Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2023) Carer Payment, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 September 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2023). Carer Payment. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/carer-payment
Carer Payment. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 07 September 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/carer-payment
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Carer Payment [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2023 [cited 2023 Sep. 30]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/carer-payment
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2023, Carer Payment, viewed 30 September 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/carer-payment
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On this page
Australia’s social security system administered by Services Australia aims to support people who cannot, or cannot fully, support themselves, by providing targeted payments and assistance. Where this is a regular payment that helps with the everyday costs of living it is referred to as an income support payment, with the type of payment often reflecting life circumstances at the time of receipt.
This page examines the primary income support payment for people with caring responsibilities – Carer Payment.
In 2018, there were an estimated 2.7 million carers in Australia (11% of all Australians) providing unpaid care to people with disability and older Australians, according to the latest release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. Of these, 33% (or 861,600) were primary carers, meaning they provided the most informal assistance to a person with disability. In 2018, 1 in 3 (33%) carers aged 15 and over were receiving a government pension or allowance as their main source of income (ABS 2019). See Informal carers for more information and the glossary for definitions of terms used on this page.
Unless otherwise stated, income support data on this page are sourced from Department of Social Services payment demographic data (from September 2013 to March 2023) and from previously unpublished data derived from Services Australia administrative data (June 2001 to June 2013).
Carer Payment is a means-tested income support payment for people providing constant care for someone who:
- has physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability
- has a severe medical condition
- is frail aged.
This payment is for people who, due to their caring responsibilities, are unable to support themselves through substantial paid employment. Carer Payment recipients can engage in employment or study for up to 25 hours per week (including travel time) and remain eligible for payment.
A small number of people receiving Carer Payment are aged under 16 (5 as at 31 March 2023). These carers are included in calculating the proportion of Carer Payment recipients aged 16 and over in the population, to ensure consistency in recipient numbers reported on this page.
As at 20 March 2023, the maximum basic rate for Carer Payment, including Maximum Pension Supplement and Energy Supplement, is $1,064.00 per fortnight for a single person, or $1,604.00 for a couple combined. Carer Payment is paid at the same rate as Age Pension, and the payment rate is reviewed in March and September each year. Carer Payment is subject to the pension income and assets tests, and payments are reduced incrementally for every dollar of income over $190 per fortnight.
For more information on payment rates, see Carer Payment – How much can you get?
People receiving Carer Payment may also be eligible for the Carer Allowance (for which income testing for eligibility was introduced in September 2018), and the annual Carer Supplement. Carer Allowance recipients caring for a child may also be eligible for the annual Child Disability Assistance Payment. These allowances and supplements are not reported on this page.
See glossary for definitions of the terms used in this box.
As at 31 March 2023, 304,500 people were receiving Carer Payment – 1.4% of the population aged 16 and over.
The majority of people receiving Carer Payment were aged 16–64 (80% or 243,700), representing 1.5% of the working age population (aged 16–64).
The number of people receiving Carer Payment has increased steeply over the last 2 decades, from 57,800 in June 2001 to 301,200 in June 2022 (Figure 1). The rate of growth was steeper between 2001 and 2014 and has slowed in more recent years; there was an average annual rate of growth of 12% between 2001 and 2014 compared with 3.0% between 2015 and 2021. The number of people receiving Carer Payment remained relatively stable in the 12 months to June 2022.
As a proportion of the population aged 16 and over, the number of people receiving Carer Payment increased from 0.4% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2014 and has remained relatively stable around 1.3–1.5% since then.
These increases in Carer Payment receipt reflect growth in the number of informal carers as well as key policy changes, in particular the closure of various payments and allowances that were primarily paid to women (women account for almost 3 in 4 Carer Payment recipients; see AIHW 2019 for further details).
There were large increases in the number of people receiving income support in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (12 months to March 2021; see ‘Chapter 4 The impacts of COVID-19 on employment and income support in Australia’ in Australia’s welfare 2021: data insights for further details). However, COVID-19 did not specifically affect the number of people receiving Carer Payment, as the proportion receiving Carer Payment remained relatively stable in the 12 months to March 2021 (at 1.4–1.5% of the population aged 16 and over).
For further information on long-term trends in receipt of Carer Payment, see ‘Chapter 3 Income support over the past 20 years’ in Australia’s welfare 2019: data insights.
Figure 1: Trends in people aged 16 years and over receiving Carer Payment and other payments, June 2001 to June 2022
The line chart shows the number and proportion of males, females and persons aged 16 years and over receiving Carer Payments between June 2001 and June 2022. Overall, the number and proportion of Carer Payment recipients increased steadily between June 2001 and June 2022 (from 57,800 to 301,200, or from 0.4% to 1.4% of the population aged 16 and over). However, numbers have stabilised in recent years. The line chart also shows a higher number and proportion of females than males receiving Carer Payments from 2001–2022 (from 35,700 to 213,300 females, or 0.5% to 2.0% of all females, while males increased from 22,100 to 87,900, or from 0.3% to 0.9% of all males).
- Data are as at June 30 in each year.
- Data before 2013 may differ from official sources due to differences in methodology.
- A small number of people receiving income support payments are aged under 16 (70 for Parenting Payment Single, 5 for unemployment payments (Youth Allowance (other)), and 5 for Carer Payment in March 2023). These people are included in the numerator in calculating the proportion of the population aged 16 and over receiving these payments.
- Per cent refers to the proportion of the population aged 16 and over receiving different payment types, using Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Estimated Resident Population data for June 2001 to June 2022.
Source: AIHW analysis of Department of Social Services Benefit and Payment Recipient Demographics – quarterly data on www.data.gov.au (June 2014– June 2022), and of unpublished data constructed from Services Australia administrative data (June 2001–June 2013).
People receiving Carer Payment were typically in older age groups, with over 1 in 4 (28%) aged 55–64 as at 31 March 2023 – almost 3 times as high as for people aged 25–34 (9.6%) and 1.6 times as high for people aged 35–44 (17%). This equates to an age-specific proportion of 2.8% of people aged 55–64 receiving Carer Payment, compared with 0.8% and 1.5% of people aged 25–34 and 35–44, respectively (Figure 2).
There are a number of people aged 65 and over receiving Carer Payment (60,800 people as at 31 March 2023), and this proportion has risen slightly over recent years (from 1.2% of the population aged 65 and over in December 2017 to 1.4% in March 2023), in line with increases to the qualifying age for Age Pension over this period (see Income support for older Australians).
As at 31 March 2023, females accounted for 71% of people receiving Carer Payment, equating to 2.0% of females aged 16 and over compared with 0.9% of males (Figure 2).
As at 31 March 2023, 20,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people (see glossary) received Carer Payment, representing 3.1% of the First Nations population aged 15 and over. This compares with 1.4% of Other Australians (see glossary) aged 15 and over receiving Carer Payment. See Income and finance of First Nations people for more information.
Note that Indigenous status identification in most data collections is voluntary. This may influence the quality and completeness of the data and subsequent reporting on the number and proportion of First Nations people receiving income support payments, especially among older First Nations people.
As at 31 March 2023, people aged 16 and over were slightly more likely to be receiving Carer Payment if they were living in Inner regional (1.8%) and Outer regional (1.8%) areas compared with people living in Major cities (1.4%), Remote areas (1.4%) or Very remote areas (1.2%) (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Number and proportion of people aged 16 years and over receiving Carer Payment, by selected characteristics, as at 31 March 2023
The vertical bar chart shows the number and proportion of people aged 16 years and over receiving Carer Payment, for the key characteristics in the tool tip (age group, duration of receipt, medical conditions, remoteness area, and sex), as at 31 March 2023. The vertical bar chart shows the receipt of Carer Payment increases with increasing age (from 7,000 or 0.2% of all Australians aged 16–24 to 84,700 or 2.8% for the 55–64 age group) before declining for people aged 65 and over (60,800 or 1.4%). Receipt of Carer Payment was higher among females than males (2.0% compared with 0.9%), and psychological or psychiatric conditions were the most commonly recorded primary medical conditions of people receiving care (29% of people receiving the payment). Almost 1 in 2 (48%) people receiving Carer Payment had received the payment for 10 or more years and people living in Inner or Outer Regional areas were more likely to receive Carer Payment (both 1.8%) compared with people living in other areas (1.2%-1.4%).
- Proportions are as at 31 March 2023, using ABS population data (September 2022 for age group and sex, and June 2021 for remoteness area). Duration of receipt and medical condition are reported as a proportion of all Carer Payment recipients.
- A small number of people receiving Carer Payment are aged under 16 (5 in March 2023). These people are included in the numerator in calculating the proportion of the population aged 16 and over receiving Carer Payment.
Source: AIHW analysis of Department of Social Services Benefit and Payment Recipient Demographics – quarterly data on www.data.gov.au (March 2023).
As at 31 March 2023, psychological or psychiatric conditions were the most commonly recorded primary medical conditions for care receivers of Carer Payment aged 16 and over (29%). The second most commonly recorded conditions were musculoskeletal and connective tissue conditions (21%).
Means-tested arrangements are designed to ensure that income support targets the people most in need by assessing an individual’s income and assets to determine eligibility for a full or part-rate payment. People receiving income support are required to report income from all sources (including work, investments and/or substantial assets).
As at 31 March 2023, for people receiving Carer Payment:
- 19% received a part-rate payment
- 9.3% declared earnings from employment in the preceding fortnight, with 89% earning at least $250 in the last fortnight.
There was a fall in the proportion of people receiving the part-rate Carer Payment between March 2016 and March 2023, from 23% to 19%. However, the proportion of people receiving Carer Payment declaring earnings remained relatively similar over this period – around 9.0–9.3%.
Duration of income support receipt
As at 31 March 2023, 71% of people receiving Carer Payment had received an income support payment for 5 years or more (including 48% for 10 or more years) compared with 53% for people receiving other income support payments (excluding Age Pension).
Many people receiving Carer Payment tend to remain on this payment for long periods – almost half (49%) had received Carer Payment for 5 years or more. The equivalent proportion for people receiving unemployment payments was much shorter (22%), but for people receiving Disability Support Pension it was much longer (78%).
For more information on Carer Payment, see:
- Services Australia A guide to Australian Government payments
- Department of Social Services payment demographic data.
For more information on carers, see Informal carers.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2019) Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, ABS website, accessed 27 March 2023.
DSS (Department of Social Services) (2023) DSS Benefit and Payment Recipient Demographics - quarterly data, DSS website, accessed 19 June 2023.