The Social Security (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Staggered Payments
I am writing to inform you of the forthcoming change to regulations to improve the department’s handling of payments to its most vulnerable claimants.
The proposed change enables the department, with the claimant’s consent, to stagger payments of large benefit arrears rather than paying the whole amount as a lump sum, where the department believes it is necessary to prevent the claimant from coming to harm. Staggering payments will only apply to arrears payments and will not affect normal benefit entitlements. It will apply to all social security benefits this department administers.
As you will be aware the department occasionally has to retrospectively review entitlement to benefit. If a long time has passed since the original decision was made, this may result in claimants being due a large payment of arrears of benefit. Reasons for this may involve delays in processing claims and successful Mandatory Reconsiderations and appeals.
These payments will be unexpected because they will be unaware of the decision or judgement affecting their entitlement. For some of our most vulnerable claimants, receiving a large sum of money unexpectedly can lead to negative consequences, so we are keen to make this change to mitigate the risk of vulnerable people coming to harm. There are a number of issues on which I would like to provide re-assurance.
- The money due will always be paid.
- If a claimant accepts a staggered payment arrangement but then changes their mind, whilst we would of course discuss the reason for the change and seek reassurance about the handling of the balance, we would pay the money in full.
- If the claimant dies whilst the payments are being staggered, the balance will be subject to the department’s normal process for the payment of monies due on the death of the claimant. It would be paid to the executor, if there is one, or the spouse or another third party on application.
This measure is limited and will only apply within the confines of the regulatory changes, and where it is necessary to protect the interests of the claimant. The intention is therefore that it will be offered to only the most vulnerable.