Departmental Instruction

DATE OF ISSUE:  25 March 1999


Purpose of instruction

The purpose of this instruction is to clarify notification requirements in respect of Rent Assistance (RA); Remote Area Allowance (RAA); and Telephone Allowance (TA).

In this instruction

This instruction contains:

  • information about Departmental instruction B24/93

  • revised policy

Authorised by




Departmental Instruction B24/93


Departmental instruction (DI) B24/93, titled “Reassessment of Entitlement to Rent Assistance, Telephone Allowance and Remote Area Allowance at Change of Address”, outlined procedures for reassessment of pension and allowances following notification of change of address (CoA).

Departmental responsibility to reassess

DI B24/93 emphasized the Department's responsibility to review entitlement to RA; RAA; or TA, upon notification of CoA.  This includes ensuring that appropriate information is requested, and required follow-up action taken (paragraph 7 refers).

No overpayment where CoA notified

DI B24/93 further states, that where the pensioner has advised of CoA within the notification period, an overpayment of RA, RAA or TA cannot be raised (paragraph 20 refers).

Pensioners' ability to fulfil  obligations

The policy outlined above, was formulated some six years ago, when it could be argued the pensioner's ability to know about their payments and obligations was severely restricted:

  • no coordinated approach to the provision of client advices – e.g. some pensioners had not received an advice about their entitlements for many years

  • advices were less informative

  • obligations were more general

  • payment details did not separate out allowances such as RA from the total payment


In the light of those circumstances, it was reasonable to accept that a pensioner may not be aware that:

  • they were receiving a separate payment such as RA

  • this entitlement was paid subject to certain conditions continuing to be met

  • the advice of CoA did not necessarily mean that they had fulfilled their obligations in respect of this entitlement

Revised policy

Improved client communication

Since the publication of DI B24/93, the pensioner's ability to know about their payments and obligations has been considerably improved:

  • provision of advices has been enhanced with the introduction of the Integrated Advices System

  • payment details contained in current advices clearly show RA, RAA etc as separate payments

  • recent publication and mass distribution of the You and Your Pension booklet, ensures that pensioners are better informed about their entitlements and associated obligations

  • obligations contained in the You and Your Pension booklet are more specific -


Obligations in respect of RA specifically state that a person receiving RA must notify the Department if they stop paying private rent, start paying government-subsidised rent, sublet from a government tenant, or their rent reduces

Pensioners' enhanced ability to fulfil  obligations

Flowing from this, it is reasonable to state that in the current climate the client is in a much better position to be able to understand their obligations and to know when they are continuing to receive a payment for which they have no entitlement, or which is incorrect.


The broad directive as outlined in paragraph 20 of DI B24/93 that no overpayment is to be raised where a CoA has been provided, regardless of the circumstances of the case, is no longer appropriate.

Instead, when determining whether a recipient of RA, RAA, or TA has complied with notification requirements, the delegate must:

  • judge each case individually, based on the particular circumstances of the case

  • take into consideration any failure on the part of the Department to take appropriate action

For example, if a recipient of RA notifies of a CoA, and the Department fails to ask the relevant questions, or undertake follow-up action, then some responsibility rests with the Department.  The extent of that responsibility and its impact on any consequent overpayment would depend on a number of other factors and would differ for each case.

Contact officer

Any queries about this instruction should be directed to Freda Widawski, Policy Section, Income Support, either via e-mail, or on telephone 02 9213 7487.