The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Continuation, variation or termination of SpNP


The following table lists the circumstances in which payment of SpNP may change.

Payment of SpNP may be … if …
  • a DSP recipient is found not to be severely disabled, or
  • a recipient's income or assets increase beyond the appropriate limit, or
  • a DSP recipient fails to comply with a request under SS(Admin)Act section 81, or
  • a recipient becomes qualified for, and transfers to, special needs Age or DSP, or
  • the recipient or their partner fails to take action to obtain a CFP (1.1.C.230).
  • a recipient's income or assets temporarily increase beyond the appropriate limit.

If necessary, these circumstances are explained in more detail in the rest of this topic.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(4B) A person is severely disabled if …

SS(Admin)Act section 81 Cancellation or suspension for non-compliance with certain notices

Policy reference: SS Guide 7.3.3 CFP notices & reasonable action requirements

Severely disabled recipients

A person in receipt of special needs DSP that was granted on or after 12 November 1991 ceases to qualify if they are found not to be severely disabled.

The payment of special needs DSP granted before 12 November 1991 is only affected by the severe disability rule if a medical review is conducted. If a medical review is conducted on or after 12 November 1991, the recipient needs to meet the criteria of being severely disabled to remain qualified.

Policy reference: SS Guide Qualification for SpNP, Payability of DSP

Increase in income or assets

The arrangements applicable to portability of payments overseas apply to SpNP also.

If the income or assets of a person receiving SpNP increase to a level that precludes payment of pension, any determination to terminate the pension should be made ONLY after consideration has been given to the circumstances of the increased income or assets.

Suspension would be more suitable than termination if it is possible that the:

  • increase is temporary, or
  • financial circumstances of the recipient may deteriorate in the future.

The following factors should be considered before making a decision:

  • previous fluctuations in the recipient's income
  • sources of income which may be unreliable in the future, and
  • additional factors directly affecting the recipient's income or assets.

Example: Exchange rate fluctuations.

Policy reference: SS Guide 7.1 Conditions for payment outside Australia

Duration of suspension

The circumstances of the individual case will determine how long the pension should remain suspended, pending review for restoration or termination. As a general guide however, a pension would be suspended for up to 3 months with a maximum limit of up to 2 years in exceptional circumstances.

Failure to comply with a request

A recipient who has claimed, or is in receipt of special needs DSP can be required to:

  • contact Centrelink, or
  • attend an interview, or
  • complete a questionnaire, or
  • attend an examination.

As long as the recipient was advised of this requirement in writing, their SpNP can be terminated or suspended if they fail to meet it.

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 81 Cancellation or suspension for non-compliance with certain notices

Death of recipient

The estate of a deceased single SpNP recipient is entitled to one further instalment after the death of the recipient.

If the recipient was a member of a couple (1.1.M.120), the partner may qualify for some bereavement assistance.

In either case, payment should also be made up to and including the date of death, to the person best entitled to receive it.

Act reference: SSAct section 830 Death of recipient

Death of partner

If the recipient is a member of a couple and their partner dies, the recipient may qualify for bereavement assistance, IF the partner was:

  • receiving a social security pension, OR
  • receiving a DVA service pension, OR
  • a long term social security recipient.

The death of a partner may necessitate a change in the recipient's SpNP rate, based on their income and assets as a single recipient.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(1)-'social security pension', section 23(1)-'long-term social security recipient', section 822 Qualification for payments under this Subdivision

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.5 Bereavement payment provisions


SpNP is reviewed as part of the general review program for pensioners residing overseas. It is also reviewed when:

  • a recipient notifies of a change in circumstances, or
  • Centrelink becomes aware of a change in the recipient's circumstances.

Examples: The recipient:

  • changes marital status
  • returns to Australia
  • commences employment
  • is granted an overseas pension
  • vacates or sells their home
  • receives superannuation, compensation, or maintenance, and
  • acquires an interest in a deceased estate.

Special needs DSP recipients are also subject to overseas medical reviews. These reviews are undertaken in the same manner as ordinary DSP reviews for recipients being paid overseas under portability provisions.

Policy reference: SS Guide 6.1 Changes in Income & Assets - Reviews, 6.2.3 Retirement & widows reviews

Last reviewed: