New Year changes put dollars in the bank

Maeve Bannister |

School leavers, older Australians and small business owners will benefit from a sweep of policy changes taking effect on New Year’s Day. 

From January 1, more than one million youth, student and carer allowance recipients will receive a slight boost to their payments.

People on youth allowance living away from home and students receiving Austudy now get an extra $17.90 in their fortnightly allowance, bringing their payments to $537.40.

Meanwhile, singles with children have a $23 fortnightly boost as their payment increases to $688.20.

School leavers from remote, regional and now inner regional areas are eligible to receive a relocation grant between $3000 and $5000.

The new inner regional areas include Kapunda in South Australia, Rockhampton and Toowoomba in Queensland, Benalla and Shepparton in Victoria, Albury-Wodonga, and Cootamundra in NSW.

The one-off Tertiary Access Payment helps cover relocation costs so school leavers can access higher education.

More small and medium size businesses are eligible for cheap recovery loans as the program expands.

Businesses with a turnover of up to $250 million affected by the impacts of COVID-19 are eligible to access the loans which come with a 50 per cent government guarantee.

The interest rate of the Pension Loans Scheme has been reduced to 3.95 per cent.

It has also been renamed the Home Equity Access Scheme.

Australians can now see how and where their retirement savings are being invested. 

Under new requirements, superannuation funds must publish information about the identity, value and weightings of their investments. 

The Queensland government is now responsible for providing services to the Norfolk Island community.

The NSW government had been providing services since 2016.  

Financial advisers have a new disciplinary system to answer to as part of the federal government’s response to recommendations from the Financial Services Royal Commission.

There is now a single disciplinary body responding to and investigating complaints against financial advisers, overseen by ASIC. 

Additionally, all financial advisers who provide personal financial advice to clients must be registered through the investments watchdog.

Veterans have access to new benefits earlier than planned as changes to the way income support payments are calculated come into effect.

The disability income rent test has been removed and the disability pension is exempt from the Social Security Act income test.

The disability pension has also been renamed to reflect it is not an income support pension but instead a compensation payment.

Applications for a two-year rehabilitation pilot program are now open for Australian Defence Force volunteers. 

The program will help veterans with vocational and psychosocial rehabilitation needs to access services and support without having to lodge a compensation claim.