Centrelink clients with coronavirus won’t have to look for a job while sick: Govt

Welfare recipients will continue receiving payments if they’re under isolation because of the coronavirus, government officials say.

Mar 05, 2020, updated Mar 05, 2020
Photo: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Photo: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Department of Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell was recently contacted by a Newstart recipient who was under isolation for the advised 14 days and therefore couldn’t do the usual activities required to receive the unemployment support.

The department would ensure the Newstart recipient would continue receiving payments, Campbell has confirmed to a Senate estimates committee on Thursday.

Centrelink said welfare recipients isolated at home on the advice of a medical professional or government authority would be given an exemption to meeting obligations.

“If they are still unwell after the initial 14-day isolation period, they will need to provide a medical certificate to get a further exemption,” the agency tweeted.

The department is preparing for the coronavirus to affect more welfare recipients, and is currently deciding options on how to best communicate with the public.

It’s considering using the MyGov website and setting up a hotline.

Campbell couldn’t say whether the department would suspend the liquid assets test for people with coronavirus or under isolation, to make it easier for people to receive support.

“We are providing advice to government. These will be government decisions,” she said.

Senior department official Nathan Williamson said people could apply to have the liquid assets test waived if they were under financial hardship.

The government wants to make Australians wait longer before applying for some welfare payments, if they have $18,000 or more in liquid assets.

Currently the maximum waiting period applies to people with $11,500 or more of liquid assets, such as cash.

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