220.127.116.11 Suitable Activity - Study & Training
Most job seekers receiving NSA are required to focus on job search. However, participation in a course of education or training may be appropriate in some circumstances.
Social security law precludes full-time students from qualifying for NSA unless they are required to undertake a course of full-time education or training (1.1.F.225) as a term of a newstart Job Plan. The intention of this is primarily to allow job seekers who are unlikely to find work with their existing skills to complete courses with a vocational focus that will enhance their immediate employability.
A job seeker who is participating in an approved full-time short course, included as a compulsory activity in their Job Plan, will still be required to look for and accept work, but not where it conflicts with the contact hours of the course or if it would prevent them from completing the course. Job seekers are required to accept any suitable work that does not conflict with the course and they are not permitted to limit their job searches only to areas relating to the course.
If a job seeker is undertaking full-time education or training as a suitable activity, they may still be required to attend the office of their employment services provider or DHS and they must accept any offer of suitable employment which fits around the timing of their training (see further information on accepting suitable work).
Principal carer parents (1.1.P.412) and job seekers with an assessed partial capacity to work (1.1.P.65) who are in receipt of NSA and whom satisfy and continue to satisfy their requirements through approved study of at least 30 hours per fortnight included on a compulsory basis in their Job Plan are not required to actively seek work or accept any offers of suitable employment in addition to complying with the terms of their Job Plan. For further information please see 1.1.P.418 (principal carer parent) or 18.104.22.168 (partial capacity to work).
Participation in a full-time short course for NSA recipients - general rule
For most NSA recipients, participation in a full-time education or training course can ONLY be approved once they enter a provider's program and can only be approved by their provider. For most NSA recipients, this means that they may participate in a short course of education or training only after they enter employment services and only if their provider determines that participation is necessary and/or would lead to an early employment outcome.
Employment services providers should only approve a full-time education or training course:
- if they include it as a compulsory item in a job seeker's Job Plan, and
- only if the course is less than 12 months (2 semesters) in duration, and
- completing the course is likely to lead to an employment outcome for the job seeker, or
- there is little chance of the job seeker finding employment with their existing skills, or
- the course will lead to qualifications in an identified area of skills shortage.
Note: The general rules for participation in short courses also apply to principal carers with the exception that the principal carer is only required to participate in the short course for 30 hours per fortnight, where the 30 hours of study includes both contact and non-contact hours.
Participation in a full-time short course for NSA recipients prior to entering employment services or another provider's program
DHS can approve participation in a full-time course for job seekers prior to entering employment services or another relevant provider's program if the job seeker has been identified as requiring training under the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) or Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). In most cases, DHS should make a referral to an employment services program shortly after the job seeker commences in SEE or AMEP so they can benefit from concurrent servicing. Newly arrived refugees with mutual obligation requirements will be referred to a suitable activity, however they will not be required to be connected to a jobactive provider until 6 months after their arrival in Australia, although they can participate voluntarily in stream A at any time prior to this. Newly arrived refugees with mutual obligation requirements will be DHS managed prior to their referral to jobactive 6 months after arrival. In addition to AMEP and SEE, during this time newly arrived refugees would also be able to fully meet their requirements by also participating in the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) or combining HSP with AMEP and/or SEE.
DHS can also approve participation in a full-time course for any job seeker prior to entering employment services or another relevant provider's program if:
- the job seeker has an offer of employment, confirmed by a letter from the potential employer, contingent upon their completing the course,
- the course has a clear vocational application, and
- the job seeker is prepared to meet any additional expenses involved.
Note: Principal carer parents and job seekers with an assessed partial capacity to work can only be required to participate in any course approved by DHS prior to entering employment services or another relevant provider's program on a part-time basis of 30 hours per fortnight, where the 30 hours of study includes both contact and non-contact hours.
SpB recipients - study
Annual activity requirement
In addition to WFD, part-time study or training (in a Certificate III or higher) can be commenced and included in a Job Plan as an approved activity to enable a job seeker in jobactive to meet their annual activity requirement (refer 3.2.10). Full-time study/training at the Certificate III or high level can also be commenced in the WFD phase to count towards a job seeker's annual activity requirement where it meets short course approval conditions.
Where a job seeker is undertaking a full-time study load, as advertised by the training provider, then the study will meet their fortnightly hours requirement for the fortnights in which they are doing full-time study. This is regardless of the actual hours undertaken (for example, a job seeker who has a 50 hours per fortnight annual activity requirement and undertakes 40 hours of full-time study per fortnight does not have to complete any additional hours in another activity, while they are doing this full-time study). This includes full-time participation in SEE or AMEP.
Published non-contact study hours for job seekers undertaking part-time study will also count towards a job seeker's annual activity requirement, as long as they do not exceed the course's face-to-face hours. Where a course's non-contact study hours are not published, up to a maximum of 10 non-contact study hours per fortnight can be counted towards the job seeker's annual activity requirement. Any non-contact study hours, as well as face-to-face hours, need to be clearly reflected in the Job Plan.
Young people under 25 years of age, studying full-time approved courses should generally be assessed for YA (student).
Recipients of YA(other) who are under the age of 22 years and have Year 12 or an equivalent (i.e. Certificate III or higher) qualification should be encouraged to remain in some form of part-time study or training until they have sufficient skills or qualifications to obtain sustainable employment. The delegate (i.e. DHS or employment services provider) may consider an activity of part-time study in combination with other activities, including job search or part-time work, bearing in mind the job seeker's long-term as well as short-term needs.
YA job seekers who seek to undertake a full-time short course as an approved activity may do so when:
- they enrol in a full-time vocational short course of less than 12 months which would improve their short term employment prospects, or
- if they have exceeded the ALLOWABLE TIME for their course under YA (student) but still have less than 12 months of study remaining to complete their course.
Prior to commencement in employment services with an employment services provider, YA job seekers who wish to study in a full-time short course must approach DHS for approval.
YA job seekers in employment services who wish to study in a full-time short course are to approach the employment services provider for approval.
Full-time academic study (secondary or tertiary study) for NSA recipients
In general, social security law precludes full-time students from receiving NSA if they are eligible for Austudy, ABSTUDY living allowance or YA as a full-time student. NSA is a payment for people who are unemployed and looking for work. It is not a payment for full-time students.
Similarly, a full-time academic course cannot be approved for an NSA recipient just because they have exhausted their allowable time/reasonable time on a student payment.
However, in exceptional circumstances, full-time academic study can be approved by a provider or DHS, as a term of a Job Plan. To be approved, the study must meet the guidelines outlined under 'Participation in a full-time short course for NSA recipients - general rule' and/or 'Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients'.
An example of when full-time academic study might be approved is where a person has been unsuccessful in their job search but has only a single study period (e.g. a semester) to complete in order to obtain a degree that would greatly improve their employment prospects.
Where a provider approves full-time study as per the guidelines above, there is no requirement for the person to test their eligibility for a student payment even if the job seeker is undertaking an academic course and could qualify for Austudy.
Separate rules exist around academic study for single principal carers in receipt of NSA who have been granted PES for their study (see below 'Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients').
Full-time academic study (secondary or tertiary study) for NSA recipients - Masters or Doctorate study
Generally, full-time study of more than 12 months duration or Masters or Doctorate study cannot be approved for NSA recipients except for:
- people transferring to NSA or YA (job seeker) from PP - see 'Job seekers transferring to NSA or YA from PP' and
- Single principal carers in receipt of NSA who have been granted PES for a course - see 'Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients'
Job seekers transferring to NSA or YA from PP
If a principal carer (whether partnered or single) is undertaking full-time or part-time study as a PP recipient and then transfers to NSA or YA (job seeker), then they can continue to complete their course of study even if the remainder of the course is longer than 12 months in duration. In addition, they will be taken as meeting all their mutual obligation requirements while completing their course as long as they continue studying in the same course for at least 30 hours per fortnight (including contact and non-contact hours).
Example: Jenny was granted PPS on 24 October 2005. She begins studying full-time in a 4 year Bachelor of Computer Science at a university in February 2010. In March 2011, Jenny's youngest child turns 6, so she becomes subject to mutual obligation requirements. While Jenny is studying this course on a full-time basis she is deemed to be meeting her requirements in full. In March, 2013 her youngest child turns 8 years old and she claims NSA. Because Jenny was studying full-time immediately prior to moving to NSA she can complete the course while in receipt of NSA. Furthermore, she will continue to satisfy her requirements in full while completing that course on a full-time basis.
Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients
Single principal carers in receipt of NSA may undertake any course for which they are granted PES, this includes academic and longer courses (greater than 12 months) and have this study count toward meeting their mutual obligation requirements. Where an approved course, for which PES is granted, is being undertaken full-time or 30 hours per fortnight, this will fully meet their requirements, and the single principal carer will not be required to undertake additional activities.
Single principal carer NSA recipients undertaking approved part-time study of less than 30 hours per fortnight for which PES is granted, will be able to use this study toward meeting their mutual obligation requirements. However, they must remain connected to an employment services provider and undertake additional activities to meet their requirements. Any additional activities a principal carer is undertaking in order to meet their requirements must not conflict with the principal carer's study.
For the purpose of mutual obligation requirements, a single principal carer can continue to undertake the study for which PES was granted as an approved activity until that study has been completed.
Example: David is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. He is accepted into a full-time Bachelor of Arts and applies for PES through DHS. He is granted PES and therefore his course is recognised as an approved course. Because David is undertaking his course on a full- time basis, he fully meets his mutual obligation requirements and does not need to undertake any additional activities.
Example: Sarah is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. She is accepted into a part-time Masters of Occupational Therapy (20 hours per fortnight). She is granted PES through DHS and is able to have the Masters recognised as an approved course. However, because Sarah is undertaking the course for less than 30 hours a fortnight she must remain connected with her employment services provider and undertake other activities to meet her mutual obligation requirements.
Example: William is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. William is accepted into a Bachelor of Science and applies for PES. William's claim for PES is rejected as William has exhausted his PES eligibility at the Bachelor degree level. This study cannot be included in the Job Plan as an approved activity and William would generally need to look for work and/or undertake additional activities.
Accepting suitable work
A job seeker with full-time mutual obligation requirements who is undertaking either full-time or part-time education or training as a compulsory item in their Job Plan can only be required to accept an offer of suitable employment if the hours of employment would fit around the timing of their study (see examples below).
People with part-time mutual obligation requirements (e.g. principal carers and people with a partial capacity to work) are not required to accept any suitable work if they are fully meeting their requirements through their participation in approved education or training.
Approved part-time education or training (included as a compulsory item in job seeker Job Plan)
Where a provider agrees that participation in part-time education or training will enhance the job seeker's employability, the part-time activity should be included as a compulsory item in the job seeker's Job Plan. These job seekers will only be required to accept suitable work which fits around the timing of their study.
Non-approved part-time education or training (not included as a compulsory item in job seeker Job Plan)
What happens if a job seeker is undertaking part-time education or training but their provider does not agree that the activity should be included as a compulsory item in the job seeker's Job Plan? Job seekers can undertake part-time education or training at any time but if the activity is not approved and included as a compulsory item in their Job Plan they must continue to fully meet all of their mutual obligation requirements. Providers must approve any course a job seeker is undertaking and enter it into the job seekers Job Plan if the job seeker is a single principal carer and has been granted PES for that course.
Example: Jo is undertaking a child care worker certificate II course. This is a compulsory item in her Job Plan. She is required to attend TAFE 5 mornings a week from 9am till 12 noon. She is offered paid work 2 full days per week. Jo is not required to accept this job as it will interfere with her capacity to complete her training. Jo can choose to accept the job and renegotiate her TAFE attendance times or withdraw from her course.
Example: Jack has full-time mutual obligation requirements and is undertaking a child care worker certificate II course and required to attend TAFE 5 mornings a week. This is a compulsory item in his Job Plan. Jack is offered paid work involving 2 evening shifts (3pm till 8pm) per week. Jack would be required to accept this work as it does not impact on his education/training commitments.
Example: Melanie is in the same course as Jo and Jack and also has the course as a compulsory item in her Job Plan. Melanie is offered paid work at a child care centre but the hours she is required to work conflict with her study commitments. It is preferable for Melanie to accept this work and renegotiate her contact hours to enable her to complete her study. However if this is not possible then Melanie could refuse this job offer.
Requirement to attend employment services provider &/or DHS
Job seekers undertaking education or training are still required to attend the office of their employment services provider or DHS if required to do so. However, appointments should be scheduled for times that do not conflict with the job seeker's study timetable.
Note: Principal carer parents and people with a partial capacity to work who are fully meeting their mutual obligation requirements are not required to attend appointments - they have no additional requirements.
Example: Bill is undertaking a course as an aged care worker. He is required to be at TAFE all day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. His provider notifies Bill that he is required to attend an appointment with them on Tuesday at 1.30pm. This is not a reasonable time to expect Bill to attend an appointment as it conflicts with his study commitments. The appointment should be scheduled for a Thursday or Friday when Bill is not required to be at TAFE.
Act reference: SSAct section 613 Full-time students, section 606 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-terms, section 607 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-principal carers, section 607A Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-people with partial capacity to work, section 607B Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-requirement to participate in an approved program of work, section 544B YA Employment Pathway Plans-terms
Policy reference: SS Guide 22.214.171.124 PES & Progress Rules for Tertiary Study, 1.1.M.140 Minimum time (YA, Austudy, PES), 1.1.P.412 Principal carer, 1.1.P.418 Principal carer - study, 126.96.36.199 Qualification for PES