Recent Changes to Centrelink Payments in Response to COVID-19

There have been many changes to social security law since the COVID pandemic began. The information below summarises current arrangements at 28 October 2021. Given the frequency of changes to social security payments in response to COVID, it’s important to regularly check for current information.

COVID-19 Payments

There are two Centrelink payments designed to assist people affected by NSW Government decisions relating to COVID-19:

•    COVID-19 Disaster Payment for people whose income is reduced by official restrictions on movement or lockdowns (being phased out)

•    Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for people directed to self-isolate or quarantine because they have COVID-19 or they're a close contact of some who has COVID

COVID-19 Disaster Payment  

Now that NSW has reached the 80% vaccination milestone, COVID-19 Disaster Payment is being phased out. Those who remain eligible are required to claim the payment each week during the two week phase-out. You can find out more about the relevant weeks here.

For eligible people who are not receiving another Centrelink payment, in the first week COVID-19 Disaster Payment dropped to $450/week, further dropping to a final payment of $320/week in the second week.

For eligible people receiving another Centrelink payment, in the first week the payment dropped to $100/week before stopping.

You can find out more about COVID-19 Disaster Payment for people in NSW here.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is paid at $1500 for each 14-day period a person must self-isolate, quarantine or care for a person with COVID-19. It cannot be paid if you have any income from paid work or you receive an income support payment, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Paid Parental Leave or Dad and Partner Pay.

You can find out more about Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment here


Mutual obligations

Mutual obligation requirements were paused for numerous local government areas in NSW but they’re being phased back in.

If you’re out of lockdown, you’ll be required to attend appointments and activities scheduled by your employment service provider. If you’re unvaccinated, you should not be required to attend your appointment in person.

If your lockdown ended midway through your jobsearch reporting period, you will not have to report job searches for that period. Your jobsearch reporting will start when your next reporting period starts. At that point the default jobsearch requirement will be 20 applications/month.

The Dashboard in your JobActive account should show you the required number of job searches for each period and when your reporting is due.

If you’re unable to attend an appointment, undertake an activity or meet a job search target, it’s really important that you let your employment service provider know before the due date so you can try to make alternative arrangements and avoid a penalty.

Remember, your mutual obligations should remain tailored to your individual circumstances, including your local labour market and local health advice. If you think local conditions are affecting your capacity to look for work, it’s worth talking to your employment services provider to see if you can negotiate a more realistic number of job searches.

If you’re concerned about your particular situation, and you live in NSW, please contact us by phone or through our website and we can provide free advice. (People in other states, see here.)

Qualifying for Youth Allowance (Independent)

Youth Allowance is only payable to people aged under 22 in certain circumstances where they are considered ‘Independent’. One way to qualify as Independent is to work after finishing school. In response to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Centrelink will count the period from 25 March to 24 September 2020 as time spent working, even if you weren’t. That’s 6 months towards the required 18 month or 14 month independence qualifying period (depending on where you live).⠀

You can also qualify for Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY if you earn $15,000 or more through approved agricultural work between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021. This change means you may be considered ‘independent’ faster.

Find out more here.  


What if my claim is rejected or I have a problem getting my payment?

Welfare Rights Centre can provide free legal advice and assistance to people in NSW. To get in touch with Welfare Rights Centre, call us on:

02 9211 5300 (Sydney)

1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney)

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Wednesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Thursday: 1:30pm - 4:30pm

To read about our legal services on this page, click here.

If you live in another state, your local specialist community legal centre may be able to help. To find your nearest community legal centre, click here.


Help spread the word! 

If you know someone who's had a Centrelink claim rejected or they've received a debt notice but don't think the debt is fair or correct, our community legal specialists can help. Please share this page on social media:

Share on Facebook