3.8.1.106 Special RA Rules for Couples & Families with Children

Summary

Payment of RA to a recipient can vary depending on whether the recipient is a member of a couple (1.1.M.120) whose partner is an income support recipient.

This topic covers:

  • rules for couples residing together,
  • the 8 week non-payment period for couples on allowances without children,
  • the employment income nil rate period for:
    • couples on allowances without children,
    • couples on pensions without children,
    • families,
  • rules for partnered couples who are separated,
  • rules for single parents living with their children,
  • rules for couples with joint legal responsibility for children, and
  • special rules where one member of a couple is a war widow pensioner.

Couple residing together

The following table explains the provisions for payment of RA to members of a couple residing together:

If… Then RA is…
one member of a couple receives FTB Part A at greater than the base FTB child rate, paid in total to the FTB recipient, based on total rent paid by the couple.

Note: Any existing entitlement to payment of RA with social security or veterans entitlement payment MUST be cancelled at the same time as the decision is made to add RA to a recipient's FTB Part A.

a pensioner couple live together and both members are eligible for RA, payable to each recipient at half of the total amount otherwise payable. Each recipient's rate should be calculated having regard to the total rent paid by the couple.
one of a couple is a service pensioner in receipt of RA under the Veterans' Entitlements Act, paid to the partner on a social security pension at half the total amount payable.
one of a couple is in receipt of a pension and the other a benefit or allowance, paid in total to the pensioner partner, based on total rent paid by the couple.
BOTH members of a couple are receiving a benefit/allowance, split equally between them, based on total rent paid by the couple.

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.8.1.20 Payability of RA, 3.8.1.10 Qualification for RA

FA Guide 3.1.4.30 Rent assistance

8 week non-payment period for couples on allowances without children

These rules apply to couples where both members are in receipt of an allowance and one member of the couple incurs an 8 week non-payment period. During the 8 week non-payment period, the member of a couple who is NOT serving the non-payment period, is paid RA at their usual rate. This means, the member of the couple still on payment receives their half of RA, and the person serving the 8 week non-payment period does not receive RA.

Act reference: SSAct section 631 Situations where allowance not payable for failure to comply with certain requirements

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.13 Compliance Framework for Participation Payments

Employment income nil rate period - allowance couples without children

These rules apply to couples where both members are receiving an allowance payment and one member of the couple starts the employment income nil rate period. While one member of the couple is on an employment income nil rate period, the other person is paid RA as if the nil rate person was still on payment. This means that the RA is still subject to the combined amount limit. The member of the couple still on payment receives their half of the RA, and the person on the employment income nil rate doesn't receive RA.

Explanation: A person subject to an employment income nil rate period is classed as receiving (1.1.R.55) a social security pension or benefit for the purposes of RA.

Example: John and Margaret receive the partner rate of NSA and have no dependent children. They are entitled to the maximum rate of RA and each receive half the rate of RA payable to a couple. Margaret obtains a casual job which precludes her from payment (including RA) and she is qualified for the employment income nil rate period. John's NSA rate of payment is not affected by Margaret's income and he continues to receive his half of RA.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(4A) Despite subsection (4)…, section 23(4AA) For the purposes of subsection (4A)…

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.12 Employment Income Nil Rate Period

Employment income nil rate period - pensioner couples without children

These rules apply to couples where one or both are receiving a pension, and one member of the couple starts the employment income nil rate period. The RA is still subject to the combined threshold amounts. Normally both members of the couple start the employment income nil rate period at the same time due to the combined income test, however if one party has a different working credit balance to the other then they will not go onto nil rate together. This will create the situation where one person is receiving payment and the other is on nil rate. For couples in this situation the following table shows the rate of RA paid.

Pension couple no dependants Rate of RA paid
Both members of the couple receiving a pension and the partner starts the employment income nil rate period. Half rate paid to pensioner partner not on the employment income nil rate.
One member of the couple is a Veterans' Affairs service pensioner and the partner who is on a pension or benefit/allowance starts the employment income nil rate period. Half rate paid to service pensioner partner not on the employment income nil rate.
One member of the couple is on a pension and the partner who is on a benefit/allowance starts the employment income nil rate period. Full rate paid to pensioner partner.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(4A) Despite subsection (4)…, section 23(4AA) For the purposes of subsection (4A)…

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.12 Employment Income Nil Rate Period

Employment income nil rate period - families

For FTB recipients, RA is paid as part of their FTB payment. If such a recipient continues to be paid FTB Part A at greater than the base rate FTB child rate during an employment income nil rate period, they will also continue to receive RA during the employment income nil rate period.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(4A) Despite subsection (4)…, section 23(4AA) For the purposes of subsection (4A)…

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.12 Employment Income Nil Rate Period

Partnered couples who are separated

If a couple do not live together but are still treated as partnered, the reason for separation will determine the rate payable to each person. Each member of the couple is assessed on the basis of the separate rents of each. The rent threshold and maximum rates applying to each member of the couple are outlined in the following table:

The RA couple are… Rent threshold Maximum rate
illness separated. Single Single
respite care separated (RA paid to the member of the couple remaining at principal home). Single Single
temporarily separated. Single Partnered
partnered (partner in gaol). Single Single

However, if one of the couple is an ineligible homeowner, both partners will be ineligible homeowners, and RA cannot be paid to either of them.

Exception: The exception to this provision applies IF they have left the matrimonial home to receive or provide a substantial level of care for another person who needs, or in the Secretary's opinion is likely to need, that level of care for at least 14 consecutive days.

Act reference: SSAct section 4(7) Illness separated couple, section 4(8) Respite care couple, section 4(9A) Temporarily separated couple, section 4(11)(f) Standard family situation categories, section 13(1)-'ineligible homeowner', see (b)(iii), section 13(9)-'in a care situation'

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.8.1.100 Ineligible Homeowners & RA

Single parent

A single parent sharing accommodation ONLY with their recipient child is not affected by the sharers provisions.

Rationale: The policy was primarily introduced to protect the parent from the operations of the sharers rule as it is commonly applied when a young person living with a parent cannot receive RA. It would be unfair to disadvantage both parent and young person if the parent was treated as a sharer. However, it can apply to a parent with a child of any age, provided the child receives a social security payment, service pension or ABSTUDY payment and does not receive RA.

Act reference: SSAct section 5A(6)-'recipient child'

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.8.1.110 Sharers Provisions for RA

Separated parents with joint legal responsibility

If parents are separated (or were never partnered) and both have shared care of a child or children (at least 35 per cent), they may be entitled to share the FTB. If each member is qualified to receive FTB Part A at greater than the base FTB child rate and they both pay rent for their own principal residence, they MAY each qualify for RA. In this situation, RA is not apportioned but paid in full, according to eligibility, to each parent.

If FTB is not payable for the child, the applicant MAY still be eligible for RA in the FTB system if they have regular care (at least 14 per cent to less than 35 per cent care). In this situation, RA is not apportioned but paid in full, according to eligibility, to each parent.

A parent with below regular care MAY still be eligible for RA if they receive an income support payment.

Act reference: FAAct Schedule 1 clause 38B RA children

Policy reference: FA Guide 3.1.4.30 Rent assistance, 1.1.M.26 Maximum rate (FTB)

War widow pensioners & their spouses

Some war widows receive a pension from DVA as well as a pension such as Age or DSP. The pension payment is capped at a maximum amount that may include RA.

Where a war widow is partnered the capped pension does not include RA so the partner is then eligible for the total RA for the couple at the partnered rate. The war widow is considered as not having a 'rent increased pension'.

Act reference: SSAct section 1064(5) Rate limited for armed service widow, section 1064(6) Rate limited for armed services widower

Last reviewed: 4 February 2019