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Where to find support

Centrelink assistance

If you are on a low income or unable to work because of your breast cancer, you may be eligible for payments or services from Centrelink. Please navigate to each section below for more information and types of payments available. 

Seeking assistance

You can visit a Centrelink office or phone 13 27 17 for help with applications and claims. You can also ask to speak to a social worker (phone 13 27 17 and ask to speak to a social worker) or contact the Financial Information Service (phone 13 23 00) for advice. It is best to do this as soon as possible, as there might be a waiting period before payments can start to be paid to you. If you are feeling too unwell to have this discussion, your partner or a family member can seek advice on your behalf. You can nominate your partner or a family member to represent you, so that Centrelink can deal directly with that person instead of you.

Applying for a Centrelink payment or service can be confusing, frustrating and time consuming. You may need to provide lots of detailed information and documents such as letters from your doctor. If you need to speak to someone about your options, you may have a long wait, but when you finally do it is important that you or your representative keep on asking questions until you are sure about your entitlements.

You may also want to ask your partner or a family member or close friend to help you keep track of all of the paperwork required for Centrelink.

My sister keeps track of my bills, Medicare claims, etc. I just find it way too stressful and time consuming. Getting family to help with the paperwork side of treatment is a really practical way that you can get family or friends to support you. – Jenny

There are a number of different Centrelink payments for which you and your partner may be eligible.

For more information about any of the services or payments below visit a Centrelink office, or phone 13 27 17.

Sickness allowance

If you are employed but unable to work because of your illness, and you meet certain age and income requirements, you may be eligible for a fortnightly sickness allowance. If you have a partner, their income and assets will be taken into account, as will any outstanding sick leave you are entitled to from your workplace. You will need a medical certificate from your doctor confirming that you are not able to work.

Mobility allowance

You may be able to claim the mobility allowance if you do paid or volunteer work, study, or are looking for work, and cannot use public transport. Your doctor will need to complete the Centrelink form confirming you cannot use public transport without help because of disability, illness, or injury. If you are doing volunteer work, the organisation you volunteer for may need to endorse your application. If you receive the mobility allowance, you may also be able to access a Health Care Card even if you do not meet the financial criteria that is part of the standard Centrelink application. You can find more information or download the forms from the Department of Human Services website.

Disability support pension

If you are assessed as being unable to work for more than 15 hours per week within the next two years because of your breast cancer, you may be eligible for a fortnightly disability support pension. Your income and assets, and those of your partner, will be taken into account.

Health Care Cards

A Health Care Card is available to people who receive certain payments from Centrelink. If you qualify, you will benefit from cheaper prescription drugs, bulk-billing of Medicare services and more refunds for medical expenses. You may also pay less for water, gas and electricity, ambulance services, public transport, and dental and eye care.

If you are not receiving a Centrelink payment but are on a low income, you may be eligible to apply for a Low Income Health Care Card. This provides the same benefits as the Health Care Card.

Carer allowance

If you have someone who cares for you, they may be entitled to a carer allowance. A carer allowance is an income supplement for carers who provide daily care and attention for someone who has a disability or medical condition, or who is aged and frail.

Eligibility criteria apply and care must be provided in either your home or the home of the person you are caring for.

The carer allowance is not means tested and is a non-taxable payment.

Financial Information Service

Centrelink has Financial Information Service officers and social workers who can provide support in financially difficult times. You can call 13 63 57 for financial information and 13 28 50 to speak to a social worker. These services are free.

Social work services

I saw the oncology social worker to determine my eligibility for financial assistance. – Margot

Social workers can help you if you are experiencing financial difficulty, are in need of emotional support or are unsure how to access the right assistance.

Social workers provide:

  • short-term counselling and support for difficult personal or family issues
  • information about government and community support services, and referrals to them
  • support for any difficulties you may be having in meeting your financial obligations or requirements.

You can contact a Centrelink social worker by:

  • calling 13 28 50 and asking to speak to a social worker
  • visiting your local Centrelink office and asking to be referred to a social worker.

More information on Centrelink's Social work services is available at the Department of Human Services website.  

In addition to accessing a social worker through Centrelink, you may be able to see a social worker through your hospital or community health centre. Ask your specialists, breast care nurse or GP for information about how to see a hospital social worker.

You may find it helpful to bring a family member or friend with you to your appointment.

I saw the social worker while in hospital to discuss my needs while I convalesce at home after my operations, and was directed to my local palliative care service, which is free. Also the occupational therapy staff at the hospital have provided a referral to the community health service to come out and do an assessment on my house with a view to obtaining a grant to have my bathroom retrofitted to suit my ongoing needs and allow me to be more independent. – Karen


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