Superannuation benefits can be released on compassionate grounds to meet expenses related to medical treatment, medical transport, modifications necessary for the family home or motor vehicles due to severe disability and palliative care.
Funds may also be released on compassionate grounds to prevent foreclosure of a mortgage or exercise of a power of sale over the fund member’s home (principal place of residence); or to pay for expenses with a dependant’s death, funeral or burial.
Early access to super needs to be a last resort.
It’s up to the person applying for early access to prove to the regulator that they don’t have the financial capacity to meet these expenses without access their superannuation.
In 2016-17, the Department of Human Services received 37,105 applications for early access to superannuation on compassionate grounds, with 21,258 approved. The average amount released was $13,644. The great majority (72%) of funds released were on medical grounds, 18% were released for mortgage payments.
A person seeking early release for medical treatment must provide written evidence from at least two medical practitioners – one of whom must be a specialist – certifying that the treatment or medical transport:
- is necessary to treat a life-threatening illness or injury; or alleviate acute or chronic pain; or alleviate an acute or chronic mental disturbance; and
- is not readily available to the individual or their dependant through the public health system.
The applicant then must approach their superannuation fund trustee who has ultimate discretion regarding the release of the funds. From 1 July 2018 however, the Australian Taxation Office is responsible for administration of early release applications, streamlining the process so applicants and superannuation funds receive the compassionate release notice electronically and simultaneously.