Key social security changes for 2017/18 and beyond

As you would be aware, a range of social security changes came into effect on the 1 July 2017.  Read on to find out if you will be affected.

Social Security
Reinstatement of Pensioner Concession Card
Effective date: 9 October 2017

The Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) will be reissued to those individuals who were previously social security pensioners. The card will be reinstated where a person lost eligibility for a pension payment as a result of the lowering of the asset test thresholds on 1 January 2017.  These individuals were previously automatically issued with a Low Income Health Card (LIC) and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC), in the case of Age Pension recipients.  The LIC will be deactivated upon the receipt of the new PCC.  Individuals who were issued with the CSHC will also be able to retain this card, which provides access to the Energy Supplement.  The reinstatement of the PCC will again provide access to Government subsidised hearing services and certain other state-based concessions and incentives that are not accessible to LIC and CSHC holders.

Family Tax Benefits
Effective date: 1 July 2017

The indexation of income thresholds below which the maximum payment is payable will recommence after being on hold for some time.  The payment rate for Family Tax Benefit payments (part A and B) will not be indexed for two years.  Indexation will resume on 1 July 2019.

Child care package
Effective date: 2 July 2018

The ‘child care subsidy’ (CCS) will replace the current child care rebate and child care benefit from 2 July 2018.  The CCS will be a single means tested subsidy paid directly to service providers.  Eligible recipients will be subject to an income test and an ‘activity test’ to determine eligibility.  Acceptable activities for this purpose include paid work, being self-employed, looking for work, volunteering and studying.

Families with annual combined family income of up to $65,7101 will be eligible for the maximum subsidy of 85% of the actual fee charged, up to an hourly ‘fee cap’. A combined family income of up to $350,000 will provide a partial subsidy, with entitlement cutting out when income exceeds $350,000.  Income thresholds will be indexed with CPI for commencement in July 2018.

Other key measures not legislated

Subject to the passage of legislation, a number of other key social security measures may come into effect throughout the 2017/18 year.  Bills supporting these measures have been introduced into Parliament but not yet passed.  Some of these changes include:

- cessation of the Energy supplement for certain income support recipients who were not receiving a welfare payment on 20 September 2016, and closes entitlement to any new recipients from 20 September 2017
- cessation of certain income support payments from 20 March 2020 to 1 January 2022 (including widow B pension, widow allowance, wife pension, sickness allowance, partner allowance and bereavement allowance)
- enhancements to the residency requirements for age pension and disability support pension recipients
- cessation of the pension supplement after 6 weeks of temporary absence when travelling overseas, and immediate cessation if departing Australia permanently from 1 January 2018, and
- increasing the maximum liquid assets waiting period from 13 to 26 weeks from 20 September 2018

In regard to the above, we will provide you with more information as it comes to hand.