220.127.116.11 Assessment of SpB Claims
The delegate must consider the following factors when making a decision about SpB:
- the intention of the SpB legislation,
- ability to earn a sufficient livelihood,
- circumstances which have lead to the hardship,
- other reasonable means of support (1.1.R.40),
- social worker involvement,
- the available funds test, and
- the income test.
These points are explained in more detail in the rest of this topic, or in the referenced topics.
Policy reference: SS Guide 18.104.22.168 Special Benefit (SpB) - Description, 22.214.171.124 Short & Long Term Categories of SpB, 126.96.36.199 Determining the Rate of SpB
Insufficient livelihood (1.1.I.160)
For payment of SpB, it is not enough that a person is not earning a sufficient livelihood - they must be UNABLE to obtain or earn a sufficient livelihood because of:
- age, OR
- physical or mental disability, OR
- domestic circumstances, OR
- any other reason.
The amount of earnings needed to gain a sufficient livelihood depends on the individual circumstances of a person and the amount of resources available to them. Factors that may be taken into account to determine whether an amount is sufficient may include:
- the rate of benefit or pension which would be paid to the person if a pension or benefit were payable,
- the physical and mental well being of the person,
- outstanding debts,
- caring or other responsibilities, and/or
- any other income or support being provided to the person.
Explanation: In some cases, people who are not attracting wages could still have a sufficient livelihood because of income derived from other sources or alternative types of support that are provided.
Assessing insufficient livelihood
The delegate will need to carefully examine the person's circumstances to determine whether:
- they are unable to earn a sufficient livelihood, AND
- their inability to earn a sufficient livelihood is unavoidable, in which case another benefit or pension may be appropriate, AND
- they have a lump sum invested that does not attract enough interest to support them, but itself would provide the person with a means of support for a period of time.
Act reference: SSAct section 729(2) The Secretary may determine SpB should be granted…, see (e)
Circumstances leading to hardship
SpB is only payable where a person is unable to earn sufficient livelihood. The person's circumstances must be carefully considered to determine whether their inability to earn a sufficient livelihood was unavoidable or whether they have placed themselves in financial hardship by:
- persevering with an unprofitable business venture,
- spending their money on unnecessary items, or
- disposing of money, by gifting or other means without adequate return.
SpB should NOT be paid if the delegate believes the person:
- knew at the time, that by spending their funds they would be placing themselves in financial hardship, AND
- could have avoided the situation of financial hardship.
If a person disposes of funds and is left with less than the qualifying liquid funds limit, then the amount of funds spent, gifted or disposed of should be deemed to be available funds held by the person.
Example: If the person unnecessarily spends $3,000, leaving them with $2,500 in available funds then the amount of available funds held by the person should be deemed to be $5,500. The delegate should apply the relevant available funds test to the deemed amount.
Reasonable means of support
A claim for SpB CANNOT be granted until all the domestic and social circumstances of the person are considered. In cases involving couples, the partner's circumstances must also be considered. Although it is not possible in all cases, if practical the person should try to make alternative arrangements to change the situation which has lead to the need for income support.
SpB should NOT be granted if the person:
- is receiving, or able to receive support from other sources, OR
- Examples: The person may be receiving in kind support on a regular basis, to the extent that its value is sufficient to be regarded as obtaining or earning a sufficient livelihood or not causing immediate hardship. This might include payment of bills, spousal maintenance and provision of accommodation, food and/or clothing.
- has reasonable means readily available by which they can obtain support, OR
- any accrued annual leave, maternity leave or long service leave which has not been utilised,
- payments available through other departments, agencies, or state governments, such as ABSTUDY and DVA service pension,
- if the person lives with their family or other relatives, someone who can provide adequate support,
- if the person is a newly arrived resident and can obtain support from their sponsor (1.1.S.290),
- in a situation where a government or non-government body provides assistance on a long term or indefinite basis, or
- assistance provided by other people in the person's cultural group, such as part of a clear and strong cultural obligation.
- has a partner who is engaged in a non-profit business or salary sacrifice scheme, and that scheme is the dominant reason for the person's hardship, OR
- can obtain funds from a country of origin or another country where they have had a significant working life.
- Example: The person may be able to seek an overseas pension.
Policy reference: SS Guide 7.3 Claiming CFP
Social worker involvement
Social worker assessment is often essential in determining whether a person qualifies for payment and whether other assistance is required. Information provided by a social worker can contribute to a decision about qualification for SpB, but the delegate, NOT the social worker, makes the decision about qualification.
Policy reference: SS Guide 188.8.131.52 Social Worker Involvement - Specific Payments
Last reviewed: 2 March 2009