Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist
Centrelink Third Party Relationship Verification
Answers to the two big questions every single mum is asking
By Jason Bryce | 12 February 2018
Centrelink’s tough new
relationship verification form.
Centrelink has given SingleMum.com.au essential information for parents facing Centrelink’s tough new relationship verification form.
Single parents on Parenting Payment Single and Newstart Parenting rate have begun to receive the new “Third Party Relationship Verification” forms from Centrelink.
A Department of Human Services spokesperson told Singlemum.com.au that the new procedure replaces the old referees section on Centrelink’s previous application forms. Those forms asked for the names and contact numbers of two people who could confirm that you are single.
DHS have now confirmed to SingleMum.com.au that the new requirements are not in addition to the existing referee requirements. So why do it?
“A stronger relationship verification process is being introduced for single parent recipients to ensure that people aren’t getting higher income support payments by pretending to be single,” said the DHS spokesperson.
It’s stronger because the referee can be jailed if they make a false statement. Joni Gear from The National Welfare Rights Centre said knowingly making a false statement on this form is the legal equivalent of perjury – lying under oath to a court. That means a criminal conviction and up to 12 months in prison.
So to stay eligible for income support you will need to find someone to sign a legal document that has the same force as a statutory declaration to say that you are, in fact, single.
That person can’t be related to you and can’t be your nominee, if you have one. A nominee is someone who is authorised by you to deal with Centrelink on your behalf, if you need assistance.
Despite a lack of information about how the new procedure will affect mums, the government has begun sending the new forms to existing Centrelink recipients.
But single mums are confused and have raised plenty of questions about the new form on our discussion boards as well on our Facebook forums and comments sections. Two questions in particular seem to have confused a lot of people:
1) What happens if I can’t find a referee to sign Centrelink’s Third Party Relationship Verification form?
2) What legal obligations does the referee have? Is the referee obligated to tell Centrelink if my relationship status changes?
Now DHS staff have supplied singlemum.com.au with the answers.
1) What if I can’t find a referee to sign Centrelink’s Relationship Verification form?
The first big question is what happens if, for any reason, you can’t find someone to sign a statutory declaration type of document for you? The form simply says call to discuss “options” and provides the standard Centrelink call centre contact numbers.
DHS reassure us that there are specialist staff to deal with parents who find themselves in this situation.
“The Department of Human Services has specialist staff, including social workers, who can assist parents in difficult situations who are unable to find a referee,” said the departmental spokesperson.
2) Is my referee obligated to tell Centrelink if my relationship status changes?
If you are single now and receiving Parenting Payment Single or Newstart you have fourteen days to notify Centrelink if that changes and you begin a new relationship. And at what stage does a boyfriend (or girlfriend) become a relationship in Centrelink’s eyes? See here for more information about that.
That rule hasn’t changed. The person who receives the money must tell Centrelink when their circumstances change.
“Payment recipients must notify the Department of Human Services of any change in their circumstances,” said the DHS spokesperson.
“Referees are not legally obligated to report any changes in the circumstances of recipients.”
So your referee shouldn’t feel they are obligated to notify Centrelink the minute you hook-up with someone new. The sole responsibility for notifying change of circumstances remains with the recipient only. But our friend from DHS wants to encourage everybody to dob in single parents on PPS and Newstart who actually have a partner.
“If a person suspects that someone is misusing or defrauding Government Services, they can make a report to the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 131 524.”
This new, stronger process sends a toxic message about the character of single mums – that they can’t be trusted – said Terese Edwards from the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children.
And the Australian Council of Social Services aren’t happy about it either. They have loudly opposed this new policy since it was announced by the government in May 2017 budget. “It is intrusive, offensive and unacceptable,” says ACOSS’s Dr Cassandra Goldie.
Business & Finance Journalist
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Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.
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