Financial assistance in Australia
If things have gone badly wrong and you’re struggling to stay afloat financially, there is support available. From hardship payments to no interest loans, you can access a range of services to help you weather the storm.
There are lots of reasons people fall into debt, particularly when the financial challenges can quickly spiral. Whatever you’re facing, we recommend you seek financial help quickly to minimise the long-term pain.
- Where to get general financial assistance
- How to access No Interest Loans
- How to get financial assistance
- Financial assistance for parents
- Financial assistance for new parents
- Financial assistance for carers
- Financial assistance for single parents
- Financial assistance for older Australians
- Financial assistance for school costs
- Financial assistance for disability
- Financial support for students and apprentices
- Financial assistance for homeowners
- Financial help in your community
- How can Way Forward help?
Where to get general financial assistance
The type and provider of financial assistance will depend on your individual circumstances. Often, funding is made available to defined groupings, or people who are experiencing specific hardships.
To understand the various pathways available to you, we’ve broken it down by category. In some cases, the options will vary from state to state.
Alongside any efforts to access money, it’s important to draft in specialist help to look at the bigger picture of your finances. Plugging the dam is all very well, as long as you’re not just shoring up problems for later.
Talk to our Financial Hardship Advocates to discover the best options for your circumstances and how best to manage your budget going forward.
How to access No Interest Loans
No Interest Loans (NILs) are delivered by a range of different community organisations across the states and territories. They’re considered a ‘safe, fair and affordable’ way for people on low incomes to access credit for those big or unexpected expenses.
Loans are available for the purchase of items such as washing machines and furniture, to pay off education fees or medical and dental costs, to maintain and repair vehicles needed for day-to-day use, or to cover rates, bond or rent in advance. They cannot be used to pay bills or for existing debts.
If you’ve ever been tempted by a quick cash loan, or forced to rent appliances, you’ll know just how crippling their rates can be. In contrast, NILs charge no interest or fees, meaning you only pay back what you’ve borrowed.
You may be eligible if:
- Your income as a single person is less than $70,000 (before tax) or $100,000 if you have a partner and/or children
- You have experienced family or domestic violence in the last 10 years
- You have a Health Care or Pension Card.
While no credit checks will be carried out as part of your application, you must be able to demonstrate that you’ll be able to repay the loan.
Find your local NILs provider to start the process.
How to get financial assistance
If you’re in severe financial hardship – which Services Australia defines as having all but exhausted your ‘liquid assets’, you may be eligible for a one-off, non-taxable Crisis Payment. This is only accessible if you already receive an income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance and are experiencing ‘extreme circumstances’; the guidance stipulates that you must make contact with Centrelink within 7 days of those circumstances occurring.
Another option is a fortnightly Special Benefit payment. To be eligible, you must be in hardship for reasons beyond your control, have less than $5,000 in the bank, fortnightly income less than the Special Benefit payment, and you must be unable to improve your financial position without help. You can’t get Special Benefit if you’re eligible for any other income support payment.
If you already receive income support payments or Family Tax Benefit (Part A) from Centrelink, you can apply for an advance payment. This means, if approved, you’ll get part of your allowance paid early; but be aware that you’ll have to pay it all back through a reduction in your future payments.
To check your eligibility for assistance, visit Centrelink’s online payment finder.
Financial assistance for parents
The Australian Government provides a range of financial supports – often income or assets tested -that are designed to help parents with the costs of raising children.
Family Tax Benefit Part A is paid per-child, with the amount paid being based on the family’s circumstances. Family Tax Benefit Part B is paid per-family, giving additional financial support to single parents and some couple families that survive on a single main income.
If you’re the main carer of a child under eight (or six if you have a partner) and sit under an income and asset test limit, you may be entitled to a Parenting Payment as your main source of income support. It’s worth noting that you cannot receive it if your partner is already getting a Parenting Payment.
Child Care Subsidy is also available to help with the cost of childcare for under-13s. It’s income, but not assets tested, and the number of hours of subsidised care you’re entitled to each fortnight depends on the hours of ‘recognised activities’, such as work, study or volunteering, you do.
If you’re struggling with childcare fees, are experiencing temporary financial hardship, are going back to work or study on a low income, or care for a child who is vulnerable or at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to an Additional Child Care Subsidy.
Financial assistance for new parents
From July 2023, Centrelink’s Parental Leave Pay will increase to 100 days (20 weeks) and will be available to use until your newborn or recently adopted child turns 2. You can now share Parental Leave Pay with your partner, and even take days at the same time.
If you’ve just had a baby or adopted a child under the age of one year and have already been deemed eligible for FTB Part A but not for Parental Leave Pay, you may be eligible for the Newborn Supplement and Newborn Upfront Payment.
Families with at least three children born during the same multiple birth may also be eligible for Multiple Birth Allowance, until the children are 16 years of age.
Financial assistance for carers
If you care for someone with a serious illness, disability or someone who is elderly, you may – subject to an income and assets test – be eligible for a Centrelink Carer Allowance. It’s worth noting that both the carer and the person being cared for must meet certain eligibility requirements.
If you provide full-time care for a child under 7 who has experienced a ‘catastrophic event’, which resulted in serious illness, a severe medical condition or major disability, you can apply for a one-off Carer Adjustment Payment within 2 years of your child’s first diagnosis. However, to be eligible, you must already be in receipt of a Carer Allowance but no other income support.
To access other forms of practical as well as emotional support, including respite care, home help and equipment, check out the Carer Gateway.
Financial assistance for single parents
If you’re single, have a dependent child in your care and receive certain income support payments, you may be entitled to a Telephone Allowance. This quarterly Centrelink payment, updated each year in line with the Consumer Price Index, is designed to ensure you can maintain a telephone service.
For more information on other relevant payments, including Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B, the Parenting Payment and Child Care Subsidy, see the assistance for parents section above.
Financial assistance for older Australians
For older people, it can be even more challenging to improve your financial circumstances; with limited or non-existent opportunities or ability to work, finding the right resources is critical.
If you’re Age Pension age but don’t meet all the rules to claim it, you might be entitled to a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. That might mean cheaper medicines, bulk-billed GP appointments, concessions on utilities, dental treatment and eye care, and public transport.
If you can’t use public transport on your own, the Mobility Allowance is also available – subject to certain conditions.
For those who own their own home and want to top-up retirement income without selling up, the Government’s Home Equity Access Scheme acts as a voluntary non-taxable loan. You do, of course, have to repay the loan, PLUS interest and legal costs.
To check your eligibility for any of these payments, visit Centrelink’s online payment finder.
Deciding to move into an aged care home, or needing to increase your level of care, can put a significant strain on finances. If you can’t afford to pay for what you need, the Australian Government will pay some, or all, of your fees – depending on your capacity to cover costs yourself. To access Government help, you cannot hold assets valued at more than $41,496.00. Get all the information you need at My Aged Care.
Financial assistance for school costs
The help available for parents struggling with the cost of schooling varies across the states and territories. To discover what’s available to ease your financial burden, check out the relevant information below.
If the Smith Family has a presence in your local area, you may also wish to contact your school to discuss a referral. The charity’s Learning for Life program provides financial assistance from a sponsor to help families meet the cost of school essentials like uniforms, books and excursions. To be considered, you must hold a Health Care Card or Pension Concession Card and your children must attend school regularly.
The Future of Education Equity Fund is a way for low-income ACT families to access a one-off, annual payment to assist with things like uniforms, equipment, activities and excursions. Available for students from Prep right through to Year 12, it ranges from $400 for preschool students, through to $750 for high-school and college students.
If you need help with the day-to-day, you can also reach out to a member of the school staff or the principal about your challenges. Schools in the ACT are funded to deliver support with the essentials, including things like food, personal hygiene and sanitary products, stationery and even enrichment activities. Don’t be afraid to seek that additional support.
New South Wales
The Premier’s Back to School NSW Vouchers program provides $150 for eligible students to help with uniforms, technology, textbooks and other related expenses, purchased from registered businesses.
If you’re a foster carer, kinship carer or guardian of a 16 or 17-year-old and are supporting them to remain in education or training, you might be able to apply for a Teenage Education Payment. If you’re eligible – including meeting the conditions of receiving Family Tax Benefit A or equivalent income (approximately $56,137 or less) – you’ll receive payments of up to $6,000 per year.
Under the Start Strong program for preschool children in NSW, you could receive fee relief on 600 hours of early childhood education, in preparation for school. While the program is open to all eligible children, priority of access is given to children from low-income families.
A range of voucher programs are also available to help ease the cost burden of enrichment activities. They include Active Kids, delivering $100 towards sport and active recreation costs each year, Creative Kids, with $100 for creative and cultural activities, and First Lap for swimming lessons for children aged 3 to 6 years who are not enrolled in school.
The School Student Transport Scheme is a way for eligible school students to access free or subsidised travel to take them to school and back on NSW public transport. The scheme applies across buses and trains, ferries and light rail; depending on your route, you may receive a free travel pass, a School Opal card, or both.
If public transport isn’t an option, there is also a School Drive Subsidy. This payment is for parents or caregivers of kids who are enrolled full-time in school or TAFE, to help with transport costs to school or the nearest public service.
Apply for the Back to School Payment to get $150, for each child enrolled in a government or non-government NT school or preschool, towards things like uniforms, textbooks, stationery and excursions. Items are only available to purchase from your school.
If you live in a remote locality outside the environs of Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs, and have to travel more than 5km, you may be entitled to help with the daily costs of transporting your child to school under the Remote Transit Subsidy.
For children under 5 years old who are not enrolled in school, the Learn to Swim program provides two $100 vouchers each year to spend with a registered activity provider.
For school age children living in an urban area, the Sport Voucher Scheme entitles children to two $100 vouchers for school swimming and music lessons, or recreation, sport and cultural activities outside school hours, each year.
A Textbook and Resource Allowance is available to eligible Queensland students; designed to soften the blow when it comes to those big up-front expenses, it’s issued either as a reduction in school fees or as a direct payment to parents.
If you can’t afford the cost of extracurricular sports and activities, it’s worth checking if your provider accepts FairPlay vouchers. The scheme, for children aged 5-17 years, opens for applications during specified funding periods, with vouchers valued up to $150. To be considered eligible, parents, carers or guardians must hold a valid Department of Human Services Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card with the child’s name on it. However, if you’re experiencing financial hardship but don’t meet the formal eligibility criteria, your school can register as a referral agent and, subject to certain criteria, apply on your behalf.
If travel to school is putting your budget under pressure, and your child is listed as a dependent on your Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card, it’s worth looking into the School Transport Assistance Scheme. ‘Safety-net assistance’ is available for a range of transport options, including train, bus, ferry, private transport, and travel with multiple school transport operators.
The Student Assistance Scheme can grant low-income families an exemption from paying levies to Tasmanian Government schools for learning materials and stationery, as well as things like school excursions and camps. Parents or carers who have a current concession card – Centrelink Health Care Card, Centrelink Low Income Health Care Card, or Pensioner Concession Card – can apply.
Families who are not eligible for the scheme, but are experiencing financial hardship, are encouraged to talk to their school about other avenues for financial assistance.
If your child is listed as a dependent on a current concession card, they may be eligible to receive a student bus pass for free or discounted travel.
The Ticket to Play program provides two vouchers of up to $100 each for children aged 5-18 years old who are listed on a Services Australia Health Care or Pensioner Concession Card. The vouchers are designed to promote youth sports and can be used towards club membership fees.
For low-income families, South Australia’s School Card scheme can take some of the pain out of school fees. While qualification is subject to a gross income limit, if you’ve exceeded that limit but have still experienced hardship, you may still be deemed eligible. If you have money left over after paying school fees, the balance can be used for other related expenses, including uniforms and excursions.
High school students from low-income families, and students of Aboriginal descent, are eligible to apply for scholarships of up to $10,000 in science and mathematics at SACE Stage 1 and 2. This funding can be used in any way that directly supports their learning, whether that’s excursions, tutors or technology.
It’s also worth asking your school if they offer any individual scholarships or awards to help cover the cost of educational activities.
Primary and secondary school students who live at least 5 kilometres from the nearest public school or school bus run can apply for a travel concession. If deemed eligible, you may receive an annual Public Passenger Transport Grant, a Private Bus Fare Allowance or a Car Allowance.
All school aged children in South Australia, from Reception to Year 7, are entitled to a Sports Voucher of up to $100 per child, per year. The voucher can be used towards membership fees for any approved provider across a huge range of sports and physical activities – from dance to AFL, Calisthenics to swimming, and everything in between.
Victorian student scholarships are a way for students and families who can demonstrate financial need to access support with the cost of education. To apply, you’ll need a valid Centrelink reference number, or a concession card for yourself or your child.
The Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund is an additional grant stream for students aged 5-18 who need financial assistance to attend school camps, sports and excursions. Parents or carers must hold a means-tested concession card, and payments from the fund are made directly to the school. Funds cannot be used for any other school-related expenses.
State Schools Relief is a not-for-profit organisation that helps children stay in education, by providing financial help with uniforms and other school essentials. Requests must be processed by your school, so the organisation recommends making an appointment with the school principal, assistant principal, or wellbeing/welfare coordinator to discuss your situation.
Students who live more than 4.8km from their nearest school and do not have access to the free school bus service should talk to their school about a Conveyance allowance, to contribute to the cost of getting to and from school.
WA’s Secondary Assistance Scheme includes two allowances – an Education Program Allowance which is paid directly to the school and a Clothing Allowance which is paid to the parent. In both cases, the allowance is only available to parents/guardians with children enrolled in secondary schooling who hold an eligible concession card. Applications should be made through the school.
The Student Travel Subsidy Scheme provides travel assistance to school students who need to travel more than 56 kms from a ‘Defined Remote Area’ to attend their school, college or university.
Parents can apply for help with sports club registration fees, as part of government’s drive to get 5- to 18-year-old children participating in community sport. KidSport’s financial assistance of up to $150 per calendar year is available to any child listed on a valid Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card.
If your child is enrolled in a fee-paying school, it’s important to communicate your challenges before making any big decisions. Many schools offer some sort of hardship provision, such as partial or even full fee waiver, to help families stay in place while weathering a financial storm. You may have to provide evidence of your circumstances or agree to forgo school-based ‘extras’ such as music lessons; talk to your school about any opportunities for help and special conditions they may apply.
Financial assistance for disability
If you have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that either stops you from working or limits the number of hours you can work, you may be entitled to the Disability Support Pension. Your income and assets will dictate if you’re entitled to benefits, and how much you could receive.
The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is separate from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); while the NDIS funds disability-related supports, the DSP is designed for everyday living expenses.
If your disability, illness or injury means you can’t use public transport without significant assistance, and have been in this position for at least 12 months, you may be entitled to a Mobility Allowance, which can help with travel costs for work, job seeking or study.
If you’re under 21 and in receipt of the DSP, you’ll automatically get the Youth Disability Supplement. If you’re under 22 with an illness, injury or disability that stops you from working 30 or more hours a week and which will last more than 2 years, and you’re currently receiving Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY you might also be eligible. You’ll need a current Employment Services Assessment to be considered.
Financial support for students and apprentices
If you’re a school-leaver having to relocate from a regional or remote area for study, you may want to look into the Tertiary Access Payment. By moving at least 90 minutes away from the family home, for full-time, higher-level tertiary education (Certificate IV and above), you may become eligible for a payment of up to $5000.
Similarly, if you’re a student getting Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY and you meet certain conditions, you might be entitled to a Relocation Scholarship. Your payment rate will depend on your circumstances but could be as much as $5,080 in the first year. Fundamentally, your family home must be in a regional or remote area, and you need to live away from home to study, OR your family home isn’t in a regional or remote area, but your course is.
Austudy can provide financial help if you’re 25 years of age, or older, and studying an approved course on a full-time basis or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship. The amount you’re entitled to is calculated through an income and assets test.
If you’re an Australian Apprentice, you might be eligible for support under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System. The Training Support Payment provides up to two years of direct financial assistance if you’re pursuing a Certificate III level or above qualification in a ‘Priority List’ occupation. You can receive up to $1,250 every six months as a full-time apprentice, or $625 for part-time.
The New Energy Apprenticeships Program is specifically for people training in the clean energy sector. An eligible full-time Australian Apprentice can receive a payment of $2,000 at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months and completion; an eligible part-time Australian Apprentice can receive $1,000.
If undertaking a Cert II or above Australian Apprenticeship has meant moving away from home for the first time, you might be eligible for the annually tapered Living Away From Home Allowance. Contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider for more information.
If you’re struggling with the cost of living while you train, a Trade Support Loans could allow you to access up to a total of $22,890 in monthly payments over the course of your apprenticeship. While the loans are interest free, they’re indexed annually in line with the consumer price index, which means your debt will keep pace with changes to the cost of living. Eligibility depends on your area and level of study.
For students who get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance, the government’s Student Start-up Loan is a voluntary $1,201 loan you can get up to 2 times a year. You do have to pay the loan back, once you hit a certain income level, so you’ll need to think carefully about the impact of kicking debt further down the road.
Financial assistance for homeowners
Both the ACT and Queensland governments provide mortgage relief schemes for homeowners who’re experiencing significant, but short-term financial hardship. The ACT’s Mortgage Relief Fund offers interest-free loans to mortgage holders who’re struggling to meet their obligations because of ‘unforeseen’ changes in their circumstances, including serious illness or injury or job loss.
You’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve exhausted all other options, including negotiating with your lender, before you’ll be considered for a loan of up to $10,000 – no more than $5,000 of which can be allocated to payment of arrears.
Queensland’s Mortgage Relief Loan comes with no application fees or ongoing charges. Allowing homeowners to borrow up to $20,000 – secured against their property – the loan must be repaid within 10 years.
Before taking the plunge, it’s important to discuss your circumstances in detail with one of our Financial Hardship Advocates or a financial counsellor.
Financial help in your community
In these challenging times, Australians are increasingly reliant on food banks, charities and community organisations. If you’re doing it tough, consider reaching out to an organisation like Anglicare, Vinnies, the Salvation Army or Wesley Mission.
Make sure you’re aware of all rebates and vouchers you might be eligible for, within your state or territory, by checking out your local government savings finder tool:
- New South Wales
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- Northern Territory
You can also search the Department of Social Services’ Grants Service Directory for information on what else might be available in your area. Select ‘Financial Crisis and Material Aid – Emergency Relief’ from the dropdown.
Most importantly, don’t give up hope. Connect with free, professional support to chart a pathway through this difficult time. Reach out to the team at Way Forward to discover how we can help. Call 1300 045 502 or email email@example.com.