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 claim I have financial difficulties and use my superannuation towards my bills?

Trish’s response: 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.

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 as to whether they permit benefit withdrawals for financial hardship.

Quoting directly from the APRA website, the rules for the ‘severe financial hardship’ condition of release are as follows:

If you have been receiving an eligible income support payment from Centrelink, you may be able to apply direct to your superannuation fund/RSA for the early release of your superannuation funds.

To be granted an early release under this ground you must:

  • be in receipt of a Commonwealth income support payment, and have been so, continuously, for the last 26 weeks; and
  • satisfy the trustee/RSA provider that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

If you satisfy both of the above, the trustee/RSA provider may, in any twelve month period, release to you one lump sum payment. The lump sum payment will be no more than a gross amount of $10,000 and no less than $1,000 (or the balance of your benefit if it is less than $1,000).

If you are aged 55 years and 39 weeks or more, an alternative, optional, objective test of severe financial hardship may be applied to you. That is, you must:

  • have received a Commonwealth income support payment for a cumulative period of 39 weeks after reaching age 55; and
  • not be gainfully employed on a full-time or part-time basis on the date of your application to the trustee/RSA provider.

If you satisfy this test, the trustee/RSA provider may release your entire benefit.

In all cases, as part of the objective test, applicants will need to provide the trustee/RSA provider with a letter from Centrelink, the Department of Veterans’  Affairs or a Commonwealth Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) grantee organisation confirming that you meet one of these tests.

You are not required to contact APRA to make application for release under this ground.

(extract from the APRA website)

Warning: You may not be aware that if you are permitted to access your super benefits, then 20% tax (and possibly up to 25% tax depending on the type of super fund that you belong to) will be deducted from the super benefit before it reaches your hands.

© Copyright Trish Power 2009-2014

Copyright for this article belongs to Trish Power, and cannot be reproduced without express and specific consent.

IMPORTANT: SuperGuide does not provide financial advice. Comments provided by readers that may include information relating to tax, superannuation or other rules cannot be relied upon as advice. SuperGuide does not verify the information provided within comments from readers. Readers need to seek independent advice about their personal circumstances.


  1. 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?

  2. 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.


  3. 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?

  4. 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

  5. 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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