The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Role of the ISO & social worker

Referral to the ISO

In some situations individuals may refuse or be reluctant to take action to receive child support (1.1.C.20) because of their cultural beliefs. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians should be referred to an ISO for a decision to be made in consultation with a social worker about exemption ( If it is inappropriate for an ISO to be involved in a particular case, then it may be appropriate to refer the individual to a different ISO or social worker.

Example: It may be inappropriate for a particular ISO to be involved because of skin grouping, kinship relationships or connections the ISO may have with varying factions of the community and the fear or shame of sharing personal information.

Explanation: Cases should also be referred to the social worker where the individual requests an exemption on the basis of a fear of violence (1.1.F.15) or the father is unknown. Assessment of these cases can be undertaken jointly by the ISO and social worker.

Referral to the social worker

In some situations, individuals may refuse or be reluctant to take action to receive child support. They must be referred to a social worker; even if the interviewing officer is satisfied they should be granted an exemption (

Example: If there are cultural considerations that adversely impact on the individuals capacity to take reasonable maintenance action (1.1.M.10) and where there are exceptional circumstances, they should be referred to a social worker for an assessment of their situation and possible referral to support agencies.

Where an individual is reluctant to take action for child support, the officer should try to obtain the reasons for this. The officer should explain the advantage of the CSS to the individual and the requirements about taking reasonable action for child support. If the individual is reluctant to talk about the reasons, they should be referred to a social worker.

Common role of the ISO & the social worker

The ISO and the social worker should ensure the individual understands that:

  • child support is for the financial benefit of the child
  • child support improves the financial resources for children not living with both parents
  • children are entitled to receive support from both parents, and
  • child support does not have to involve contact between the parents.

The ISO or the social worker should fully explore with the individual avenues of verifying the grounds for an exemption such as:

  • health professionals
  • community agencies
  • legal practitioners
  • police
  • relatives, or
  • friends.

A letter of verification from any of these sources should be obtained wherever possible.

The social worker should complete an electronic document (DOC) indicating:

  • the sources of verifying the grounds for an exemption, or
  • why verification is not possible, and
  • record the outcome of exercising their delegation for a request for a child support exemption.

Specific role of the social worker

Individuals may be more willing to discuss sensitive issues or disclose information to a social worker. The social worker may be able to:

  • obtain some information relating to the individual which for personal reasons they are unwilling to divulge at the original interview
  • alleviate any fears the individual may have with regard to privacy
  • refer the individual for any other assistance needed, or
  • present the advantages of child support for children in a more positive light.

Example: Child support is not linked with access issues and does not require personal contact between the parents.

Specific role of the ISO

When a social worker consults with an ISO to make a decision to grant or not grant an exemption, the ISO should take into account the reason the individual does not want to take action for child support and the likely impact on the individual and/or their community if action for child support is taken.

In the case of remote Aboriginal individuals who do not have a pre-grant interview, the ISO should determine whether the payer (1.1.P.72) is likely to be in a position to pay child support. The ISO should seek advice from community contacts if necessary.

Policy reference: FA Guide Taking reasonable maintenance action, Exemptions from the maintenance action test

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