Victims of family violence should have early access to super: HESTA

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Victims and survivors of family violence should be able to access their superannuation early.

HESTA and Industry Super Australia have called on the Federal Government to make changes to the superannuation rules to allow family violence victims to access their super, as a last resort.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said urgent action in this area was needed.

“Finances are too often a barrier for women trying to leave a violent relationship and, unfortunately, financial support for survivors of family violence is grossly inadequate,” said Ms Blakey.

“While early access to super is currently possible to stop the bank selling your home, pay for a dependant’s funeral or get medical treatment under compassionate grounds, this is denied in instances of family violence. We think it’s entirely appropriate that super regulations extend compassion to victims and survivors of family violence to empower women with the financial means to escape abusive relationships.”

Superannuation can currently be accessed early on severe financial hardship or compassion grounds, but many victims and survivors of family violence may not meet the existing eligibility requirements.

HESTA has proposed that victims and survivors be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation on compassionate grounds, after providing “certification from a recognised family violence social worker or organisation attesting they are experiencing a situation of family violence”.

Ms Blakey said this would be a ‘band-aid’ measure while all levels of government improve financial and other support services for victims.

“Women already retire with almost half the super of men, and they shouldn’t have to use their super for this purpose. But family violence is one of the rare situations in which short-term financial needs are more compelling than the need to preserve superannuation for retirement.”

Ms Blakey said that it was important that early access of super only occur when it is the most appropriate financial option.

“We are consulting with expert service providers about how best to implement this, as we’re advocating money is only provided in the context of family violence victims and survivors receiving appropriate, specialist financial counselling and support.”

“We want to ensure there are adequate safeguards in place, while allowing for the release of urgently needed money in a timely manner. We also want to make sure any proposed change doesn’t take place undue administrative burdens on already stretched service providers.”

Industry Super Australia (ISA) is supporting the call by HESTA for this change to the super rules.

ISA affairs director Matt Linden said: “Governments must properly resource support for women escaping family violence.”

“When state-funded support fails, allowing access to super in special circumstances could mean the difference between someone seeking vital help or not.”

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