Centrepay Media Q&A What is Centrepay? Centrepay is a voluntary direct bill-paying service offered free to customers receiving payments from Centrelink. Customers pay bills by having a regular amount deducted from their Centrelink payment and paid directly to a third party organisation on their behalf. Centrepay was created with the objective of contributing directly towards sustaining a secure living environment for customers and their families by: assisting with their overall budgeting, resulting in customers meeting regular financial commitments providing a free bill payment option assisting people make the best use of their Centrelink payments. When did Centrepay start? Centrepay was released nationally in December 1998. What are the benefits for service providers and organisations? Organisations have the opportunity to receive regular fortnightly payments directly from customers, which are deposited into the organisation’s bank account. Administrative costs associated with debt management can be significantly reduced, as can the additional costs caused by the withdrawal and reconnection of service(s) to a customer. Centrepay deductions are made before customers receive their payment, which provides greater assurance of payment to service providers and organisations. For more information about Centrepay, businesses should call FREECALL™ 1800 044 063 and ask to speak with the Deduction and Confirmation Services Account Manager in their state or territory, or visit the business pages on the Centrelink website at www.centrelink.gov.au How many organisations offer Centrepay? There are more than 13 000 service providers and organisations registered nationally that allow their customers to pay bills using Centrepay. Why do customers use Centrepay? Centrepay is voluntary and free. Customers using Centrepay benefit from its convenience and security, knowing that their payments are under control. Instead of having large bills every month or quarter, bills are paid in manageable amounts from the customer’s payment, making it easier for them to budget. How many customers use Centrepay? Around 250 000 customers currently use Centrepay to manage their bills each fortnight. Which customer group uses Centrepay the most? Customers receiving a pension or a family payment from Centrelink are currently the highest users of Centrepay, but the service is becoming increasingly more popular with other Centrelink customers. Which bills can be paid with Centrepay? Using Centrepay, customers can pay bills such as: rent, including caravan park fees, Indigenous community housing, general community housing, Indigenous short term hostels, private landlords, short term accommodation (including sheltered accommodation, rehabilitation and hostels) and real estate agents telecommunications electricity, gas and water education fees ambulance costs, including services provided by The Flying Doctor Service and emergency helicopter transfers child care services home care services such as domiciliary care, household maintenance, gardening, pest control, home security, and home modification to assist mobility no-interest loans household goods, including rental and rent-to-buy schemes court fines, including payment of compensation to Victims of Crime community group loan repayment, which can be provided for the purchase of household items, assistance with proof of identity, money management assistance and Family Income Management Scheme (FIMS) funeral benefits fund food provision, including specific programs that provide nutritional benefits like schools providing breakfast to students, Meals on Wheels, remote community stores insurance services professional services, such as tax agent fees, legal or solicitor costs, compensation report costs, and the issue of Births, Deaths and Marriages certificates council services medical services and equipment, including expenses for prescription-only drugs, optical, dental, hospital, veterinarian and Family Planning Clinic fees and medical equipment like crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, inhalers, etc motor vehicle registration retirement and nursing home fees travel and transport, including the Return to Country program for Indigenous people needing to get back to their community, storage and removal and specific transport costs special interest loans, such as specific loans approved for the purchase of a home, for example, Tassie Home Loan, Adelaide Homestart and ATSIC Home Loan social and recreational commitments, including payment of fees or donations for sporting activities and equipment, lessons and sponsorships. Which types of bills are paid the most with Centrepay? Bill payments for utilities are currently the highest volume of deductions followed by accommodation costs and court fines. How do customers find out if an organisation or person is registered with Centrepay? This information can be obtained by contacting Centrelink or by speaking to the organisation or person the customer would like to pay. Does it cost anything? No, unlike other methods available for paying bills, Centrepay does not charge the customer any fee to deduct the money from their payment. However, the organisation or person to which Centrelink sends the deduction is charged a fee to cover the administrative cost of providing Centrepay. This fee must not be passed on to the customer. Is there a minimum payment amount? Yes, the minimum payment amount for Centrepay deductions is $10 per fortnight. However, customers should check with individual service providers as some have a higher minimum. For example, Telstra has a $20 minimum for its fortnightly payment. How do customers apply for Centrepay? The easiest way for Centrelink customers to start Centrepay deductions is to phone Centrelink using their normal payment number, or they can go online and use Centrelink’s online services to start Centrepay deductions at www.centrelink.gov.au. Some participating organisations can organise Centrepay deductions for customers or alternatively, customers can complete a Centrepay deduction form. Can Centrepay deductions be changed once they have started? Yes, the service is voluntary and customers can change, suspend or cancel the deduction at any time by phoning Centrelink on their normal payment number or if they use Centrelink’s online services, they can change their Centrepay deductions online at www.centrelink.gov.au. Alternatively, they can complete a Centrepay deduction form. Background Centrepay was developed in direct response of a commitment given in 1997 by the then Minister for Social Security, Senator Jocelyn Newman, following discussions with State Ministers at Commonwealth/State Housing meetings and with the Real Estate Institute of Australia to overcome increasing instances of evictions from rental properties. Minister Newman announced that the Commonwealth would develop a voluntary rent deduction facility to assist the Indigenous housing sector collect rent from their low income Indigenous tenants, thus establishing an income stream which would fund repair and maintenance strategies to keep housing assets in habitable condition for longer periods. Centrepay would also be available to the private and community rental sector to assist with rent collection and handling of arrears. The success of this, in conjunction with customer and community requests for extension of the facility to a broader range of customers and service providers, provided a catalyst for the expansion of the range of services available to customers and improved delivery options to organisations.