Pandemic related income support from the Federal Government: important changes you need to know

There are two Federal Government COVID-19 related support payments currently available; the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and the National Health Emergency Crisis Payment (NHE Crisis Payment).

With daily figures of new coronavirus cases in Australia increasing, more people are finding themselves at home with the virus or needing to isolate as a contact. In response to this growing number of people unable to work, the Federal Government has once again adjusted the COVID-19 related hardship payments.

NHE Crisis Payment

The NHE Crisis Payment is available to people who are in receipt of a Centrelink benefit and who have lost income due to COVID-19 and are experiencing financial hardship as a result. 

Importantly, this payment is only available to people already in receipt of a Centrelink payment. 

It is a one-off payment, not an ongoing payment.

The payment rate is equivalent to a week’s pay at the maximum basic rate of an individual’s income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance. It doesn’t include other allowances or supplements.  ‘

Eligible individuals are entitled to receive a maximum of two Crisis Payments for National Health Emergency in a six-month period. However, eligible individuals are only entitled to receive one payment per quarantine or self-isolation. 

Eligibility criteria

Individuals may be eligible for this payment if;  

· they are eligible for an income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance from Centrelink; and

· they are in severe financial hardship; and

· they, or someone they’re caring for, are in quarantine or self-isolation because they are waiting for COVID-19 test results or have COVID-19.

The COVID-19 test must be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result.

They, or the person they are caring for, must be in quarantine or self-isolation because they have been required to by:

· the Australian Government

· a state or territory government

· a health professional.

They can be in quarantine or self-isolation at home, in a motel, hospital or any other appropriate place.

They must submit evidence with their claim showing that they, or the person they are caring for, had either:

· a COVID-19 PCR test

· a positive RAT result.

They may be asked to submit evidence of financial hardship.

One of the biggest recent changes to the NHE Crisis Payment eligibility is that a RAT can now be used as proof that they’ve been infected with the virus, and are therefore potentially eligible for the payment.

Prior to this change, a laboratory PCR test was required as proof.

Keep in mind, a positive RAT or a photo of a positive RAT is insufficient to qualify. For Victorians, only RAT results registered with the Victorian Government will suffice.

You can read about the NHE Crisis Payment, here. Find out how to lodge an application.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is available to people who have lost work and income as a result of having to isolate because they have COVID-19, are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 or are caring for a child under the age of 16 or adult with a visibility who has COVID-19 or has to isolate. 

Importantly, this payment is not available to people in receipt of most Centrelink benefit, such as JobSeeker Payment, Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Parenting Payment of a student payment.

Here’s what you need to know about the recent changes to the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment:

Eligibility

People who are eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment are those who are isolating due to being infected or are close contact.

They are also eligible if they are caring for a child under the age of 16 or someone with mental or physical disability who has COVID or has been identified as a close contact.

If they have sick leave owing from your employer, they will not be able to receive the payment.

If they receive a Family Assistance payment they will need to include the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment in their family income estimate as taxable income.

Couples who are isolating can both apply for the payment.

Who’s NOT eligible?

You are not eligible to receive the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if you’re receiving income support payments such as Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Austudy or JobSeeker.

People receiving parental leave or Dad and Partner Pay are also excluded.

If you have received other government payments during your isolation period, such as the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, you may also be ineligible.

Relying on rapid antigen test results

Like the NHE Crisis Payment, one of the biggest recent changes to the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is that RAT can now be used as proof that you’ve been infected with the virus, and are therefore potentially eligible for the payment.

Prior to this change, a laboratory PCR test was required as proof.

Keep in mind, a positive RAT or a photo of a positive rat is insufficient to qualify. For Victorians, only RAT results registered with the Victorian Government will suffice.

How much is the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?

Previously, the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment was a $750 lump sum payment that covers seven days.

As of 18 January, 2022, this has changed to a tiered system:

– If you have lost over 20 hours of work you will still receive the full $750.

– If you lose between eight and 20 hours, you will only receive $450.

– Anyone who loses less than eight hours of work will no be longer be eligible for the payment.

Means testing

From 18 January 2022 the payment will also be means tested. If you have $10,000 or more in savings, you will not get the payment.

How do I apply?

You can apply now, through an online form on the Services Australia website or by calling 180 22 66.

If you have applied and are concerned you haven’t received an outcome or any response from Services Australia, you can also call 180 22 66 to obtain information and assistance.

Unsure about what the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment means for you? You’re not alone

SSRV are concerned that the nature of pandemic payments such as the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment may mean vulnerable people could miss important details in the fine print or unknowingly making mistakes in the application process.

“It is always a little bit difficult to work out if you are eligible for income support from Centrelink or not,” SSRV Community lawyer Aidan McCarthy told ABC News this week.

“Because these particular payments are required urgently and the process for getting them is less intense than other pensions, things could go wrong.

“We have concerns people could be overpaid for honest mistakes and then Centrelink will chase them for that money later.”

It is really important you understand the eligibility, seek assistance and information by calling the number above if you need it, and keep any evidence of your eligibility including evidence of your bank account statements to demonstrate you had lest than $10,000 in savings, evidence of your normal work hours and income and proof that you have lost this income, evidence you cannot work from home if you need it and evidence of your positive test/direction to isolate as a close contact etc. 

You might need to provide this evidence in the future if Centrelink ever investigate your eligibility for the payment.

What are my rights if my application is rejected?

If your Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is rejected, you can contact the same number, 180 22 66 an discuss the reasons why you were refused. You will also be provided with information about your review rights in the letter Centrelink sends you then they inform you have been found ineligible for the payment.

If your NHE Crisis Payment application is rejected, you can contact 132 850 to ask for an explanation and request a review. It is important you do this within 13 weeks of receiving the refusal letter and make sure you very clearly indicate that you want a formal review of the decision. You will also be provided with information about your review rights in the letter Centrelink sends you then they inform you have been found ineligible for the payment.

How to get help from SSRV

SSRV can provide advice for people who have a Centrelink issue or Centrelink debt. Call our Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. If you can’t call us, you can email your request for assistance to info@ssrv.org.au

Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan

In 2021/2022, SSRV commissioned a project to optimise our capability to respond to the social security needs of people affected by natural disasters. These disasters include bushfires, floods, storms, and yes, even pandemics.

Disasters can affect social security payments, often in ways that people don’t predict.

We know that disasters can profoundly impact people’s finances and their life circumstances, but being affected by a disaster may also lead to applications for new payments and may affect existing payments.

When someone is displaced and must relocate due to a disaster, difficult choices are often made about where to live. For example, you might move in with your partner or friend, only to discover that Centrelink makes an assessment about your relationship with your new housemate, which has affected your eligibility or rate of payment.

Or perhaps your very first interaction with the social security system comes in the aftermath of a disaster. For example, if the business you work for, or perhaps your own business, has to close, leaving you unemployed and in need of financial support.

SSRV recognise that disasters can quickly lead to complex situations, affecting multiple aspects of people lives, including confusion or trouble with social security payments.

After a disaster, persons affected might quickly require advice and guidance on social security law.

Our Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan will tackle this challenge from a range of perspectives, including:

1. Preparedness: what can we do differently to be ready to support people through the next disaster?

2. Collaboration: who can we work with to maximise our effectiveness?

3. Prevention: how can we raise community awareness of the financial challenges associated with disasters, and how the social security system works in these situations?

4. Responsiveness: what is our plan when disaster strikes?

Over the next six months we’ll be publishing a series of articles and posts under the banner of ‘Did You Know?’, as our way of raising community awareness about natural disasters and the social security complexities that arise after a disaster.

And, in the background, we’ll be working hard to ensure that we are best placed to respond to community need when disaster strikes.

Did you know?

  1. Natural disasters in Victoria
  2. If you are affected by disaster, you may be eligible for a payment from Centrelink
  3. Centrelink has many requirements of people who seek assistance
  4. Any Centrelink decision can be appealed
  5. Disasters can have a direct impact on Centrelink legal issues

Did you know?

Natural disasters:

Natural disasters are declared in Victoria between six and 10 times every year.

In 2021, the following eight disasters were declared:

1. Wellington Storms and Floods: 23 March

2. Victorian Floods and Storms: 9 June

3. Eastern Victoria Floods: 3 September

4. Southeast Victorian Storms: 30 September

5. Southeast Victorian Storms: 15 October

6. Victoria Storms: 29 October

7. East Victorian Storms: 12 November

8. Baw Baw Storms: 2 December

Disasters can affect Centrelink payments in ways you may never have imagined.

Read more about our Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan.

We’ll be posting articles on disaster preparedness and response over the next six months, as well as more in the ‘Did You Know’ series. Make sure you don’t miss a thing: follow us on social media and subscribe to our monthly e-bulletin.

Staff Profile: Mark Morand, project worker

I started with SSRV in August 2021, and I work on our Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan. 

Natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods, and even pandemics, are declared between six and 10 times every year in Victoria. Disasters affect people’s relationships with Centrelink, and this presents an opportunity for SSRV to optimise its capability to support people.

Prior to joining SSRV I worked for several years in the community sector. I came to community services after working for many years in senior roles in the insurance industry, including in the space of disaster response.

Along the way I’ve learnt a few things to be true. One, that everyone has a unique relationship with money; two,  everyone lives with the risk of experiencing a natural disaster; and three, our relationship with money is profoundly affected by any exposure we might have to disasters.

I’m hoping to help SSRV become the best we can be at supporting people who interact with Centrelink after being affected by disaster; to raise community awareness about the things that can go wrong; and to provide advice and support to those who do find themselves in dispute with Centrelink.

When I’m not thinking about disasters and the impacts they have on people’s lives, I work as a professional musician, for which I developed a live-long passion from a young age

Centrelink has resumed debt recovery

During pandemic lockdowns in Victoria, a temporary pause was put on Centrelink debt recovery. Debt recovery has now resumed, and if you have a Centrelink debt that had been put on hold, you will be contacted by Centrelink soon to start discussing your options.

If you were overpaid during the debt pause, you might not be aware that you have a Centrelink debt and an overpayment notice will be issued to you soon.

Here’s what you need to know.

What was the debt pause?

The pause on Centrelink debt recovery was in place for LGAs in New South Wales, Victoria, South East Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. During that time, Centrelink stopped sending notices about new overpayments.

If you live in one of these areas and were overpaid, Centrelink will soon send you a letter explaining how much you owe and when you need to start repaying. But you do have some time: you don’t need to start repaying any money until July 2022.

What are my options now?

If you want to repay the entire debt sooner than July 2022, you can. If you want to set up a payment plan sooner, you can.

If you have a Centrelink debt that is already being paid off via a payment plan that was put in place prior to the 2021 debt pause, and deductions are continuing, you can contact Centrelink and ask that they put that payment plan on hold until July 2022 if you want to. 

It is best to call the Centrelink Debt Recovery Line on 1800 076 072 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

If you don’t understand why you’ve been overpaid contact Centrelink for details

You also have the right to have your debt reviewed by an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) within Centrelink. This is a form of internal review whereby a different Centrelink decision maker, an ARO, will review the decision to raise an overpayment against you and decide whether the debt was correctly raised, correctly calculated and whether the debt should be waived on the basis of special circumstances.

Information about how to request an ARO review will be on your overpayment letter. There is further information available on our website about Centrelink debts and your rights, here.

How to get help from SSRV or refer someone to SSRV

SSRV can provide advice for people who have a Centrelink issue or debt. Call our Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. If you can’t call us, you can email your request for assistance to info@ssrv.org.au

Debt, Duress and Dob-ins

A new report looking at Centrelink debts and domestic violence, confirms what SSRV have been seeing in our family violence work. 

The report, ‘Debt, Duress and Dob-Ins’ found that victim survivors of domestic violence, who are usually women, are frequently unfairly held solely responsible for social security debts in situations where the debt was the direct result of their partner’s or ex-partner’s threats, economic abuse, physical violence and coercion.  

Economic Justice Australia (EJA) found many examples where victim survivors’ debts are clearly the direct result of the actions of perpetrators.  

A common scenario is where an abusive partner provides inaccurate information about their income, leading to inaccurate assessment of eligibility and payment rates – often over a protracted period.  

In other cases, victim survivors have been forced to provide false information to Centrelink by violent and controlling partners, with threats of violence in retaliation if they contact Centrelink to rectify assessments or leave the relationship. 

SSRV provides legal services to victim survivors who have experienced economic abuse in relation to payments from Centrelink in a variety of ways, and these also include:

– People who have been coerced by their partners into applying for a Centrelink payment which they are not eligible for, and

– People who have had no knowledge of a Centrelink application having been lodged in their name, and who have never received payments, but are then subject to an over payment/debt.

The ongoing duress experienced by victim survivors trapped in these situations can result in massive debts.

A common thread in the Centrelink debts examined in the report are the result of Centrelink assessing a victim of domestic violence to be a ‘member of a couple’.

The single rate of payment is more than half the couple rate, based on the idea that the cost of living is lower for two people living as a couple than it is for two single people, and that the income and assets of both members of a couple should therefore be taken into account when working out how much they are entitled to receive.

“Our report shows that women experiencing domestic violence continue to be assessed as being a member of couple for the purposes of social security law,” said EJA Executive Officer, Leanne Ho.

“This effectively tethers the women and their children to their abuser, even in circumstances where income is not shared between the couple.

“It also enables Centrelink compliance rules and mechanisms, including the anonymous ‘Fraud Tip-off Line’ to be used by abusers as a tool of harassment, abuse, control and revenge”.

‘Debt, Duress and Dob-Ins’ makes 27 recommendations that could reduce the risk of victim survivors of domestic violence being pursued to repay unfair Centrelink debts, and ensure that the social security system can play its vital role as a safety net for women to escape domestic violence.

Read the report here.

How to get help from SSRV or refer someone to SSRV

SSRV can provide advice for people who have a Centrelink problem and who have been affected by economic abuse. We can also provide information and support to workers who are assisting victim survivors of economic abuse.

For individuals experiencing economic abuse who want legal advice about related social security issues: al Call our Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. If you can’t call us, you can email your request for assistance to info@ssrv.org.au

Workers wanting to speak to a social security lawyer about issues their clients are experiencing can call our Worker Help Line on 03 9481 0655, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You can also refer your client to us by emailing their information and details to info@ssrv.org.au

Debt, Duress and Dob-ins: Centrelink compliance processes and domestic violence, is the report of a research project in partnership between Economic Justice Australia, the University of Wollongong, the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland.

Robodebt class-action settlement: impacts and options for affected people

Free community legal education sessions February 2022

In June 2021 the Federal Court made an Order, following agreement between the parties, in the Robodebt class-action. This is known as the Robodebt class-action settlement. You can find out more about the Robodebt class-action settlement, here.


Per the settlement, only Group Members (people told by Centrelink they might be affected by the class-action) who had debts calculated as a result of Centrelink using ATO income averaging, are entitled to a settlement payment and refunds on any amount they have paid back to Centrelink. Some people who were included as class-action Group Members did not have debts that were calculated as a result of using ATO income averaging. These people may still have other rights of review, to seek a waiver or recalculation of their Centrelink debt, through other legal pathways. 


We know this has been a confusing time for Group Members and there are lots of questions in the community and sector about the impact of the settlement and the rights of people whose debts won’t be wiped by the settlement.  


SSRV will be running two free community legal education session, one for workers and one for members of the community, on the impact of the Robodebt settlement in early February 2022 (online). These events will be open for registration in January. Please follow us on Facebook or check our website in January 2022 for registration information and to sign up for the events. 

SSRV: The year in review

The SSRV Annual Report for the 2020-2021 financial year was presented at our Annual General Meeting on 17 November 2021.

The 2020-21 financial year was one that saw all our lives continue to be disrupted in some ways by COVID-19. This has been especially true for those receiving Centrelink payments, with new and changing types of payments, eligibility criteria and application processes, and changing mutual obligations requirements.

As a statewide community legal centre specialising in social security law, we have also been operating in an ever-changing landscape and have worked hard to provide clients with up-to-the-minute information and advice.

During 2020/2021 SSRV provided: 

  • 1359 advice services 
  • 261 referral services 
  • 183 information services 
  • 76 legal task (limited assistance) services 
  • 73 representation services 

The enquiries we received were often complex and related to matters such as:

  • debts/overpayments for a wide variety of payment types
  • eligibility for the Disability Support Pension (DSP) 
  • family violence and its impact on payment eligibility and overpayments 
  • member of a couple and eligibility issues 
  • eligibility for payments for people on temporary visas 
  • COVID-19 supplements and other COVID-19 related social security measures, including the waiver of the assets test and the waiver of the Newly Arrived Residents Wait Period 
  • Robodebt related enquiries.

  Worker Help Line

In the 2020/2021 year, our Worker Help Line (WHL) provided services to workers from 186 organisations across Victoria. Of these callers, 23 per cent were from workers in regional/rural Victoria. Thirty per cent of calls came from financial counsellors, 26 per cent from social/case workers, 15 per cent came from disability workers/advocates, 11 per cent came from legal workers, and the remainder from various other professions 

More than a third of calls to the Worker Help Line were about clients receiving the DSP. The next most common payment type for clients of WHL callers was Job Seeker Payment. 

Feedback from WHL callers is consistently very positive, with 100 per cent saying that the service was accessible and useful, and 95 per cent saying they felt more confident to deal with the issue after the call. 

Special projects

SSRV continued to provide legal advice and casework services in a targeted and tailored way throughout 2020/2021, with special project funding allowing us to respond to areas of identified demand and need, including: 

  • COVID-19 pandemic related social security legal issues 
  • Disability Support Pension (DSP) eligibility 
  • The intersection between family violence and social security legal issues 
  • Bushfire affected communities and individuals 
  • Cases where integrated service delivery was essential, with a particular focus on working closely on matters with financial counsellors.  

Family violence

SSRV staff see the intersection between family violence and social security most commonly for people who have left a relationship and are trying to re-start their lives. Financial need leads many victim survivors to rely upon social security as either their sole or primary source of income. But many people find out that they have substantial debts owing to Centrelink because their former partner either misled Centrelink, improperly estimated income or didn’t lodge a tax return.  

In 2020/2021, SSRV provided 271 services where there was an indicator of family violence. Overpayments account for over 40 per cent of the problem types, with refusals/eligibility problems accounting for just over 25 per cent and problems about review of benefits making up 15 per cent. 

By strategically selecting a variety of social security matters for ongoing representation or legal tasks, SSRV has been able to directly impact and test the effectiveness of different legal responses available to resolve an issue.  SSRV is also often able to provide advice about how to seek a review of these debts for special circumstances waiver.  

Integrated Services Project

The Integrated Services Project (ISP) is funded by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety, with funding administered by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. Through this grant SSRV has been able to continue our partnership with Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic) to bring together social security law experts and financial counsellors to work together to improve client outcomes. 

During the year a community lawyer and financial counsellor worked together to provide direct client services, secondary consultation to other workers, education, resource development, engagement and policy activities. They championed and practiced integrated service delivery within SSRV and with financial counsellors across Victoria. 

In 2020-2021 ISP staff provided 100 client services to 61 different clients.  

DSP Help Project

In March 2020, SSRV began the second year of the Disability Support Pension Help Project. The DSP Help Project aims to help people living with illness, injury or disability access income support. Specifically, the project aims to create an online resource that helps applicants better understand and apply for the DSP.  

In the second year of the project SSRV broadened its focus from applicants and support workers to include medical practitioners and other health professionals. DSP applications and appeals are largely decided on the quality of the supporting medical evidence. An aim of the project is to make it easier for the people giving that evidence to help their patients access the DSP.  

DSP Help is about more than an online resource. The project is also providing a wraparound legal service where vulnerable DSP applicants can access advice and casework, and community legal education (CLE) to community and other support workers. In June 2021, in conjunction with Economic Justice Australia, the DSP Help Community Lawyer delivered a national CLE session to over 100 community lawyers and other support workers. The session covered DSP eligibility and the challenges applicants face when applying, and also the resources available to make this process easier. This session can be viewed here.

SSRV acknowledges the funding received from the Victorian Legal Services Board Grant Program for the DSP Help Project.

Bushfire response

In 2020/2021 SSRV was also grateful to receive funding from the Victorian and Commonwealth governments for our work in responding to bushfires, COVID-19 and other disasters and planning for future events.

During the year, SSRV’s bushfire response work had a focus on two key activities: direct legal service delivery to individuals affected by the bushfires, and education and empowerment of those communities through community legal education and resources. 

SSRV worked with services on the ground to best understand the legal needs of affected communities, and then deliver service to meet those needs. 

A range of legal issues experienced by people in disaster affected communities were identified, ranging from housing and insurance, to property boundary disputes, to family violence matters, to accessing social security and other supports in a time of crisis. 

The most directly relevant social security issue is accessing Disaster Recovery Allowance and Payment, about which SSRV developed fact sheets and made these available online. These fact sheets are also relevant for other disasters and can be rapidly deployed. So far, this has allowed us to deliver information for people affected by storms and floods in 2021. 

COVID-19 Response 

Since the start of the pandemic, the economic, health and social impacts have been significant. The prolonged periods of lockdown and various restrictions have resulted in many individuals being unable to work and therefore forced to rely on social security more heavily than before or first the first time in their lives.  

SSRV began to see matters where COVID-19 was a factor in problems being faced by SSRV clients. This included, for example, loss of employment due to lockdown restrictions, people being stranded overseas due to travel restrictions, lack of understanding about the changes to social security payment eligibility criteria such as the waiver of the assets test or waiver of the Newly Arrived Residents Wait Period.  

Along with direct client services, activities undertaken by the Community Lawyer and other staff employed with the COVID-19 grant funds included: 

Social Security Advocacy Clinic

In December 2020 SSRV launched the pilot of the Social Security Advocacy Clinic in partnership with Monash Law School. A second clinical period commenced in March 2021.  The Clinic provides an opportunity to increase our overall capacity to delivery legal services to the community and for SSRV staff to work with and teach enthusiastic and talented students.  

The Clinic has had an energising and positive impact on SSRV and has established a successful remote clinical model that can continue to be developed and utilised in years to come. 

The reach and impact of the work of SSRV during this remarkable year far exceeds what we have highlighted in this snapshot. You can read more about our important service, as well as read stories from the people we have helped, in our 2020-21 Annual Report.

Economic abuse and social security

26 November marks World Economic Abuse Awareness Day, and it’s a really important day for SSRV and our clients. At SSRV we see the significant and long term impacts economic abuse has on victim survivors through our family violence related work.

Economic abuse ‘is a form of domestic and family violence where one person controls or attempts to control their partner’s (or former partner’s) ability to acquire, use or maintain money or economic resources, threatening their potential for self sufficiency and economic security.

SSRV provides legal services to people who have experienced economic abuse in relation to payments from Centrelink in a variety of ways, including:

– People who have been coerced by their partners into applying for a Centrelink payment which they are not eligible for

– People who have had no knowledge of a Centrelink application having been lodged in their name, and who have never received payments, but are then subject to an over payment/debt

– Victim survivors who are living with the long lasting impacts of having never been able to report their partner/ex partner income correctly to Centrelink, correctly, through control, information withholding and coercion and who are then left with the fall out of having received an over payment

– Financial systems abuse where social security laws and processes are used as a way for perpetrators to continue to target, harass and control victim survivors through the provision of false information to Centrelink or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in order to prevent the victim survivor from accessing the financial support they need to support themselves and, often, their children.

These situations, and others, can create a situation where victim survivors have no access to money while they are experiencing economic abuse and cause ongoing financial hardship and legal issues for years, even after the abuse may have ended. You can find out more information about economic abuse, and ways to get help, from the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety – CWES.

Economic Justice Australia (EJA) has also recently published a report on Centrelink compliance and domestic violence; Debt, Duress and Dob-ins: Centrelink compliance processes and domestic violence, which is now available on the EJA website.

How to get help from SSRV or refer someone to SSRV

SSRV can provide advice for people who have a Centrelink problem and who have been affected by economic abuse. We can also provide information and support to workers who are assisting victim survivors of economic abuse.

For individuals experiencing economic abuse who want legal advice about related social security issues: al Call our Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. If you can’t call us, you can email your request for assistance to info@ssrv.org.au

Workers wanting to speak to a social security lawyer about issues their clients are experiencing can call our Worker Help Line on 03 9481 0655, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You can also refer your client to us by emailing their information and details to info@ssrv.org.au

Staff Profile: Peter Horbury, Operations and Information Manager

G’day, my name’s Peter Horbury and I’ve been working at what is now SSRV since late 2000, when it was called the Welfare Rights Unit (WRU).

In that time, I’ve seen lots of changes to the organisation, Centrelink, social security law and related areas.

Before I began working at the then WRU I worked in student finances and housing at LaTrobe Uni. It was in my role as a Student financial advisor that I became aware of WRU. In fact, I was on the Board of WRU for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.

In my previous role I had a lot to do with financial counsellors and so I know many of the ‘old guard’ of financial counselling.

When I started work at WRU, Gillian Wilks (current Director of SSRV) was running the Federation of Community Legal Centres in a building in the city which I’m fairly sure is about to become the new safe injecting room.

In 2000, WRU was renting space from what is now Co-Health on Hoddle St in Collingwood. At the time I was the only full-time staff member. We had three part-time staff in addition to me and about five volunteers.

In 2009 we changed our name, and in 2010 we moved to Fitzroy North. In 2011 the structure of the organisation changed, and we got our first Director. In the early ‘teens’ we had student volunteers including a large cohort from the new law school at ACU.

My main role in those days was assisting with the advice line and administrative services. I’m now the Operations & Intake Co-ordinator. This role includes a range of responsibilities associated with  reception, triage, intake, administration and operational matters. I will most often be the person who answers calls to the SSRV Legal Assistance Line.

I was the treasurer of the then National Welfare Rights Network (the peak body of organisations like SSRV) for around a decade.

I love working at SSRV because of the way we help people sort out issues to do with income. When you’ve got income, other stuff becomes easier – you can pay the rent, you can eat, you can care for the kids etc. Without income, these things become very difficult.

Personally, I barrack for Richmond in the AFL and Williamstown in the VFL (so it’s been a few good years, though two missed set shots in 2019 would have given me ‘the double’). I collect Trivial Pursuit games and Oz rock. I’m the treasurer and play bass in the band at a local Baptist Church.

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