benefits are regularly reviewed.
Child Care Benefit can help with the cost of approved and registered childcare.
Parenting Payment Single is an income support payment available to single parents whose youngest child is aged up to 8 years (eligibility depends on income and other circumstances). Once your youngest child turns 6 when receiving Parenting Payment Single, you are obliged to spend 15 hours per week on an approved mutual obligation activity. This obligation can be satisfied through paid work, study and some forms of volunteer work. Many parents also use this time to study, train or prepare themselves for work as they know they will be forced onto the Newstart Allowance when their youngest child turns eight.
Newstart Principal Carer Allowance supports single parents whose youngest child is 8 years old or over. Parents on this payment are also obliged to spend for 15 hours per week on an approved mutual obligation activity (see above).
The difference between Parenting Payment Single and Newstart is at least $85 per week less income for a single mother family. Families on tight budgets struggle to find any costs to reduce to fit into this lower income. Newstart payments were originally designed to support a single man who was unemployed for a short time. Many welfare and business bodies in Australia have assessed these as insufficient now for even a single adult and certainly not as sufficient for a parent raising children.

Depending on your personal situation, you may be eligible for other payments or benefits such as the disability pension, carers allowance or others. In some cases, there may be exemptions you can receive in order to make a claim. There are quite a number of different payments and exemptions so it is worth trying to find all the payments for which you may qualify.

Contact Centrelink and make an appointment with one of their Social Workers or contact CSMC if you need assistance.

Links and phone numbers
Families (including Parenting Payment, Child Care Benefit and Family Tax Benefit A & B): 136 150
Jobseekers (including Newstart Allowance): 132 850
All DHS payments and services
DHS self service and online services

Having problems?
Budgeting and planning can be difficult and it can feel impossible when Centrelink reduces or stops your payments, sometimes with little explanation.
Centrelink complaints line: 1800 132 468
For assistance independent of DHS call our CSMC Support Line on 03 9654 0622 or 1300 552 511
National Welfare Rights/ Social Security Rights Vic:  Melbourne 03 9481 0355; Geelong 03 5221 4744; Rural 1800 094 164

Received a debt letter?
A new automated system is matching Centrelink with the Australian Tax Office and looking for any anomalies. If they find one, a letter is sent asks the person to provide further information. These letters must be taken seriously because they are often followed by one from the debt collectors. National Welfare Rights fact sheets are updated as new information is released.
If you need help with this or any other Centrelink payment issue, you can contact Social Security Rights Victoria on Melbourne 03 9481 0355 or rural 1800 094 164.

Victorian Legal Aid have information online and can be called on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday, 8.45am to 5.15pm.