Have you ever lived pay check to pay check? Being concerned about how to pay for your basic necessities is considered financial hardship. This hardship could include not being able to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical attention or basic education and can extend to your immediate dependents such as children, spouse or caring for an elderly parent.
There are many ways for you to overcome these hardships by reaching out to a number of Australian governmental and nongovernmental programs designed to assist you.
Depending on which State or Territory you live in, businesses that provide essential services such as electricity are legally bound to help you through restructured payment arrangements – such as postponement for a period time.
Financial Hardship programs generally cover the following situations:
– Credit Hardship which includes household and personal financing such as a mortgage, car loan, personal loan, credit card, etc. By law (Consumer Credit Law) they are required to work with you in terms of payment arrangements as long as you are able to prove your situation.
– Hardship for utilities; this includes your items such as electricity, gas and water. All providers have a department that assists with financial hardship. If you are experiencing financial difficulties and can’t afford your payments, contact your services provider and ask about their financial hardship program.
– Hardship for internet and phone; Similar to the other forms of hardship, communication providers will work with you to help reduce your financial obligations with them during your time of need.
With most service providers, they will all try and work with you as long as you reach out to them and let them know about your situation. In addition to hardship arrangements, there are numerous other financial aid programs available – See below
Your first step in seeking help should be to understand the multitude of support payments, benefits and assistance programs available from the government. These services are range in size and eligibility from support for families, homeless situations, retirees, unemployed, and disabled individuals.
At the top level of federal support there are multiple departments and resources that you can access through the internet – These can be found here. The two departments that almost all programs are managed by are the Departments of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Social Services (DSS).
The Department of Human services provides a large range of services for social and health services including Centrelink, Medicare, and child support payments and services. Whereas the DSS is responsible for programs in support of families, housing and social services.
Most Australians have heard of Centrelink but don’t know exactly what it is. Centrelink is provided through DHS and is the actual online system where benefit payments are distributed. You can find and explore payments geared to your situation and even calculate the amount of payments you may receive. If you are a carer, a family, an Indigenous Australian, a job seeker, an older Australian, a person with a disability, live in a remote area, a student or trainee or hold a visa, this is the place where you may be able to get financial aid – Learn more below.
If you have a family with dependents you may qualify for extra payments depending on your situation. There are a range of payments that can help with child care, newborn infants, parental leave, single income supplement, stillborn baby payment, schoolkids bonus, a family tax benefit and low income payments. No matter the level of your financial hardship there are plenty of payments to help.
Do you provide care for an ill or disabled dependent, including parents, children, a spouse or siblings? If this is causing undo financial hardship there are a number of payments you may qualify for. There are six different carer supplements that you may qualify for from one off payments to monthly payments.
Are you unemployed and need help financially while you look for a job? The Newstart Allowance helps you financially while you perform activities to look for employment. There is also a Youth Allowance for those between 16-21 looking for full time work or other approved activities. There are also study or training support payments if you are looking to upgrade or start a new career.
Retired or Older Australians
If you need financial assistance and you are retired or older, you may qualify for the Age Pension. If you previously received the Centrelink Income Support payments, then you should have no problem transferring to the Age Pension, when you reach the qualifying age. There are also other support services to help with living, household and medical expenses found at the link above for older Australians.
Crisis and Special Help
Even if you do not fall into the above categories the federal government of Australia still provides help to those in a crisis situation. Essentially if you ‘fall through the cracks’ in any of the programs above there is likely still a crisis payment program that can help you out, available here. From one-time lump sum payments to help you pay for rent or food, to a special benefit if you cannot support yourself or your dependents but do not qualify for the payments above.
A great tool provided by the federal government is their easy-to-use Payment Finder tool. Available online you can choose easy to understand options that describe your situation. Such as choosing your age, 40, looking for work, children 8-15 years old, need help with a crisis, no health issues and are located in a rural or isolated location returns 15 possible payments that could be received. Find out what you could qualify for in an easy manner.
The government also provides counselling and credit services to those that require further assistance in receiving community support and finding other programs that may help with a Social Worker, a Community Engagement Officer or help over the phone.
Australian Taxation Office
If you are unable to pay your federal taxes due to severe or extreme financial hardship the ATO may be able to help. If you are expecting a taxation refund and need the money due to your financial situation the ATO can offer hardship processing that essentially speeds up the processing time of your refund. You need to be able to show that you cannot provide basic necessities including food, clothing, shelter, education or medical treatments for you or your dependents to quality. Find out how here.
Depending on the State or Territory that you live in, in Australia there may be additional support payments, benefits or specialised programs that you may qualify for. For example the DHS also runs the Victoria State Personal Hardship Assistance Program to help individuals in case of hardship or emergency. Other states or even municipal governments may provide similar programs. Simply find their websites and either look for financial assistance help or help in an emergency to see what they offer.
Non-Profit or Charity Organisations
Besides government organisations there are thousands of non-profit organisations dedicated to helping Australians. Many of these are focused around certain circumstances such as a retired Defence Troop, single parent, disabled, retired, and many other affiliations. Find one that suits your specific situation and see if they have an emergency aid program. Search the Australian Government Charities and Non-Profits Commission database to ensure they are non-profit.
Find the help you need easily by using the links provided above and start your road to recovery. Remember to apply to as many as possible.