What disaster assistance is there for people with disability?

Last updated


Floods and bushfires have been a major feature of the past few years in Australia and can put people with disability in very difficult situations. In the event you are impacted by a natural disaster, there is support available to help you recover.

This article explains what kinds of financial and practical assistance there are for people with disability who have experienced a major disaster.

What is a disaster?

The definition of a natural disaster is key to the type of support you can receive in a particular situation, as often Government support relies on your situation being labelled a ‘natural disaster’ or an ‘official emergency’.

Disasters may include floods, bushfires, storms, hurricanes or droughts, or emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be labelled a ‘major disaster’, which is the Government term used for eligibility for most disaster assistance, an event must be declared a disaster by a Government representative – this could be at the Federal level or the State or Territory level.

You can find a list of declared Australian and International disasters on the Government’s Disaster Assist website.

A list of the different support and recovery programs run across Australia following natural disasters and emergencies can also be found on the National Emergency Management Agency website.

Financial assistance

There are generally two types of natural disaster financial assistance; a lump sum payment called the Disaster Recovery Payment and time-limited financial support called the Disaster Recover Allowance.

The Disaster Recovery Payment is offered to people in a local government area that has been declared as disaster affected. It is a once-off payment of up to $1,000 for adults and $400 for children, claimed through Services Australia, which is not means tested or impacted by other Government payments.

The Disaster Recovery Allowance is fortnightly financial assistance for people whose income has been directly impacted by a major disaster, paid out for up to 13 weeks.

For those older than 22, the Allowance rate is the same as the JobSeeker Payment and for people under 22, the Allowance is the same rate as the Youth Allowance.

If you receive Government payments such as JobSeeker or the Disability Support Pension and have mutual obligations or requirements in order to receive that payment, your requirements may be put on hold for a period of time.

The areas where there is a pause on requirements are listed on the Services Australia website.

If your income has been impacted you may also be eligible for the Low Income Health Care Card to assist with the cost of health care, or if you are experiencing financial hardship you may be able to get the Additional Child Care Subsidy to help with the cost of childcare.

Practical assistance

People with disability often need different kinds of assistance or additional assistance during and after an emergency to be safe and to recover fully.

For National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, you should contact your support providers to talk through how your support will work and when it will return to normal.

If your home has been compromised, you may need help to find temporary accommodation that is accessible to use until your home is safe again. Your support coordinator may be able to help with this or a Government service may be provided through Services Australia for a short period of time in your area to help with accommodation placements.

It is common for volunteer organisations to set up sites offering a range of supports in disaster-struck areas or even to visit affected people at home during the recovery period if they are not able to easily move around the community.

As these services will change depending on where you live and the type of event you experience, the best way to check what is available is to call your local council.

The AskIzzy website also has a range of information and resources that can help with issues like housing, food, clothing and bedding, health, access to services and legal help.

Social workers provided through Centrelink can help with access to mental health support services, short term counselling, information and referrals to other support services.

You can call Centrelink or visit a Centrelink office to connect with a social worker.

For further mental health support there are a number of non-Government organisations that offer services, including:

In an emergency situation, always call 000 to get immediate assistance and help.

What other types of support or financial assistance would you like to read about? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:
Creating a plan in the case of emergency
Top tips to prepare you for a bushfire
Planning to stay safe during flooding