Can you apply for special treatment to be treated as a single?

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Michael is living in a de facto relationship, has had his pension cut and is looking for solutions.


Q. Michael
I received a letter from Centrelink recently regarding rent assistance, stating it had gone down! My pension had been decreased by approximately $200 per fortnight, down from $1100.00 to $843.40. I immediately went into Centrelink to query the huge decrease in the pension.

I was told that because I had applied with them for a de facto relationship, I was now considered a couple and that my pension was previously paid as a single person.

My partner is currently applying for a partner visa. Centrelink has all the details and she currently holds a bridging B visa. She is unable to work because of COVID, etc and receives no support from the government in any way, and I have supported her throughout. We have lived together since November 2018 and applied to Centrelink on 14 May as a de facto couple.

Do I now apply for a separation and say we are living under the same roof to get back to my original single payment as they consider us as a couple?

A. You should definitely not fill out any form claiming that you have separated if that is not the case. This will be assessed as fraud and could have serious legal implications.

You can apply to Centrelink for a form requesting a section 24 assessment, which is for them to view your case personally and use their discretion to treat you as not being part of a couple for a special reason.

This is a discretionary area of the social security law and only applies in limited situations.

Section 24 exists to deal with unfair, inequitable and/or unjust anomalies that crop up in certain circumstances.

In situations where the department considers that there is a special reason not to treat a person as a member of a couple because it would be unfair to administer the rate of payment, or income or assets test provisions that apply to couples, a special provision can be made.

When assessing an application to be considered for section 24, the department will look at whether there is a lack of ability to pool resources as a result of their circumstances or if there is financial difficulty as a result of their circumstances.

In general, the circumstances must be unusual, uncommon, abnormal or exceptional. This is not to say that the circumstances must be unique, but they must have a particular quality of unusualness that permits them to be described as special.

Previous decisions indicate that ineligibility for social security, of itself, is very unlikely to constitute a ‘special reason’ for the exercise of section 24. Also, considering a person’s financial difficulty is not, of itself, sufficient to constitute ‘special reason’.

However, as your partner has no financial resources to contribute to the relationship and no income, as she is not residentially qualified for income support, it does mean that as a couple you are unable to pool resources as a result of your circumstances.

In cases such as these, and subject to the usual means and assets tests, section 24 should generally be applied, but it will be reviewed regularly to ensure that your partner has not become eligible for a social security payment.

Did you know you could apply to have the single rate of pension in special circumstances? Have you applied for a single rate previously? Was it a difficult process?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 11
  1. 1

    Not really surprised, I got the age pension at 65 as a married person, one qualified (half the married rate). Wife had to self support on superannuation which was not counted as she was not 65 as yet. Being foreign and waiting for a visa creates extra difficulties. Hope visa sorted out soon, will be easier after that.

    • 0

      I have often contemplated how unfair it is that 2 individuals, who each worked and paid taxes throughout the whole of their working lives, once becoming part of a couple, each must then suffer a reduction in their Pension.

      It should not matter to any Government Department what one’s relationship and domestic arrangements are.

  2. 0

    i knew a couple who had 5 or 6{1 every 4/5 years} children and she received the single parents pension while the father got the dole.As far as i know they lived together for years like that ,My point is people lie .they do not tell centrelinc anything and get away with it or they tell them the truth and centre linc did not check up;Either way they got more from centre linc than a working couple and i would put money on the fact it still happens other people .ALL HONEST people are shafted by govt decisions.Ido not know why2 single people sharing a house and not in a relationship get paid more than people in a relationship .THE costs would be the same

    • 1

      Before I got married I lived for many years with blokes sharing a house at times, some other times an apartment. No mitch, not the same, 2 people living together independently need a lot more money than a couple, never mind what sex. We had different interests, different work hours. Heard it often, same heating, same fridge, same TV, all you need is an extra plate and a bit more food. All bullsh*t for sure. Yes some people shack up together without telling C/Link but they are not many. I know a few pensioners doing it as 2 single pensions are better than a couple’s pension. 3 couples I know got divorced for that very reason. Your children’s address comes in handy for that purpose and with mobile phones you can be anywhere to claim to be.

  3. 0

    Human Nature “ you can always be disappointed but never surprised”.
    The spives and rorters make it difficult for the rest of us, always trying to work the angles and cheat the system. Then the government introduces more draconian measures to stop them and they then come up with a new angle…on and on it goes.
    Just introduce a universal system and eliminate most ( not all) of the cheaters

  4. 0

    If you are bringing your partner from overseas to Australia for the purpose of marriage (or living together) that person should be able to fully support themselves in this country, if not, you should be solely responsible for supporting this person, both financially and emotionally. It’s not for the Australian taxpayer to support aliens. Perhaps you and your partner could move to her country, if it’s more financially viable. Just a thought. Jacka.

  5. 1

    I am currently on a full pension as a single person and I receive $944.30 a fortnight yet he says he was receiving $1100 so just wondering how accurate this story is.

  6. 0

    I wonder if this story is accurate. I hope that whatever is being speculated and if the government has come up with a decision, it will benefit all the citizens.



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