Disability benefits when your child turns 16

Oscar was 16 in February and I had no idea what that meant when it came to Centrelink and the payments and services we get from it.

In a nutshell, when your child turns 16 you’ll need to:

  • get their student number (from school records)
  • get them a tax file number
  • get them a proof of age card
  • apply for the
    – disability support pension
    – pension education supplement,
    – mobility allowance, and
    – authorisation to act on their behalf.
    – a new health care card if not applying for the pension


The first contact we had with Centrelink was a few months before he turned 16. Essentially it was confirming he was turning 16 and that he was staying in school. You will need their student number and to be honest I can’t remember where I got it from. If you ring their school they would be able to provide it.

There was a confusing section of the form which referred to Year 12 and seeing as he was starting Year 10 I rang them to clarify just what I should put there. They advised me what to do and I sent the form off.

The next correspondence I got was that we would no longer receive any Family Assistance for him as he had completed Year 12.

A phone call to them and them taking almost 15 minutes to resolve the problem. Clearly the form is poorly worded as it was an issue she knew would take some time to rectify.

She also said I’d called before it became set/official and therefore harder to change. There was nothing on the form alerting me to that, so, if you have problems or disagree with what they’ve done ring them straight away.

I should stop here and say every single interaction I have had with Centrelink has always been with staff who are clearly competent and doing their utmost to help you.


If you have a health care card for your child it will automatically stop when they turn 16 without telling you. 

You need to reapply for it. I’m not sure if there are different forms for different applicants but our form was called “Application for a Health Care Card for former recipients of a Carer Allowance Health Care Card”. You can access the form here. The form’s code is SS456.

However, if you’re on the ball and applying for the pension as soon as they turn 16, the pension gives them a health care card with a heap more benefits so applying for a new one would be redundant.


The Disability Support Pension

You are eligible for the disability support pension if

  • you’re aged 16 or more, are blind or have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability.
  • you are unable to work, or to be retrained for work, for 15 hours or more per week at or above the relevant minimum wage within the next two years because of your “impairment” or
  • you’ve been assessed as having a severe impairment or as having actively participated in a program of support.

There are different pension amounts depending on your circumstance. For Oscar – under 21, single, living at home – he will get $345 a fortnight.

I’m only talking about this from my experience and specifically about a 16 year old – this is by no means advice, just a heads up as to what we have experienced. Take from it what you will.


I rang Centrelink disability line – 132 717 – to get the forms sent out to us. Remember, call right on 8:30 unless you have a LOT of spare time to sit on hold.


They will not automatically send the forms out when your child turns 16, you have to instigate the process.


Also note that when you get the forms they give you a deadline to submit them. I essentially had three days due to Easter and the ANZAC day long weekend.


Applying for the disability support pension is an undertaking. The form is incredibly comprehensive (30+ pages). There is also a medical report booklet and an income and assets booklet. I baulked at the income and assets booklet but one of the service staff, while commiserating with me, said the form covers everyone from 16 up to when the age pension kicks in so it has to cover absolutely every scenario. I think this is a pretty large flaw in the application process but there you have it.


Within the form there are also questions for a mobility allowance and the pension education supplement (PES) (which is worth an extra $64 a fortnight). You need to download and fill in the PES form from here.


Things you will need for the disability support pension application:

You’ll need their school student number, ring the school to get this as I didn’t have any documentation with such a number.

You need enough forms of identification for your child that adds up to 100 points. Their birth certificate is only worth 70 points, a bank statement is worth 40, a proof of age form is also 40 points. A student ID card, three school reports for different years or semesters  or a medicare card  are worth 20 points each.

We’re off to the RTA this afternoon to get Oscar’s proof of age. I figure this will be good to have anyway. (Update: we got it and it cost $39 for five years.)

School reports that indicates their IQ, capacity for independent living and other associated problems. At Oscar’s school there is an independent transition plan which is very thorough and clinical. Oscar’s school report runs 15 pages long. I gave them both.

And the kicker – a tax file number (TFN). You can apply for this online. Because Centrelink and the ATO talk to each other we just provided a print out of our TFN application and that was enough.

The medical form

I was pretty cranky about having to do this, considering we’d just done a doctor’s report late last year. Luckily, it turned out we didn’t because he was 16 and his “only” disability is intellectual and he attends a special school and we could provide school reports which indicate his IQ, capacity for independent living and other “associated problems”.

I suspect we also didn’t have to because of the recent nature of our last doctor report but don’t quote me on that.

Income and Assets

Basically the only thing we filled in on this form was Oscar’s bank details. Everything else was ticked no. I think if you’ve got a trust for your child or other assets it’s a whole other story. The form is incredibly comprehensive.


You’ll also need to fill in the “Authorising a person or organisation to enquire or act on your behalf” form. This gives you the right to act on their behalf. Download it here.


And you’re done.

Take everything in to Centrelink – so you’ll have:

  • The disability support pension form (completed with their TFN)
  • The income and assests form
  • The medical report (if necessary)
  • Birth Certificate (I also took mine in just in case. I can’t remember if she needed it/looked at it)
  • Other identity forms: eg medicare card, proof of age card, bank statements
  • Pension Education Supplement form
  • School reports from three different semesters (if applicable – for evidence you don’t need the medical form)
  • Authorisation to act on their behalf form




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  • Linda

    Bloody Nora! Give yourself a pat on the back. Oscar is a lucky young man to have you for his Mum.

  • I got tired just reading that. Well done on completing it all and keeping your sanity. Let’s hope it all gets processed without dramas.

  • Zoe

    Also from personal experience I can let you know that if you’re on endless hold to Centrelink, shouting “Fuck you” down the phone line makes the robovoice say “I think you wish to terminate this call, is this correct?” and then you have to apologise to a machine.

  • thank you for writing this – I had no idea and Mal just turned 16 this month. Will have a lot to do when we get out of this stinking hospital.

    • Do NOT attempt it while stuck in that stinking hospital, it’ll make you want to neck yourself. My biggest bit of advice is to do it in bits. Get the proof of age from the RTA ($49 btw), get the tax file number, get the student number, get the authorisation to act on his behalf, then tackle to big forms.

  • Kathy Slavin

    So where did it ever say in the fine print “to have a child with a disability you have to be a rocket scientist to fill in all the forms” ?? I don’t miss all that now Jess is over 21 they seem to leave her alone now! But if they ask me one more time if her disability is permanent…I will use the comment below… 🙂

  • Kathy S.

    Oh dude. I completely feel your pain. Here they are considered legal, independent adults at age 18, which my C is as of a week ago. He gets no government services or compensation but we are scrambling to make sure the jury-rigged scaffolding that has held him in place for the past several years, held there mostly by virtue of the fact that we could declare him as a dependent, doesn’t crumble. Made a trip to the DPS on Monday to get his ID card made but silly us, we didn’t have all the right documentation (the DPS website is RIDICULOUSLY unhelpful) so we are making another go today. Had to register him with the military as well. Fun times. Service isn’t compulsory here right now, THANK GOD, but we’ll be talking with his doctor today to make sure he can get a medical waiver if it ever becomes so while he’s still young enough to be drafted.

    This shit is so hard, and so demoralizing and anxiety-producing. Gah.

  • mrsdesperate

    I’m exhausted and confused just reading this. Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully it will be a bit easier before Mr 13 turns 16, but I’m figuring it will be even worse! Good luck

  • Nice idea… I love it… Will be sure to make my children be insured.

  • aeron jones

    My business partners wanted AU SA012.1311 several days ago and were informed of a web service that has lots of sample forms . If others are looking for AU SA012.1311 too , here’s https://goo.gl/c9vtb1.

  • Julia

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Overwhelmed is an understatement! Spoke for over an hr with a VERY lovely worker from Centrelink, who said mostly the same as you did; but you explained it way better!!!