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.