parents

Avoid the queues. In fact, just stay in your pyjamas.

By AMY STOCKWELL

OK, quick quiz: What does the 2013 Federal Budget mean for family payments? What do you need to do at tax time if you receive family payments or income support?

When should you apply for Paid Parental Leave and when is too late? What is the difference between Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B? What is the best time to ring the Centrelink Families line so that you don’t end up waiting forever on hold while your kids tear the house apart?

Anyone got an answer?…Anyone?…No?

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by the Department of Human Services. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in her own words.

Whether you currently receive Centrelink family payments or not, there is a good chance that you’ve got some questions about what your obligations are or whether you are eligible. And unless you’ve been paying very close attention, you may not be aware of changes that could make your interactions with Centrelink easier and faster – without a single queue in sight.

On 13 June 2013, our founder and publisher, Mia Freedman, hosted a webcast during which parents and carers could ask questions about family payments, tax and paid parental leave – all from the comfort of their home. No waiting! No wondering! Just helpful advice and direction.

The resulting video is now available as three clips on Youtube, which you can watch, pause and rewind whenever you get a chance, here.

All of the questions that I listed above are answered, along with some helpful direction to locations on the Human Services website that will help you with your eligibility and obligations.

I trust that you’ll watch it anyway, but I am going to give you five spoilers:

1. THE ANSWER IS as early in the day as possible! The Centrelink Families line opens from 8am -that’s the best time to so you have the shortest waiting time. Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen says that they’ve put on additional call-centre staff during June, July and August to deal with questions about obligations at tax time. He also said that the waiting time the day before the webcast was about 7 minutes. 7 minutes! Remember: from 8am.

2. There is an App! Hank says in Part 3 of the Webcast that one third of interactions at Centrelink offices can be provided using their new app technology. The start of Part 1 of the Webcast introduces the new Families App (for Android and iPhone), which allows you to report to Centrelink about changes and fill out and submit forms – all from your phone.

You need to register for online services first – a process that Hank frankly calls “a bit clunky” – but once you’re registered, and you’ve downloaded the app (from the App Store or Google Play), it’s smooth sailing. The extra time that it takes to register for online services is necessary to protect your security and make sure all of the interactions with Centrelink are confidential.

You can send in documents just by taking a picture of them and uploading. No holding! No posting forms! No fighting with the scanner! And, importantly, fewer trips to the Centrelink office! Minister for Human Services, Jan McLucas tells the story of a family snapping a picture of a proof of birth document and submitting it via the app – and within 20 minutes of the baby’s birth, it had been processed by Centrelink.

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3. At Tax Time, if you receive Family payments, you need to update your estimated income and lodge your tax return.

If you don’t need to lodge a tax return, you need to tell Centrelink that you won’t be lodging one.

Changes introduced by the Government mean that people who earn less than $18,000 don’t need to lodge a tax return (previously everyone who earned over $6000 needed to lodge a return).

Thanks, Hank – and thanks to Max for asking the question.

4. Did you know that Paid Parental Leave (PPL) starts once your baby is born – not when you start your maternity leave (which you may start a few weeks before the birth). You can, however, lodge your forms three months before the baby is due. In fact, Ingrid, the Department of Human Services staff member who is currently on maternity leave (and who sat on the Webcast panel with Mia and Hank) said that it is best to lodge all of your forms before the baby is born because you may not have as much time after the birth.

Also, you must apply for your 18 weeks of PPL in the first year after your child is born – so you must claim before your child is 36 weeks old. There was an important question from Simone about PPL and redundancy – you have to have been working for 10 out of the past 13 months in order to be eligible for PPL. See the Webcast and the website for more details.

5. Payment Finder is a function on the Human Services website which will help you to find out what payments you may be entitled to. You can find out about Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance (thanks, Jasmine – good luck with the TAFE study), as well as the Baby Bonus (after March, it will be $2000 for your first child and $1000 thereafter) and Child Care Benefit for care by grandparents. There is also a Payment Estimator on the website that is very handy.

That’s just five of the important insights that you’ll hear about in the Webcast. There is more information on the Webcast webpage and in the Families tab on the Department of Human Services website.

The best news for me: you can do your interactions with Centrelink in your pyjamas. Well, I guess you can go into Centrelink offices in your pjs at the moment, but that might not be your cup of tea. Let me put it this way: now with the App you can sort out your payments while having a cup of tea. No time wasted getting to Centrelink offices and waiting in line. Less time on hold. Making interactions with government services easier and faster is such a relief.

So, thanks to everyone who got involved and asked questions – and thanks to Hank, Ingrid and Mia for answering and speaking frankly about the ins and outs of what can be a very complicated, but necessary part of family life.

Here’s some government payments for parents that you might be eligible for:

Keep up-to-date with important information about Centrelink family assistance through:

For more information about Centrelink payments and services for families, visit humanservices.gov.au/families

This post is sponsored by the Department of Human Services. Comments on this post are just for this post. If you have questions about sponsored posts or the choice of advertisers please click here for details of how to submit a query or comment.

 

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