Expert Opinion Panel
Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist
The ultimate guide to Australian single mum Centrelink benefits & more
Centrelink, State Government, Welfare Agencies, Charities, Banks and more…
You might be struggling right now with kids and an ‘ex from hell’ but the biggest concern for newly single mothers is almost always the same – money.
Not having money is the biggest reason for single mums reluctantly returning to toxic relationships.
So let’s get one thing clear at the beginning – you are not alone, there is assistance available. You don’t need to return to a bad home environment or domestic violence because of finances.
UPDATE August 2021:
Single parent families are falling behind other families financially according to new research (and probably your lived experience).
While many Australian families have never been more financially secure than they are now, single parent households are falling behind, reports the 20th bi-annual Household Financial Comfort Report from ME Bank.
Most households’ sense of wealth and comfort has bounced significantly higher in the first half of 2021 when compared with pre-pandemic levels, said ME Bank’s Consulting Economist, Jeff Oughton.
“There are still sections of the population, for example single parents, insecure workers including casual and gig economy workers, the unemployed, and self-employed Australians, who aren’t feeling as financially comfortable,” said Mr Oughten.
“These groups are susceptible to changes in Government support and ongoing turbulence during Australia’s economic recovery.”
Government support has decreased in 2021 as coronavirus supplements and JobKeeper have been withdrawn. But there is still assistance for you and your family so check out our guide to financial assistance for single parents:
Centrelink, State government family welfare agencies, charities and now even big banks can assist you financially.
And as you get settled in your new circumstances as a single parent with kids, you can find heaps of concessions, rebates and discounts for you and your kids.
Taking 5 minutes to read our guide to benefits and concessions for single parents could be extremely financially rewarding for you.
In short, these are the places that can assist you with money when you’re a single mum:
Child Support Agency
Crisis agencies / charities
What Centrelink benefits am I entitled to?
First rule of Centrelink is don’t go to Centrelink.
You have heard the stories about lines and wait times. Only go to Centrelink if something goes wrong. Very wrong. Or Centrelink asks you to attend.
Get online. Get the app, link Centrelink to your mygov account. If you really need assistance, sit down and call Centrelink and be prepared to wait.
What Centrelink benefits can single parents get?
The main pensions and benefits available for single mums are:
Family Tax Benefits
Parents who are eligible for one or more of these payments can also get rent assistance and some other supplementary payments to top up their income.
How much is Parenting Payment Single?
Parents with children under the age of 8 can qualify for Parenting Payment. Parenting Payment comes in two variations – Parenting Payment Single and Parenting Payment Partnered. Obviously the single rate is the one we are interested in and to get it one of your friends or family must sign to verify that you’re single.
UPDATE August 2021: Parenting Payment (Single) (there is also Parenting Payment Partnered which is a different rate) is now $850.20 per fortnight. The rate is indexed up according to inflation every March and September.
The maximum rate of rent assistance is now $140.80 per fortnight.
Single mums whose children are all over the age of 8 can qualify for JobSeeker. That comes with terms and conditions – like looking for a job and attending JobActive appointments.
How much is Jobseeker for single parents?
UPDATE August 2021: JobSeeker (Single parent rate) is now $667.50 per fortnight.
Homeschooling & Foster Carers exemptions
Foster carers and parents home schooling their kids can apply get the full PPS rate of $780.70 on Newstart, as well as and non-parent relatives caring for kids under a court order .
How much is Family Tax Benefits for single parents?
Family Tax Benefits come in two variations – Family Tax Benefits Part A and Part B. Eligibility for FTB Part A is based on your household income. The amount you get depends on the number and age of your children. Millions of Aussie families qualify for FTB Part A.
FTB Part B is just for one-income households, so many single parents qualify for this additional payment as well.
UPDATE August 2021: The maximum rate of Family Tax benefit Part A is now $191.24 for a child 0 to 12 years and $248.78 for a child 13 to 19 years. Children aged 16 – 19 must be studying for you collect FTB Part A.
The Family Tax Part A end-of-financial-year supplement for the 2020-21 financial year, is up to $781.10 for each eligible child. This is used to balance your payments against your income from work.
Family Tax Benefit Part B is not paid per child, it is one payment for the family, based on your income. The maximum rate of FTB Part B is $158.34 per fortnight when your youngest child is under 6. When your youngest turns six, the max rate of FTB Part B falls to $110.60.
How much are child-care benefits for single parents?
Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate are no longer available. They have been replaced with a payment called the Child Care Subsidy.
Child Care Subsidy is based on your income, the hours you work and an hourly rate cap on child care costs. To work out how much you might be able to get to offset the costs involved in child care, you need to use the Centrelink Payment and Service Finder.
UPDATE August 2021: Many childcare centres are now free for most parents. Shop around for a free centre.
What is ParentsNext?
ParentsNext is a controversial program for young single parents with children under the age of 6. It is about training, helping you plan for the future and preparing for work when your children get to school age.
Young single mums who are selected for ParentsNext need to report fortnightly or risk losing their Parenting Payment or Newstart benefits.
Read our parents next hack sheetparents next hack sheet for tips.
Child Support Agency
The Child Support Agency exists to support single mothers (mostly) by mediating payments between ex-partners. Don’t be scared of it.
If you are not getting money from the other parent of your kids, get online or call CSA. You can also link CSA to your mygov account.
You can ask CSA to collect child support for you. CSA will then ask you for the details of where your ex works. CSA can contact their employer and take child support from their pay.
You can also register with CSA then choose private collection. That means you are telling CSA that your ex is paying you directly. If you partner fails to do so, you can easily report that to CSA.
Centrelink Crisis Payment
If you are eligible for one of Centrelink’s payments, you may also be eligible for a special crisis payment in the event of a major life upheaval. The crisis payment will be equal to one week’s pay of Newstart or Parenting Payment.
Crisis agencies and charities
Charities like the Salvation Army, Anglicare, Mission Australia and Foodbank can help single mums in need. Reach out to these services near you and don’t suffer in silence at home alone. Check out these resources, charities and assistance programs for mums (and others) in crisis.
You may be able to access free legal assistance. Commonwealth and state governments fund women’s legal services, family violence legal services and legal aid. You can find legal services near you here.
Banks domestic violence & single mum support
Before 2016, banks regularly effectively helped abusive husbands continue the abuse of mothers by withholding money, making closing joint accounts very difficult and being completely inflexible about joint debts.
Now things have changed and all banks are required to help you.
“Domestic violence is a serious community issue and banks have a role to assist customers who may be impacted financially,” said Diane Tate from the Australian Bankers Association in 2016.
“Customers affected by domestic violence can experience abuse of their finances,” said Diane, “It’s important that banks do everything possible to minimise the burden on these customers.
“To help with this, the ABA has developed new guidelines. For example, taking care to keep the customer’s contact details private from a joint-account holder, providing copies of documents free of charge, and referring customers to organisations that offer specialist domestic violence support.”
“Banks don’t need legal evidence of domestic violence, such as an Apprehended Violence Order, to be able to offer assistance to customers,” said Diane Tate.
So yes! Your bank can help you, when your relationship breaks down and later to help get you finances sorted and separated from your ex’s money and accounts.
And while the banks don’t advertise the fact heavily, at least some are handing out cold hard cash to mums escaping troubled home environments.
Commonwealth Bank domestic violence crisis payments
Commonwealth Bank won’t confirm officially but some single mothers are reporting they received $600 in crisis payments when they left their husband. Commonwealth Bank customers can check out the assistance they might be able to receive and have a look at Commbank’s checklist for divorce.
Westpac Bank domestic violence emergency cash
Westpac have put a lot of effort into compiling information and resources for separating parents, especially mums. Westpac can also provide emergency cash for victims of family violence escaping the home.
ANZ Bank separating parents advice
NAB single mum assistance
NAB is also ready to assist separating mums.
The information is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. If you or someone you know is in financial stress, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
Jason is an expert business, finance and consumer issues journalist specialising in personal finance, debt, consumer issues and banking, Jason is now based in Melbourne and works as a journalist . Previously Jason has worked for ABC TV, News Ltd and plenty of magazines and online publishers. You can keep up to date with the latest Centrelink news and information at Jason’s Facebook page, Centrelink News.
Jason is a proud single dad of three children who are all growing up fast. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonBryce.