Improving access to Farm Household Allowance (FHA)
The Australian Government has made changes to the assets test and waiting periods to make it easier for eligible farmers and their partners to qualify for FHA and receive payments at the earliest possible opportunity. The new changes will come into effect on 5 April 2017. For more information view the FHA fact sheet.
2016 Victorian Dairy Roundtables
Thank you for your feedback at the December 2016 Victorian Dairy Roundtables. The department is continuously improving the FHA programme by looking for opportunities to streamline the processes for FHA recipients and reduce delays. The outcomes from the roundtables are a valuable part of this process. For more information view the Victorian Dairy Roundtables December 2016
Farm Household Allowance
The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) provides eligible farmers and their partners who are experiencing financial hardship with assistance and support to improve their long-term financial situation.
FHA replaced the Interim Farm Household Allowance (Interim FHA) on 1 July 2014.
The allowance is delivered by the Department of Human Services and is paid fortnightly at a rate equivalent to Newstart Allowance (or Youth Allowance for those under 22 years). A Health Care Card is provided to recipients. Support is also provided through a dedicated case manager to help recipients assess their situation and develop a plan for the future.
Eligible farmers and their partners are able to access up to three years of payment. This is designed to give farm families time to get back on their feet and the opportunity to take steps to improve their circumstances.
For more information, refer to the questions and answers section or Farm Household Allowance Guidelines.
For eligibility criteria, including income and assets tests, along with application forms visit the Department of Human Services website.
Delivering the FHA
Successful delivery of the FHA involves the Australian Government Departments of Agriculture and Water Resources and Human Services, Farm Household Case Officers and prescribed advisers. Where farmers and their partners choose to engage them, Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) counsellors can also play a key supporting role in FHA process.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for the policy that supports FHA. This policy underpins the legislation – the Farm Household Support Act 2014 – that allows for the FHA to be made available to farmers and their partners experiencing financial hardship.
Who do I speak to about FHA?
Department of Human Services
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is responsible for receipt and assessment of FHA applications, and, FHA payments and individual case management.
DHS is able to advise on:
- the FHA application process
- processing and progress of FHA applications
- the appeals process
- general enquiries.
DHS can be contacted on 132 316 or visit the DHS website for more information.
Farm Household Case Officers
Once an application for FHA has been approved the FHA recipient will be allocated a Farm Household Case Officer.
The role of this officer includes:
- explaining the requirements for a Financial Improvement Agreement (FIA)
- using the FHA recipient’s Farm Financial Assessment (FFA), to inform the discussion with the recipient, to develop their FIA
- contacting the FHA recipient approximately every three months to discuss the agreed activities of the FIA, including issues impacting participation in these activities
- holding at least one face-to-face meeting with each FHA recipient within the three years that the recipient is receiving FHA. This meeting can be held at the recipient’s farm enterprise
- discussing, where appropriate, other DHS programs and services and external referrals that may be of benefit to the FHA recipient – this may include referral to services such as the RFCS.
The role and operating arrangements for the Farm Household Case Officers are stipulated in the Farm Household Support Act 2014.
Successful FHA applicants are required to engage a prescribed adviser to complete their Farm Financial Assessment (FFA) within 28 days. The purpose of the FFA is to provide the recipient of FHA with an independent professional analysis of their current financial situation and to identify options available to them to improve their longer-term financial position. To be able to complete the FFA the prescribed advisor will need to have access to the internet as it is largely an on-line process.
Approved FHA applicants will receive a voucher to cover the cost of a prescribed adviser–up to the value of $1,500.
A prescribed adviser is someone who:
- has relevant financial qualifications
- belongs to a professional organisation that provides financial advice
- is not a family member
- does not have any kind of relationship with the FHA applicant that could compromise their ability to provide their services.
Under their charter, RFCS counsellors are precluded from providing financial advice to their clients and are unable to act as prescribed advisers.
More information about the FFA and the role of prescribed advisers is available on the department's Farm Financial Assessment webpage or on the Department of Human Services website.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
The RFCS program, funded by the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments, also plays a role in supporting delivery of the FHA. The RFCS provides free rural financial counselling to primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses who are suffering financial hardship and who have no alternative sources of impartial support.
The role of RFCS counsellors will vary depending on whether a FHA recipient is an existing RFCS client or chooses to become a new one. Counsellors can assist FHA applicants and recipients with:
- completing the initial application form for the FHA
- helping recipients to populate the non-financial sections of Part A of the Farm Financial Assessment (FFA)
- if agreed with the Farm Household Case Officer and the FHA recipient:
- assisting recipients to develop goals, strategies and actions under the Financial Improvement Agreement (FIA)
- participating in meetings with FHA recipients about their progress against their FIA
- for FIA activities that fall within the scope of the RFCS Program, assisting FHA recipients to complete these activities.
Where FHA recipients give consent, Farm Household Case Officers and RFCS counsellors can work in tandem to support the recipient to progress their FIA and improve their financial self-reliance.
To clarify the role of the RFCS in supporting the delivery of the FHA, a protocol – 'Farm Household Allowance Protocol for Supporting Delivery'– has been developed.
For more information