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8.4.2.10 Urgent Payments

Summary

An urgent payment is a payment of part of an instalment in advance of the usual instalment day to a recipient who is already receiving a payment. An urgent payment is to be contrasted with a hardship advance payment or an advance payment. A hardship advance payment is an amount of a recipient's first instalment of social security payment that is paid at grant, or the first instalment immediately following resumption of payment, to assist people in severe financial hardship, including those recently released from prison. An advance payment is the early delivery of a recipient's entitlement. There are particular criteria that apply to advance payments, which include a minimum amount of advance payment of $250 and a maximum advance payment of $500. Qualification criteria are fully explained in the policy references below.

 

This topic contains information on:

  • the definition of urgent payment,
  • issues to consider before making an urgent payment,
  • how an urgent payment can be made,
  • when an urgent payment can, or cannot, be made,
  • when an urgent payment can be made to a third party on the recipient's behalf, and
  • exceptional and unforeseen circumstances relating to financial hardship.

 

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 43 Payment by instalments, section 44 Payment of instalments to person or nominee

Policy reference: SS Guide 5.4.1.10 Qualification for Certain Benefits & PPS Advance Payments, 8.4.2.20 Hardship Advance Payment

 

Definition of urgent payment

An urgent payment is an early delivery of a recipient's entitlement, which is made because the recipient is in severe financial hardship as a result of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances. Technically, urgent payments are made in arrears prior to the regular delivery date. They can be paid to recipients who receive a periodic payment as defined in the SS(Admin)Act.

Example: An NSA recipient, whose fortnightly form is due to be lodged on 5 August 2002, may request an urgent payment on 1 August 2002 because they had their possessions lost in a fire. If no alternative assistance will alleviate the hardship, the recipient may be paid a payment for that portion of the entitlement period for which NSA was payable, up to 1 August 2002.

 

Urgent payments result in a lower subsequent payment on the recipient's usual payment delivery day (1.1.D.55).

 

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 43 Payment by instalments, section 44 Payment of instalments to person or nominee

 

Before making an urgent payment

The recipient needs to demonstrate they are in severe financial hardship due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances before an urgent payment is made.

 

Delegates must make the following decisions when considering requests for urgent payment of pensions, benefits or allowances:

  • whether alternative assistance will alleviate the hardship,
  • whether an urgent payment should be made, and
  • the method of payment.

 

While a delegate has some discretion in these decisions, the following guidelines apply.

Explanation: Delegates should exercise judgement when making a decision about the impact of different exceptional and unforeseen circumstances on each recipient and should take into account advice from a social worker if there are exceptional circumstances in a particular case. Additional care must also be taken to ensure that the urgent payment does not intensify or cause further hardship.

Note: The delegate should always attempt to facilitate an alternative form of assistance for the recipient before an urgent payment is paid. This would include, but is not limited to, the following types of referrals:

  • charity/community organisations,
  • social worker,
  • accommodation assistance, or
  • financial counselling.

 

Special circumstances

Delegates need to consider the impact of making urgent payments to some recipients.

Example: Those with a psychiatric or intellectual disability may not understand the ramifications of receiving an urgent payment, i.e. an urgent payment will result in a lower subsequent payment on the recipient's usual payment delivery day.

 

How an urgent payment is made

Urgent payments are generally made in the following way:

  • direct credit,
  • EBT card, or
  • manual cheque.

 

Only in extreme circumstances such as administrative error, would payment be made via an EBT card or manual cheque. Where an urgent payment is to be paid to a third party on the recipient's behalf, payment should be made by manual cheque (see 'Urgent payment to third party to alleviate immediate hardship to the recipient' below).

 

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 55 Payment into bank account etc

 

When an urgent payment cannot be made

Recipients should NOT receive an urgent payment if they contribute to the delay of their regular payment by failing to:

  • attend an interview,
  • lodge a form or medical certificate on the due date, unless prevented by the nature of their incapacity,
  • lodge a form personally, or
  • lodge a complete or signed form, or advise Centrelink of any change in their circumstances required by the Act.

 

Recipients may describe circumstances that are NOT considered exceptional and unforeseen. Circumstances where urgent payments are NOT to be made include, but are not limited to:

  • regular accommodation costs such as rent (section 13(1)-'rent'), mortgage payments or rent arrears,
  • regular bills such as gas, electricity, telephone or water bills,
  • credit account or loan repayments,
  • car maintenance, registration or petrol costs,
  • food and general living expenses,
  • regular private and public transport costs,
  • regular medical bills, where expenses are unchanged, or
  • costs associated with court appearances or fines.

 

Act reference: SSAct section 13(1)-'rent'

 

When an urgent payment can be made

The following table shows the circumstances when an urgent payment can be made and the form of verification needed. Verification of the reasons that a recipient has requested an urgent payment should be sought where appropriate.

If a recipient is…

Then the verification needed is…

in severe financial hardship (section 19C) as a result of an exceptional and unforeseen circumstance,

evidence of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

Note: Verification should only be sought when the delegate considers it appropriate.

Examples:

- a police report verifying goods damaged by fire, or

- doctor or dentist report confirming emergency treatment/prescription.

 

Examples: Exceptional and unforeseen circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • administrative error or system fault causing delay in regular payment,
  • loss of possessions due to fire, flood or other forces of nature,
  • removal expenses or bond money, where relocation becomes necessary, such as to care for ill or disabled relatives, family breakdown and separation,
  • illegal eviction from their home, where due legal notice was not provided and the recipient in no way contributed to the eviction,
  • where a person is a victim of family violence,
  • costs to attend a funeral of an immediate family member,
  • medical emergencies or inability to obtain medication, especially for children,
  • expenses relating to a confirmed job placement.

 

Act reference: SSAct section 19C Severe financial hardship definitions

 

Urgent payment to third party to alleviate immediate hardship to the recipient

A one-off urgent payment may be made to a third party on behalf of a recipient in exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, where it is necessary to alleviate immediate hardship to the recipient.

Example: If the recipient is required to change their place of residence due to caring for ill or disabled relatives or because of family breakdown, an urgent payment may be made to a State or Territory rental bond board or its equivalent, in respect to the bond required to secure new accommodation.

 

If the delegate decides to make the urgent payment, and the recipient consents to this one-off arrangement, an urgent payment may be made directly to the third party by manual cheque.

Explanation: It is important to obtain the recipient's consent so that the rule against inalienability is not infringed.

 

It is important to make the payment by manual cheque to the third party so that there is evidence of the payment. This evidence will assist in preventing the recipient from suffering any possible exploitation by the third party.

 

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 44 Payment of instalments to person or nominee, section 55 Payment into bank account etc, section 60 Protection of social security payment

Policy reference: SS Guide 8.4.1.30 Payments to a Third Party, 8.4.3 Protection of Payment

 

Consecutive urgent payments

A second consecutive urgent payment would only be made to a recipient in the most extreme circumstances.

 

Repeated applications for urgent payments may indicate that a recipient has difficulty managing their finances. A social worker can provide options for the most appropriate way of helping recipients in these circumstances.

Examples: The recipient may be:

  • interviewed, or
  • given some information on local financial counselling services.

 

If a recipient requests a referral to an appropriate agency for financial counselling, customer service advisers may make these referrals directly.

_______________________________________________________

Last reviewed: 2 January 2013


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Last Edited: 07/12/2012 11:29:10 AM


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