Calls for Centrelink to change the rules regarding couples

A new report finds Centrelink’s couple rule is causing difficulties for victims of violence.

Call to change rules for couples

A new report has found that Centrelink’s couple rule is causing difficulties for women in domestic violence situations.

Australia’s national security system, including the Age Pension, pays different amounts to recipients who are single and those who live as a couple.

Single people receive more than half the couple rate to account for the greater costs of living alone.

According to the report, Domestic Violence, Social Security and the Couple Rule, produced by Dr Lyndal Sleep for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROW), the couple rule can be problematic for women attempting to leave violent partners.

This is because the end date of the relationship is not always clearcut and it is common for women to make multiple attempts to leave.

Centrelink does provide access to a one-off crisis payment, allocated on the basis of a domestic violence screening process, however information acquired through the screening process may subsequently be used as evidence that a relationship exists.

“Some women who have claimed a single person’s benefit at the time they were trying to leave a violent relationship have been found to be in breach of the couple rule on the basis of evidence collected by Centrelink,” the report claims.

The research examined publicly available Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decisions that involved domestic violence and the couple rule.

The nature of violence and control by the perpetrator was rarely considered in AAT decisions about the couple rule, the research found.

“Even when domestic violence was identified at the AAT, the reality of women’s lived experiences was seldom taken into account in decisions,” Dr Sleep said.

“There was little indication that the AAT regularly applied the ‘special reason’ provision to override the couple rule in cases involving domestic violence.”

The ‘special reason’ provision in the Social Security Act allows for a person not to be treated as though he/she were a member of a couple when there was a ‘special reason’.

The research also found that the records used at the AAT as evidence could be inaccurate in domestic violence situations.

In 80 per cent of couple rule decisions where the relationship involved domestic violence, police and health records documenting domestic violence were used as evidence of a relationship. This information had originally been collected with women’s safety in mind, yet it was used to make adverse findings against women at AAT hearings.

“Police records of a domestic violence incident at a residential address could be used as evidence that the couple had shared living arrangements,” Dr Sleep said. “This is particularly an issue when a perpetrator attempts to continue his control over his ex-partner post-separation by harassing her at her home.

“Hospital and police records, which included statements by the attending health staff member or police officer as to the nature of the relationship or the nature of the commitment by either partner, were also used as evidence at the AAT.”

The report recommends that the Social Security Act be amended to explicitly include domestic violence as a factor to be considered when determining whether a person should be considered a member of a couple for social security purposes and whether a Centrelink debt should be waived.

It also suggests that all Centrelink and AAT decision-makers be required to complete training in domestic violence.

What do you think? Should Centrelink change the couple rule to explicitly consider domestic violence situations?

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    COMMENTS

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    Hobbit
    23rd Jul 2019
    10:23am
    All of our lives we are taxed as individuals, not allowed to combine couples incomes to lower taxes; then when it comes to receiving payments we are assessed as couples or singles, depending on our sleeping arrangements. As a matter of equity, either couples should be able to combine their income for tax assessment or all pension payments should be paid as singles.
    Farside
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:13am
    Income splitting for tax purposes is long overdue for consideration
    Rosret
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:39am
    Yes.
    GeorgeM
    25th Jul 2019
    12:00am
    Correct, Hobbit, "..all pension payments should be paid as singles", and cut out all the BS and reduce Centrelink costs and interference in people's lives.
    World Prophet
    26th Jul 2019
    1:36pm
    There is nothing wrong with couples being paid as couples, providing a minimum living standard can be maintained. Where the inequity lies is in the fact that when one partner dies or leaves, many of the costs faced by the couple do not change. Power costs remain the same, accommodation costs are largely unchanged, etc. The rate for single pensioners doesn't reflect this at all, and consequently a new level of poverty is encountered by those who, in many cases, already have had a trauma of some kind. On the other hand, for those who find it hard to make ends meet, some compromise may need to be made to ease the burden. For instance, accommodation sharing solves a lot of financial pressure, and other co-operative arrangements can help further.
    Paddington
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:06am
    If under the same roof you are a couple. I know of at least one instance where this is being given to a couple who are definitely not divorced. Cut the house in two, have two entrances, two kitchens, etc in order to be eligible.
    Domestic violence is a separate issue and women who are abused need to be protected and helped out of the home and supported. Most are women before men on here start to jump up and down and they are usually more vulnerable with children to also protect from the abuser. Where men are the victims similar policies should exist. However, more women are killed than the other way round.
    Farside
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:12am
    Payments should be made to individuals rather than arbitrarily declaring who is and is not a couple. If people live together to share living costs or any other reason then it is their choice, and their choice if they decide to go it alone.
    Thoughtful
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:24pm
    Agree. However the reverse is happening. People choose to not live as a couple for financial reasons. There are many reasons why living as a couple can be better for society financially - it is well recognised couples generally enjoy better health, there would be more housing available, cheaper energy costs......just to name a few.

    In the situation of domestic violence, this change would also make the decision easier on the individual and better for society.
    Hardworker
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:22am
    It is hard enough to leave a partner when you have children whether he is violent or not. A lot of women, even today, are forced to stay in these relationships due to family and friends being afraid that they too will become the victims of violence if they assist. You only need to look at the dreadful situation Rosie Batty was forced to endure to see how things have changed but it took too long to change which speaks volumes of our screwed up society. It does not surprise me that Centrelink is well and truly behind the times on this issue and should change its stance immediately. Of course their political focus is on getting money back off people for politicians to spend on something else rather than truly assisting people in a crisis. And it IS a crisis if you are not only trying to protect yourself but protect children as well. A good argument for all to be treated as individuals whether in a relationship or not. Our society has been so slow on this issue that those switched on females are now educating themselves, getting good jobs and with the help of maternity leave, keeping these jobs so that they have the money to help themselves if their relationship goes belly up.
    Rosret
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:34am
    With half of all marriages ending in divorce I think it is most important that everyone reminds themselves of their need for their own financial independence.

    One non negotiable rule that males or females should apply to a marriage - if they abuse you - LEAVE. Not when you are hospitalised or some sort of PTSD victim after decades of psychological abuse.
    Go into a marriage with your eyes wide open and free from wanderlust. Its a contract. Read the unwritten fine print and just swipe right if it fails and move on.
    Triss
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:51am
    Good advice, Rosret.
    Sundays
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:18pm
    I agree.
    Lookfar
    23rd Jul 2019
    4:24pm
    Hardworker, I think I agree with you, who or when or if you choose to share house, flat. etc is really irrelevant in the nature of things, - sure, sometimes 2 can live as cheaply as one, - if you have an amazing gardener and an especialy thrifty cook, but that is tottally up to the individuals concerned, and particularly if those qualities are in the same person, - who would do the same if not in a couple, just where do you draw the line?
    One member may be able to fix cars, one may be a great lover, one may be very active and helpful to society through strong commitment to a service club or individual work, but not getting any return, - just why should thrifty couples be punished by reduced pension? or non-thrifty couples punished for being in a couple when they don't contribute much at all to the other except companionship? - it just doesn't make any sense to me, we are born alone and we die alone, whether we have a life after physical death or not we are each alone, so should each receive the single pension, - after all we have all paid for it, - whether the Govt years ago changed the name of the Pension Fund to the Robert Menzies, or whoever, glorification fund, the money has been taken out of our tax whatever it was re-named as, and without our permission, - probably in contravention of the Constitution.
    I believe that all these little minor thieveries should be taken out of the hands of the powers that be and returned to the individual, as basically the Buck stops here..
    Rosret
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:25am
    Individuals should receive a single pension no matter whether they are in a defacto, single or married living situation.

    This would give everyone the independence they need to make their own decisions in life. All individuals should be judged independently no matter how much wealth anyone in the house they cohabit with earns.

    It's not just physical violence some individuals tolerate its also emotional abuse as money is locked away and not shared in some cases. That's why so many women love to work. It gives them financial independence.
    Paddington
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:29am
    You do get your own pension in a couple situation. It is half of the couple rate. Others cannot claim it for you. It is less than the single pension but it is more expensive for one person to maintain a home than a couple. The poorest is the single pensioner who rents.
    Rosret
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:37am
    So it gets split into individual accounts? How do they work out rental assistance etc? Is it reduced for both when one person has assets? Its not really an individual pension.
    Paddington
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:07pm
    It is, Rosret, an individual pension. You work out the monthly costs of your bills and each one puts half into a joint account for the bills. If everything is jointly owned which it is with couples who have been together for a long time there is no issue.
    Full pensioners don’t have much apart from their home usually. We have a car worth $7000 for example. Furniture is not valued at the insurance rate but at what you would get for it in a yard sale. We come way under any assets test. There are no shares for us. We invested our money in our children as we went along and barely kept our head above water. So we have nothing to brag about lol except well educated adults paying lots of tax.
    Farside
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:12pm
    There are Home Share programs dedicated to helping seniors finding housemates. Not only does this provide the opportunity to improve lifestyle, share costs etc but has the added benefit of providing social interactions. It's not like share housing is a new concept to seniors, they invented it in back in the day.
    jackie
    23rd Jul 2019
    1:06pm
    Rosret, not sharing money in a marriage is not a marriage and the person should leave instead of putting up with abuse.

    Living with more than one person is always cheaper than living alone. All the bills are split.

    That is the reason married couples are paid slightly less than if they were single.
    Joy B
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:36am
    While I think something needs to be done about the domestic violence situation that is not the only situation that needs to be addressed. Hobbit's comments hit the nail on the head.
    Nerk
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:48am
    What is the policy about males being the victim
    Triss
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:55am
    Same policies, as Paddington said.
    David
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:17pm
    In theory the policies are the same, but in practice, the treatment by the courts, tribunals, police, Centrelink and others is different. So in the case of the male victim, they have a much harder case to prove they have been the subject of domestic violence, and even when it's proven, the sentences handed down by the courts are different.
    Even this article refers to the women being the victim, which isn't always the case.
    Lookfar
    23rd Jul 2019
    5:21pm
    Nerk, my policy as a male subjected to physical violence from a one armed smaller but strong person, - who i could not legally claim to be over powered by, - who every time I said something she disagreed with, hit me hard, - then or later, was to leave.
    As is often the case in these situations it turns out that the Hitter was a product of previous family violence, - I am a gentle man, that family history is not mine, - it stops with me, I won't carry it further, she will have to carry it herself, - I finish there.

    So, 5 years down the track, she has had no significant other, despite denying all the hitting, she did confine the truth, to a couple of close friends, and we still remain guardedly amicable, she has been 'born again', and seems as though she has given up the hitting, although not sure of her son, but whatever, not bad for a daughter of the Warlord of her village in Mount Victoria, in PNG, - only 2 generations from Cannabalism, her mother speared to death, and whilst we loved each other very much, the violence finished with me, sort of like gossip, I had a girlfriend 40 years, - she always said, like Ghandhi, Gossip finishes with Me. - a bit off topic, but the point is, I am responsible for my actions, the Govt should have no right to insinuate their greedy thoughtless fingers in each of our lives and do something so monstrous as tax people who live together, giving each other love and companionship, - just how bad is it to tax love and companionship ?
    BrianP
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:55am
    Centrelink should definitely be made to do the job properly and compassionately. Include training in domestic violence matters.
    ray from Bondi
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:18pm
    successive governments have not changed the deeming rate as this would cause an increase of payments a very few, how many do have that amount of money in the bank, to even suggest that they may consider this is a furphy, now talk about giving politicians more and that will be almost a certainty.
    Chris B T
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:27pm
    There is Nothing to Stop Singles living in the same abode. Rental Assistance Is only claimable for one or diversionary between Claimants.
    The argument that singles are worse of than Couples doesn't stack up. Two or more singles won't get along, sad to say many Married/Defacto's Don't Get Along and surprise sleep separately.
    The bitterness and shackled to one another comes in. Then Resentment followed by sometimes Domestic Violence.
    Every Person To Be Treated As Single Especially For OAP May Reduce Some Domestic Violence(MAY) Won't Know Until It Is Tried.
    Most People Claiming OAP Haven't The Full Benefit Of Superannuation, OAP is all they have to live off.Some Others Had Government and Generous Employer Super Funds/Payments and good luck to them, reality is most Didn't.
    jackie
    23rd Jul 2019
    1:12pm
    Chris B T, happily married couples don't mind sharing everything including their money.

    A marriage where one partner misses and has to go without because their partner is too mean and greedy is not a marriage.

    I advise anyone in that situation to leave and see a solicitor instead of putting up with an abuser.

    Paying single pensions to those couples will not fix the problem.
    Chris B T
    23rd Jul 2019
    3:20pm
    Jackie
    Happy Married can be Tested, sad for those not so and are Tested.
    There are Married Couples that have totally separate lives and live like singles do.
    This has not been Tried Paying ALL Single Pension, without trying something Different How Will Any ONE Know.
    Just Stick With Same Old Way, which has a cost to society/courts/police/advocates as well as family brake down.
    So leaving the RELATIONSHIP you claim the Single Pension That Could Work for some and return to Just Friends. Problem Solved.
    Chris B T
    24th Jul 2019
    9:45am
    PS
    Married Couples are Stretched with a Reduced Pension by $11861.20 compared to 2 Single OAP.
    Yes they share the same abode, 2 singles can too.
    A lot of costs are unique to individuals and can't be classified as shared costs as both have much the same needs.(MEDICAL)
    At $228/week difference it can be a challenge, this is not about sharing more it's about expected to live with much less income.
    As we age more Medical Needs are Required.
    Chuck
    23rd Jul 2019
    12:50pm
    Absolutely right Hobbit it's Government Rules penalising couples. Totally unfair.
    Roy R
    23rd Jul 2019
    1:26pm
    I thought that wave's pensions were being phased out on January 20, 2020.
    Aussiefrog
    23rd Jul 2019
    1:39pm
    "This is because the end date of the relationship is not always clearcut and it is common for women to make multiple attempts to leave." What about men that are attempting to leave? No go? As if the violence was only one way!
    Paddington
    28th Jul 2019
    7:50pm
    When it is a level playing field physically, however, men are a lot stronger. Women would have to get the drop or advantage and more women are murdered by their partners than the other way round anyway. If a bloke decides to use brute force the female has little defence unless he is a woos and she is a karate black belt lol. Weird comments by males on here sometimes. And women have to protect the children, men are supposed to protect both not harm them. We are talking physical violence here so don’t start the other arguments. Go cry into your beer weak men who hit women.
    inextratime
    23rd Jul 2019
    2:33pm
    Another reason why everyone over 65 should receive the same pension amount, rich poor, married, single, cut out all the BS and get rid of a massive industry based on making the whole system so complicated that needs a cast of thousands to sort it all out. Savings: massive staff costs, office rents, office equipment, power etc etc. It works in most other countries. Has anyone done the stats ?
    Tanker
    23rd Jul 2019
    2:41pm
    The reason it works in other countries is because they have a different system to ours which is not funded through income tax as was set up by one Robert Menzies.
    Tanker
    23rd Jul 2019
    2:41pm
    The reason it works in other countries is because they have a different system to ours which is not funded through income tax as was set up by one Robert Menzies.
    inextratime
    23rd Jul 2019
    2:33pm
    Another reason why everyone over 65 should receive the same pension amount, rich poor, married, single, cut out all the BS and get rid of a massive industry based on making the whole system so complicated that needs a cast of thousands to sort it all out. Savings: massive staff costs, office rents, office equipment, power etc etc. It works in most other countries. Has anyone done the stats ?
    GeorgeM
    25th Jul 2019
    12:02am
    Correct, inextratime, pay as singles, and preferably as Universal Age Pension with NO tests other than Age and Residency. Save heaps of Centrelink costs and remove their interference in retirees' lives. Politicians don't like to evaluate this option, so must be made to consider it.
    Chuck
    23rd Jul 2019
    5:35pm
    Correction Tanker the Welfare System was started by Ben Chifley. The tax was in a separate account to pay for all types of Welfare ; Age Pension included. Menzies runined the Welfare System by cancelling the Welfare Account and put all taxes received for Welfare into Consolidated Revenue
    greygeek
    23rd Jul 2019
    6:23pm
    A de facto couple or even a same sex couple can and DO receive single pensions each!! They may live together, share the same bed etc., but qualify/eligible for single pensions! This is, imho, totally discriminatory towards those aged couples who legally tied the knot decades ago!! Why should we be?????
    greygeek
    23rd Jul 2019
    6:23pm
    A de facto couple or even a same sex couple can and DO receive single pensions each!! They may live together, share the same bed etc., but qualify/eligible for single pensions! This is, imho, totally discriminatory towards those aged couples who legally tied the knot decades ago!! Why should we be?????
    52-KID
    23rd Jul 2019
    8:49pm
    I think the only couples that get away with living together, are those who do not report their living arrangements correctly. I have same sex friends who are classed as a couple, and I was classed as part of a couple when in a defacto relationship. It's not worth the risk of not being honest - can be a lot of money to pay back.
    Poppa
    23rd Jul 2019
    6:59pm
    Great if this can happen but it would be to costly and yes all payments should be done as singles as yes we are taxed as singles and assessed as couples as we all know.
    Poppa
    23rd Jul 2019
    6:59pm
    Great if this can happen but it would be to costly and yes all payments should be done as singles as yes we are taxed as singles and assessed as couples as we all know.
    Poppa
    23rd Jul 2019
    7:04pm
    Sorry for the double up of entries in the comments. Looks like its the browser Microsoft edge.
    Charlie
    23rd Jul 2019
    10:41pm
    I have no idea?
    musicveg
    23rd Jul 2019
    11:20pm
    Get rid of couple payments and have single payments only.


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