The federal government will increase disaster recovery payments to children from $400 per child to $800. On Friday, January 17, Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen told Australian Community Media this extra money would be paid to families through the one-off Disaster Recovery Payment. Responding to claims by Bega MP and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance that financial assistance was not reaching bushfire victims, Mr Jongen said 44,000 claims have been made and $53 million paid out across the country since September. "The increase to the amount for children, recognising people who are affected beyond their home and the package for mental health is what the government has seen as a priority," Mr Jongen said. Mr Jongen said the increased payment for children would come into effect on January 20. "Those who have received the $400, we will be paying them retrospectively over the next week or so," he said. READ MORE: ASIC warns against unscrupulous 'service providers' in wake of bushfire devastation "They will receive a top up of the additional $400, with no need to reapply. "Any new applicants will receive $800 per child." Mr Jongen said changes to the payments were made after "government officials" visited the bushfire zones. "It is clear a range of government officials have been out and about assessing the impact and the government has responded accordingly," he said. READ MORE: The ways you can support the South Coast bushfire recovery effort He said the Department of Human Services has responded "quickly and efficiently". "Staff are focused on getting payments into people's hands as quickly as possible," he said. "Payments are usually processed within 24 hours." Mr Jongen said the federal government also expanded the eligibility for people who have experienced damage to their property. People whose losses total $20,000 may now be eligible. "People who have lost fences or sheds and other equipment but still have their homes, are also eligible for this payment," he said. The changes will come into effect on Monday, January 20. "We will be taking claims immediately and holding them until Monday to process them under those new rules," he said. "It's as simple as making a phone call and explaining your situation to us," he said. The number to call is 180 22 66.