Accessing super early: Unemployed and in financial hardship

Q: I have been unemployed for 10 months now and I am still having problems finding work. I’ve got bills to pay off and I’m finding it hard to do that with the tiny amount I get from Centrelink each fortnight. Is there any way I can use my superannuation towards my bills, due to my financial difficulties?

A: I’m sorry to read about your troubles. Yes, in certain circumstances individuals suffering financial hardship may be able to access a portion of their super benefits.

You must apply to your super fund to claim early access to your super benefits on the basis of ‘severe financial hardship’. Note that even if you satisfy the conditions for early access to super benefits due to ‘severe financial hardship’ you may belong to a super fund that doesn’t permit access on these grounds. As a preliminary step, check with your super fund to see whether your fund permits benefit withdrawals for financial hardship.

You must satisfy certain conditions for early access to super benefits based on ‘severe financial hardship’, which are outlined in a special regulation as part of the super laws (Sub-regulation 6.01 (5) and (5A) of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994), and also in Schedule 1 of the SIS Act.

You can claim your super early based on severe financial hardship. If you satisfy one of the following two scenarios:

  • Received Commonwealth income support for a continuous 26 weeks, and you cannot meet your reasonable and immediate family expenses. You can access up to $10,000 in each 12-month period, and you must take a minimum of $1,000. If your balance is less than $1,000, then you must withdraw all of your super balance. OR
  • Reached your preservation age (age 55 for those born before July 1960, and at least age 56 for those born on or after 1 July 1960) and received Commonwealth income support for a cumulative 39 weeks after reaching your preservation age. If you satisfy the second scenario (preservation age and 39 weeks), you can access your full super benefit if required.

I explain the eligibility rules for severe financial hardship in more detail in the SuperGuide article Can I access super early due to ‘severe financial hardship’?

Warning: You may not be aware that if you are permitted to access your super benefits, then your super benefits are likely to be subject to benefits tax, which will be deducted from the super benefit before it reaches your hands.

Accessing super early on compassionate grounds

If you are unable to meet the conditions required for ‘severe financial hardship’, you may be able to access your super early under ‘compassionate grounds’. If you’re eligible, you will have to apply to the Department of Human Services for early release of your super benefits. I explain ‘compassionate grounds’ in the SuperGuide article Accessing super early on compassionate grounds.


  1. Its very easy to see how good people can turn to crime to survive!

  2. James Overell says:

    What does the amount of Government assistance received have to do with my severe financial hardship? I’ve been out of work nearly 7 months which the first 5 months were self funded. Now I’ve exhausted all my savings and I’m completely broke and about to be living on the streets. The Government won’t let me access a portion of MY Super because they’re obsessed with some nonsense about 26 weeks of Government assistance. Again, that has nothing to do with the reality of severe financial hardship. Accessing a portion of MY Super was MY last chance at survival and the Government has denied me that right. I’ve contacted the DHS and there isn’t even an escalation path to an arbitrator. Just a lot of hot air, sorry we can’t help you and have a nice day Sir. They won’t be calling me Sir when I’m living on the footpath next week. Thanks to our Government for nothing and please enjoy spending MY Super!

  3. Hi.
    I have been out of work for 10 mths now and the struggle has finally corroded my life, I cannot get any welfare assistance because I’m one of those NZ Ers that came after the thresshold time.
    I’m broke az lived off enough people all I want is to be able to get back home with what I did manage to still have in my possession.
    I don’t want to end up as a homeless statistic and loose everything I entirely own .
    I worked very hard paid big taxes at least Australia send me home with some dignity and my money I earned you got enough free tax money out of me give me my money a letter me. Free

  4. It’s our money. Just release it to its rightful owner.. us! And stop stuffing around or it won’t be long before there is a revolution and your offices invaded. Sheesh. Does there need to be clowns everywhere? um, no. So sort it out quick.

  5. Gary Taylor says:

    I will not have choice but to claim my super as I do not get paid until 24 August 2016. I was made redundant from work. My rent is $315 a week. All the money has to go on to rent that I receive and the next bills I get I can not pay. I will be living in the dark with no gas or electricity.
    I have no income.

  6. My Husband has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he is getting to the stage where he will no longer be able to work. Are we able to access his super to support us once he stops working and how much……I don’t think $10,000 once a year will cover it.

  7. Hey guys just want to share my current and past experience with claiming super under financial hardship. First off, im 100% with Dave, rollover into a fund such us MLC or Aus. You dont even need to get the form from centrelink anymore that proves youve been on payments for 6 months (oh and you must not be studying btw), the fund will get it themselves. Im currently waiting on my second $10k withdrawal through MLC. They do not require any of your financial details apart from what you’re weekly income is and what your weekly expenses cone to. Most other funds want to know the last time you took a dump seriously, receipts/bills etc etc etc. My advice is to use mlc or aus super. The first time i did this was about 7 years ago and at the time i was with Sun Super and they were very easy as well although they no longer do hardship claims at all so i had to roll over into my mlc this time. In a nutshell, for those who can get or are on centrelink, after youve been on payments for 26 weeks straight youre all good. Yes they will take 20% tax and 1.5% medicare levy but you will get nearly all of it back at taxtime (i did with my first withdrawal). Good luck to everyone in getting their own hard earned money back

    • Im unemployed and in dire straits financially
      iv got at least $4000 I owe in cash to 2 friends
      and have had a car repair quote of over $3000
      im in Australian super
      Do you think they will also help me
      I also have a terminal illness
      I live 127 ks from Adelaide
      and the public transport here is unreliable

  8. Mark Emery says:

    We should all have more access to our super to do whatever the hell we want with. Most of us are more responsible with our finances than the government anyway. Their policies are designed to take our money not to give it back…

  9. Is there a limit on the number of times you can claim financial hardship from your super?

    I’ve looked on the ATO website and the Centrelink website but answers are a little ambiguous. I’ve been able to find that lump sum payments are up to a maximum of $10,000 in any 12 month period. Does this mean that you can apply for $10K, and if successful, apply for another $10K if you are still in financial hardship a year later? Or is it a lifetime cap of $10K with as many withdrawals up to that limit as requested, but only one request per year?

    If you could help me out that would be great.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Claire
      Thanks for your question. My understanding is that the $10,000 limit applies per year, so if an applicant satisfied the condition for release in the next 12 month period, after the first 12 month period has passed, then the limit starts again.
      Check the SIS regulations for specifics.

    • Anyone needing their super under hardship, roll into Australian super or MLC. I withdrew $10000 from each within 1 month. The 1 off $10000 thing only means 1 from each fund. I simply rolled into MLC from AUS super and they paid me $8000 within 3-4 days, 2 grand tax but who gives!
      Most funds want bills, reciepts, statements but these 2 funds just want the basics and bang they come through. Aslong as you can prove you are on Centrelink benifits, then u can kick hardship up the a**!

      • Hi Dave, what proof did you need exactly to state you needed $10,000. Did you have payments due to this amount or just stated you needed assistance ? Cheers 🙂

  10. Just wondering which form to fill out to claim hardship…as I’ve been unemployed for 11 months and need a major boost.

    • Hi Simon
      Thanks for your comment. You will need to contact your super fund for the form you need to complete. Your super fund manages this process.
      I wish you the best

  11. Hi Trish

    I am 46 year old male who had a work related accident almost 4 years ago with my left wrist which I am now 40% impaired and I am left hand dominant which has left me struggling and my hand will not be the same. I did receive a payout and funds have been used up just recently have tried to get 10k out of my super but can’t as I am not on centrelink and I can’t receive disability until the end of year is their another way to get MY MONEY out of super. I am in desperate need for the funds as my bank acct is in a neg and I have mounting bills to be paid and three children to feed. Who is the idiot who made this law that you got to be on centrelink before you can be classed as being in Financial Hardship if I was on centrelink payments I wouldn’t be making this claim from my super. So is their another way that I can get my super?

  12. Hi All.

    I am about to send off today claiming $10K from Super. There is another portion you can claim from Centrelink. My super will only realse up to $10k. less 20% Tax.

    Department of Human Services can also authorise relase from Super.
    One is called HARSHIP
    The Other is Compasionate. So if you need to release more, look into this. Unfortuneatley the terms for Compasionate are so rediculous I think the police made surrounding it was made by someone one drugs. FOr example, if you need to realse your Super for imediate Surgey….You can try Centrelink to help you which takes weeks, and then submit your claim which takes even longer… Hence Good luck with your immediate Surgery. Oh and you can buy a small second hand car if you need to travel to another hospital, and pay for hotels…..but only in an emergency.
    Lucky Country…. This “She’ll be right” attitude is costing people so much misery.

    Good luck everyone trying to get your own money back.


  13. Hi, partly a comment but also of my experience, also a question for Trish below.

    I have just lodged a claim from my Super Fund but only partly successful. I have been on Centrelink for 26+ weeks and out of work since October 2012. I also have personal Car loans and credit card debts as you can’t live off centrelink to pay existing debts and basic living. I wanted to claim the full $10k to pay down debts and bills, but only was approved for just under $4k. I recommend you do your homework on what is required, even see a Lawyer that specialises in Hardship claims.
    Hardship only covers immediate unpaid Bills (unpaid loans, Utilities, etc) and only the payment due on your credit card for the month (not the total amount in debt owed) so I required to pay $500 and that’s all I can claim for rather than my $5k balance. Additionally i need to have my car serviced and have critical repairs to be done which amounts to $3,400. They rejected this claim on the grounds there is no bill, even though I produced a legitimate quote for repair. If I have an accident, it is possible I won’t be insured nor be legally registered as breaks and other are a must have for legal registration. So the dilemma…. It is a battle!!!! again to use your own money (BE WARNED !!). The government doesn’t appreciate hardship nor the current unemployment situation.

    Q. Trish, can a Federal Ombudsman be helpful to raise these unfair issues on what we can claim from our Super in Hardship?

  14. Hi (you’ve probably heard this before) I’ve been retrenched and haven’t been working the last 4 months thinking something will come up. My pay out is nearly all gone and I’ve been reading up on trying to get some of my super. So they said I have to be with centerlink for 26 weeks but can’t cause I’m not an Australian citizen. And that’s it, no 2 ways about it. I dont meet there criteria. I’m not sure if you can help me but I’d be greatfull if you can. Cheers

    • Helen Fleming says:

      Wait ….. So the government tax & take super from your hard earned money to give to the unemployed….. But won’t let you on a pension
      which would enable you to be able to claim your super back … WTF

      • Juan Williams. says:

        I am im the same position as Harry,so as soon as possible I will be leaving this country with its embedded culture of ripping hard working people off (paid 44% tax on my earnings for 3yrs, still paying $1.44/litre for petrol,price of crude oil now$56 a barrel).I am discouraging my immediate family and friends from moving here ,most of them are skilled and qualified people but I think they may have the same experiences I have.

    • My partner is having the same problem. He has been out of work for 4 months with the same, something will come up. Our savings is running low too With a baby and myself to support along with a mortgage and bills he looked into getting a portion of super. Being from NZ they will only take his money, the only way he can get any is if he leaves the country for good (transferred to another company) or if he is on centrelink. Its ridiculous how he wants access to HIS money and is denied this. He doesn’t want to go on centrelink, if he even can(prob not) As an Aussie, I believe we are nothing but slaves to this country the sooner, everyone realises the more likely we can change this place- for the better.

  15. Hi. I was wondering what my chances are to recieving a portion of my super due to financial hardship.
    I am unemployed and my credit card company requires the full amount of the owing balance by july. It has gone through the local court and have been issued with a summons to pay the amount.
    Will I be eligible to for some of my super?

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