3.11.5.30 Special family circumstances

Overview

This topic provides information on automatic exemptions for principal carer parents and main supporter parents and non-principal carer parent emergency and respite foster carers with special family circumstances.

Any special family circumstances exemption will be subject to review and may be revoked if the job seeker's family circumstances change.

There are a number of circumstances where an automatic exemption from requirements can be applied, where:

  • a principal carer parent is a registered and active foster carer
  • a job seeker provides foster care temporarily in an emergency, or on a respite, basis
  • a principal carer parent or main supporter is home school 1 or more of the children or secondary pupil children for whom they are the principal carer parent or main supporter
  • a principal carer parent or main supporter parent is providing or facilitating distance education for 1 or more of the children or secondary pupil children for whom they are the principal carer parent or main supporter
  • a principal carer parent is caring for a large family (i.e. is the principal carer parent or main supporter parent of 4 or more children aged 18 years or under)
  • a principal carer parent is a relative but not a parent of a child and the child is living with the principal carer parent in accordance with a family law order, or
  • a principal carer parent is a relative but not a parent of a child (kin child) and the principal carer parent is caring for the wellbeing of that kin child in accordance with a document accepted by the state/territory that is responsible for the wellbeing of children.

Single principal carer parent job seekers receiving JSP/YA (other) who are granted an automatic exemption (of up to 12 months) under SSAct section 602C(3) and 602C(3A) or section 542FA(3) and 542FA(3A) will be paid a higher rate for the duration of the exemption. This means that single principal carer parents who are granted an exemption due to foster caring, home schooling, facilitating distance education, caring for a large family or caring under a family law order for a child to whom they are related but are not the parent, will be paid an JSP/YA (other) rate that matches the rate paid under PPS. However, those single principal carer parent job seekers granted an exemption (of up to 12 months) for caring for a child with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability or illness will not be paid this higher rate of JSP/YA (other). Single parents granted an automatic exemption due to home schooling and distance education as main supporters of secondary pupil children will not be granted the higher rate of JSP/YA (other) for the duration of the exemption if they are not a principal carer parent. Exemptions regarding kinship care and emergency respite foster care also do not result in the higher rate of JSP/YA (other). SpB recipients also do not receive the higher rate.

There are also a range of special family circumstances where a temporary exemption will be considered on a case-by-case basis. These include, but are not limited to:

  • caring for a dependent child with a disability
  • caring for a child in an informal kinship or family care arrangement
  • being subject to domestic violence
  • extremely high stress due to recent relationship breakdown
  • the death of an immediate family member
  • a dependent child with a temporary illness or injury requiring full-time parental care
  • caring for a frail aged or disabled adult family member, or
  • caring for a youngest child aged 6 who has not yet commenced school.

For special family circumstances other than those discussed in this topic, the delegate should rely on the following principles when making a determination:

  • once the existence and nature of a special family circumstance is verified, consideration must be given to the practical impact of this circumstance upon the principal carer parent/main supporter parent's capacity to look for or undertake part-time paid employment of 15 hours a week or to participate in a suitable combination of approved activities
  • in most cases regard should be given to the extent to which the principal carer parent/main supporter parent's child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren is/are able to attend school, and if necessary, outside school hours care, without the principal carer parent/main supporter parent being constantly at hand or on call, and
  • supporting statements of the THP and/or school (wherever information from these sources is appropriate) should be considered.

Principal carer parent job seeker is a registered & active foster carer

Registered and active foster carers are defined in the SSAct as:

  • a person who meets the requirements of the law (or regulations) of the state or territory in which the person resides in order to be registered or approved to provide foster care in that state or territory, and
  • the person is actively involved in providing foster care in that state or territory.

When establishing if a principal carer parent is a registered and active foster carer, primary regard should be given to documentation from the relevant state or territory authority that indicates that the person is currently or could be required to provide formal foster care in the foreseeable future. It is important that principal carer parents with this documentation who are kinship carers (e.g. grandparents whose grandchildren are considered their dependent children for income support purposes), or provide respite or emergency foster care for children on an intermittent, episodic or irregular basis, are also regarded as registered and active foster carers.

Principal carer parents should not be regarded as registered and active foster carers if they only provide informal care of a child, that is, where the person, as a relative or friend, assumes care of a child in a private arrangement.

Automatic exemptions from requirements should be applied to all principal carer parents whose status as registered and active foster carers can be verified.

The maximum period of exemption from requirements is 12 months. However, it may not be appropriate to grant an exemption for this period to all JSP and YA (job seeker) principal carer parents who are registered and active foster carers. The documentation provided by the state or territory government, or designated foster care agency, should be the basis for determining the relevant period the person is to be regarded as a formal foster carer.

Example: If the documentation indicates that a person is a registered foster carer and the documentation is only valid for 4 months, an exemption from requirements should also be given for 4 months.

Principal carer parents who are registered and active foster carers can apply for further periods of an exemption from requirements which are each not to exceed 12 months. The person will need to provide appropriate documentation to verify their circumstances. This documentation will also be used to determine the appropriate duration for this exemption.

Principal carer parent job seekers will have 4 weeks immediately following the expiry of their registered and active formal foster carer status to provide Services Australia with documentation proving that this status has been renewed. During this time, the job seeker should still be considered exempt from requirements. If the job seeker cannot produce the documentation after this 4 week period, but still claims that they are considered a registered and active foster carer, Services Australia should contact the relevant authority in that state or territory to verify the foster care status of the job seeker and clarify the source of documentation that supports this.

If after checking with the relevant organisation, the parent is still considered a formal registered and active foster carer, a new exemption should be granted (and where appropriate, backdated) for the duration of the renewed/new status. The principal carer parent will still be required to provide copies of the documentation to Services Australia within the next 4 week period.

Principal carer parent job seekers who are caring for a child, but who are unable to produce the required documentation to verify their registration as an active foster carer are not covered by this automatic exemption. However, where the care arrangement is being overseen by a relevant government authority (i.e. a state or territory community services department), a case-by-case exemption may be applicable if the relevant authority advises that caring for the foster child affects the job seeker's ability to work, or search for work.

It is the responsibility of the principal carer parent job seeker to inform Services Australia of any changes to their registered and active foster care status. Foster carers who are no longer active, or who become deregistered, are to immediately inform Services Australia of their change in circumstances. These job seekers will then become subject to requirements.

Act reference: SSAct section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA(3) Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C(3) Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Providing foster care temporarily in an emergency, or on a respite, basis

Short term exemptions can be granted where a job seeker, who is not a principal carer parent and is a registered and active foster carer, provides foster care temporarily in an emergency or to give respite to another person from caring for a child. Examples might be where a child is placed in the care of a registered foster carer for a short period while the usual principal carer parent is unable to look after the child and no other family member is available to look after the child.

The period of the exemption begins when the person starts to provide foster care for the child and continues for up to 12 weeks after the person ceases to provide foster care to the child. The exemption must not exceed 12 months in duration.

Documentation from the agency that is responsible for the placement of the child in the foster care arrangement should be obtained to ascertain the duration and nature of the foster care.

The foster carer's circumstances should be considered in making a decision about when the exemption period is to end. The maximum exemption of up to 12 weeks after the foster care arrangement ends should not be routinely applied. The probable disruption to the carer's routine activities by the emergency care arrangements should also be considered and allowed for in deciding when to end the exemption period. It may be appropriate to allow the maximum exemption in circumstances where an active foster carer believes that further temporary periods of emergency or respite care are likely to occur, but are not formalised.

Example: Jane is an active registered foster carer. She is particularly interested in caring for autistic children and is often called upon with little notice by the responsible state government authority. Lately, 2 families with autistic children have sought respite care on an emergency basis. Jane has been able to provide emergency respite care for 1 child from 1 family. She is aware of the probability that she will be called upon to also care for the other family's child, but the timing and duration of the arrangement is uncertain. Jane should be given an exemption for a reasonable period after her care for the first child ends, and while the arrangements for her care for the second child are formalised. This exemption may be for up to 12 weeks after the care of the first child ceases.

Act reference: SSAct section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker is providing home schooling to 1 or more children or secondary pupil children for whom they are the principal carer parent or main supporter

Home schooling (or home education) can be provided to children of compulsory school age regardless of proximity to government and non-government schools. In order to access an automatic exemption due to involvement in home schooling, a principal carer parent or main supporter parent must be home schooling at least 1 of the children or secondary pupil children of which they are the principal carer parent or main supporter.

Under the SSAct, recognised home schoolers are defined as:

  • providing education in the home that wholly or substantially replaces the education that the child or secondary pupil child would otherwise receive by attending a school
  • properly adhering to any relevant state and territory laws in order to provide home schooling in that state or territory, and
  • being suitably involved in providing and supervising that education.

In all states and territories primary regard should be given to documentation from the relevant state/territory authority which verifies that the recipient is either registered, or has an exemption to register, as a home educator in that state or territory. If this substantiating documentation is provided, an automatic exemption should be immediately granted. Documentation will indicate the period for which the home educator's registration is valid. Primary regard should be given to this information when the period of the automatic exemption is determined.

Note: NSW WILL NOT register a child who is past compulsory school age for home schooling. In the case of a principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker home schooling their child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren, primary consideration should be given to the period of time to which the parent's home schooling records (such as the curriculum used) correspond, when determining the period of exemption (subject to the limits discussed below).

Length of exemption

The maximum initial period of exemption from requirements is 12 months. However, it may not be appropriate to grant an exemption for this period to all job seekers who are recognised home educators, for example, where provisional registration has been granted for 6 months. Discretion should be used to ensure that an exemption is applied only for the period corresponding to the registration period the job seeker has been granted by their relevant state or territory authority. In jurisdictions which provide a provisional form of registration prior regard to previous unsuccessful attempts to gain registration should be taken into account in assessing automatic exemption.

Principal carer parent and main supporter parent job seekers who are recognised as home educators under social security law can apply for further periods of exemption which each do not exceed 12 months. These job seekers will have 4 weeks immediately following the expiry of their home educator status to provide Services Australia with documentation proving that this status has been renewed. During this time the home educator should still be considered exempt. If the job seeker cannot produce the documentation after this 4 week period, but still claims that they are considered a recognised home educator, Services Australia should contact the relevant authority in that state or territory to verify the home educator status of the job seeker.

If, after checking with the relevant organisation, the job seeker is confirmed to be a registered home educator, a new exemption should be granted (and where appropriate, backdated) for the duration of this new period. The job seeker will still be required to provide copies of documentation to Services Australia within the next 4 week period.

Example 1: Alison has 1 child, Sarah, aged 10 and is receiving JSP. She is a registered home educator in NSW, and has chosen to home school Sarah. Alison has the appropriate supporting documentation and can receive an automatic exemption from requirements while she home schools Sarah.

Example 2: Malcolm and Angela have 1 child, Derek, aged 11, and Angela is receiving JSP. She has obtained provisional registration as a home educator and has withdrawn Derek from school. Angela provides supporting documentation and is granted an exemption of 6 months which can be extended if she gains full registration as a home educator.

It is the responsibility of the principal carer parent and main supporter parent job seeker to inform Services Australia of any changes to their home educator status. Home educators who are no longer active, or who lose their dispensation or exemption or become deregistered, must immediately inform Services Australia of their change in circumstances. These job seekers will then become subject to requirements.

Principal carer parent and main supporter parent job seekers who are caring for a child or secondary pupil child, but who are unable to produce documentation confirming their registration as a home educator in their state or territory are not covered under this automatic exemption.

In the event of an appeal, the jurisdictional process of each state/territory is to be the main process driver.

  • If the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren are required to attend a government or registered non-government school whilst the appeal process is underway then an automatic exemption from requirements is not to be granted.
  • If the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren are not required to attend a government or registered non-government school whilst the appeal process is underway then the decision to provide an exemption, for the period of the appeal process, is to rest with the Services Australia service advisor, having regard to the wellbeing of the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren, discussions with the relevant state/territory authority and the intentions of the parent.
  • If the appeal is successful the period of automatic exemption from requirements is to be backdated to the date the dispensation, registration or exemption to register as a home educator was lodged.

Act reference: SSAct section 5C Home educators, section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA(3) Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C(3) Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.S.66 Secondary pupil child, 1.1.M.10 Main supporter (PP, JSP, YA, SpB)

Principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker is providing or facilitating distance education for 1 or more of the children for whom they are the principal carer parent or main supporter

Distance education is primarily available for students who live a long way from a formal school. Other students can also access distance education in certain circumstances such as those who are travelling, have itinerant families, have a medical condition or are approved for special enrolment. In order to access an automatic exemption due to involvement in distance education, a principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker must be providing or facilitating distance education for at least 1 of the children or secondary pupil children of which they are the principal carer parent or main supporter.

Under the SSAct, a person is recognised as a distance educator of a child or secondary pupil child if:

  • the child or secondary pupil child is enrolled at a school providing a distance education curriculum
  • the child or secondary pupil child is undertaking that curriculum, and
  • the person is suitably involved in assisting and supervising the child or secondary pupil child in relation to that curriculum.

To establish if a principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker should be recognised as a distance educator, primary regard should be given to documentation which establishes that the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren are enrolled as a distance education student in a school providing that form of enrolment. In addition the job seeker should be able to provide a written statement that they play, or intend to play, an active role in assisting and supervising the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren undertaking the distance education curriculum. If all this substantiating evidence is provided, an automatic exemption should be granted.

If the child or secondary pupil child is properly enrolled and undertaking a distance education curriculum but a person other than the principal carer parent or main supporter parent (e.g. a tutor or nanny) is actively involved in assisting and supervising the child/ren or secondary pupil child/ren undertaking the distance education curriculum, it would not be appropriate for the principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seeker to be granted an exemption. However, unless evidence to the contrary is or becomes apparent, a determination must be made based on the job seeker's supporting statement.

The maximum initial period of exemption from requirements is 12 months. However, it may not be appropriate to grant an exemption for this period to all principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seekers who are recognised distance educators under social security law. Discretion should be used to ensure that an exemption is applied only for the period a job seeker may reasonably be expected to retain this status.

Principal carer parent or main supporter parent job seekers who are recognised as distance educators under social security law can apply for further periods of exemption which are also not to exceed 12 months. Similar discretion should be used to determine if a further period of exemption should be granted together with the most appropriate duration of that exemption.

Act reference: SSAct section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Principal carer parent job seeker who is caring for a large family

A principal carer parent job seeker who is the principal carer parent or main supporter parent of 4 or more children should be granted an automatic exemption from mutual obligation requirements.

The period of the exemption cannot exceed 12 months but there may be subsequent exemptions from requirements for 1 or more other periods (also each not exceeding 12 months).

Note: Any exemption of this type should only be granted for the duration of the period (or subsequent period) in which the principal carer parent job seeker still has care of at least 4 children 18 years and under.

Example 1: Peter and Alexandra have 4 school age children. The youngest child is 9 years of age and the other 3 are between 10 and 18 years of age. Alexandra receives JSP as a principal carer parent. Alexandra should be granted automatic exemptions from requirements until her oldest child turns 19 (and Alexandra is no longer classified as a main supporter parent of that child) or if Alexandra is otherwise no longer the principal carer parent or main supporter of 4 children.

Example 2: Tom is a principal carer parent in receipt of JSP and has 4 school aged children (Mike 7, Daphne 9, Sam 14 and Greg 18). On 1 September 2010, Tom's eldest child, Greg turns 19 and ceases to be a secondary pupil child (and Tom is therefore no longer classified as the main supporter parent of Greg). As Tom is only the principal carer parent or main supporter parent of 3 children, he is no longer qualified for a large family exemption and he must undertake approved activities to meet his requirements.

Act reference: SSAct section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Principal carer parent job seeker is a relative but not a parent of a child & the child is living with the principal carer parent - overview

There are different legislated exemption rules for non-parent relatives caring for a child, depending on whether:

  • the child is living with the person as a result of a family law order
  • the person is providing formal 'kinship care', or
  • the person is providing informal 'kinship care'.

If the person is a non-parent relative of a child they are caring for under a court order they may be eligible for an exemption of up to 12 months (which may be renewed). Single principal carer parents receiving JSP or YA (other), and exempt from requirements for this reason, may also receive a higher payment rate, equivalent to the PPS rate. SpB recipients are ineligible for the higher rate.

If the person is a non-parent relative of a child providing formal 'kinship care' they may be eligible for an exemption of up to 12 months (which may be renewed), however they are ineligible for the higher payment rate.

Exemptions for informal kinship care are not specifically legislated. However, job seekers providing informal kinship care may be eligible for a special family circumstances exemption of up to 16 weeks (which may be renewed).

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB), section 1067G Rate of YA, section 1068 Rate of JSP …

Principal carer parent job seeker is a relative but not a parent of a child & the child is living with the principal carer parent in accordance with a family law order

In some instances, a court such as the Family Court or Federal Magistrate's Court, can direct that the child/ren live with a relative. This type of exemption only applies to a job seeker who is related to the child/ren but who is not the parent of the child/ren, and is providing care for the child/ren as a result of a family law order, i.e. it does not apply to a job seeker who is a natural, adoptive or step parent.

In determining whether to grant a mutual obligation requirements exemption to a principal carer parent job seeker for this reason, consideration should be given to whether or not there is a family law order that directs a child or children to live with the job seeker, whether the job seeker is adhering to the order and whether the job seeker is a relative of the child/ren. Where all of these criteria can be established the job seeker should be granted the exemption for the period of the order, or for a period of 12 months (renewable) if the period to which the order relates exceeds 12 months. Discretion should be used to ensure that an exemption is applied only for a period consistent with the ongoing effect of the family law order.

Note: Documentation in the form of parenting plans are not sufficient for the purpose of this exemption, i.e. a copy of the order made by or registered by a court exercising powers under the Family Law Act 1975 must be sighted.

This exemption does not apply to a job seeker who is a parent of the child/ren. For example, where parents separate and 1 parent receives a court order which provides for sole care of the child, then this person should not be granted this type of exemption. Also, any principal carer parent who is not the parent but an extended relative of the child/ren but then adopts the child/ren, should be considered the parent of the child/ren, and from that point this type of exemption will no longer apply.

Note: For the purpose of this exemption a person is considered to be a relative of a child (other than a parent) if:

  • the person is not the child's natural parent, adoptive parent or step-parent and the person is related to the child by blood, adoption or marriage
  • the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child who has traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship ties and the person is related to the child under Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules, or
  • the child is a member of a community that accepts relationships other than those referred to above as kinship ties and the person is accepted by the community to be related to the child.

Note: A family law order means:

  • a parenting order within the meaning of section 64B of the Family Law Act
  • a family violence order within the meaning of section 4 of that Act
  • a state child order registered under section 70D of that Act
  • an overseas child order registered under section 70G of that Act.

Act reference: SSAct section 5E Relatives (other than parents), section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Principal carer parent job seeker is a relative, but not a parent, of a child & the child is living with the principal carer parent in accordance with a document prepared or accepted by a state/territory authority (also referred to as 'kinship care')

An automatic exemption from mutual obligation requirements is granted to a principal carer parent job seeker who is a relative (kin), but not a parent of the child, and cares for the child in accordance with a document that is prepared or accepted by the relevant state/territory authority that has responsibility for the wellbeing of children. The length of the exemption should be for the period of kinship care anticipated in the documentation, or for a maximum period of 12 months.

Note: For the purpose of this exemption a person is considered to be a relative of a child (other than a parent) if:

  • the person is not the child's natural parent, adoptive parent or step-parent and the person is related to the child by blood, adoption or marriage
  • the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child who has traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship ties and the person is related to the child under Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules, or
  • the child is a member of a community that accepts relationships other than those referred to above as kinship ties and the person is accepted by the community to be related to the child.

Example: The NSW authorities have given Margaret a document awarding her with the care of her grandson Thomas for a period of 6 months. Margaret is the principal carer parent of 2 children and is in receipt of JSP; as the kinship carer for Thomas, she would be automatically exempt from requirements for 6 months. Her circumstances should be reviewed at the end of this period to see whether an extension of the exemption for a longer period is warranted. The maximum length of an exemption is 12 months.

Act reference: SSAct section 5E Relatives (other than parents), section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Principal carer parent job seeker is providing informal kinship or family care for child/ren (i.e. in an arrangement not provided for by a family law order)

In some circumstances the child/ren may be in the care of a relative, such as a grandparent or aunt/uncle, in what could be deemed as an informal arrangement. However, this arrangement may have the support of the state/territory authorities, in that it is an alternative to the child being placed under a child protection order and being placed into the formal foster care system. Authorities are beginning to increasingly use this method of care as an early intervention strategy.

The maximum period of exemption for job seekers in these circumstances is 16 weeks, but if the circumstances meriting the initial period of exemption remain in effect, then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant subsequent exemptions from requirements for 1 or more other periods (each not exceeding 16 weeks).

If the arrangement is informal, the principal carer parent will not be able to access an automatic exemption (described above). However, if the arrangement is formal, the principal carer parent may be able to have an automatic exemption if they are a relative (not a parent) of a child to whom they care for under a court order. An automatic exemption can be granted in this circumstance if the job seeker is looking after the child/ren under a parenting order, a state child order, or an overseas child order, which are registered under the Family Law Act and the person is complying with that order.

Example: Mary is a 48 year old grandparent who is a single JSP recipient with full requirements. She has an 8 year old granddaughter, Ebony, who permanently lives with her son, David. The Community Services Department have concerns over Ebony's safety and have suggested that, with David's permission, Ebony live with Mary for the next 6 months until their concerns can be addressed. Although Ebony is happy to live with Mary, she suffers from panic attacks and can need some extra care. In this situation, the Community Services Department does not consider Mary to be a registered and active foster carer, but can provide a letter outlining Ebony's condition and supporting the fact that Mary may need an exemption until Ebony returns to her father's care. Mary contacts Services Australia to enquire about what type of income support she is entitled to now that she has the care of a dependent child. Mary is assessed as being eligible for JSP as a principal carer parent. Under this payment, Mary will have part-time mutual obligation requirements.

Because Mary is not considered a registered and active foster carer, she is not eligible for an automatic exemption from requirements. However, because she has a letter from the Community Services Department relating to Ebony's condition and the impact of caring for Ebony upon Mary's capacity to undertake or look for part-time work, Mary would be eligible to seek a temporary exemption for up to 16 weeks at a time from requirements as a principal carer parent.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C(2)(b) … there are special circumstances relating to the person's family … (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Principal carer parent job seeker is caring for a child with a disability

A principal carer parent caring for at least 1 dependent child who suffers from a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability or illness may apply for an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements. To be granted an exemption, it has to be determined that the care needs of the child/ren are such that, as a result, the principal carer parent does not have capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours of paid part-time work a week (or participate in education or study if the person is an early school leaver). A determination should have regard to:

  • the extent to which the child/ren is/are able to attend school without the principal carer parent being constantly at hand or on call, and
  • a statement from the school (where appropriate) and the assessment of a THP stating that the principal carer parent needs to be always available/on call to care for the child/ren with a disability.

Where principal carer parent job seekers who apply for this exemption are receiving CA (child), the delegate should consider this as sufficient verification that the child/ren concerned has/have a disability. However, whether the job seeker is receiving CA (child) or not, the assessment of a THP is still required in order to determine the functional impact of the child's care needs upon the job seeker's available time and therefore capacity to undertake the requirements outlined in their Job Plan. In addition to the assessment of a THP, a statement from the child/ren's school is only required if the child/ren are attending school at the time the exemption is sought.

Note: A THP is a qualified medical practitioner and would generally be the person who has the most knowledge of the child's medical condition. This may be the GP or a medical specialist who has been treating the child.

If a determination is made that an exemption should be granted, the maximum period of exemption from requirements is 12 months. In cases where the nature of the disability, and therefore care needs, are expected to remain reasonably static, it may be appropriate to grant a maximum period of exemption. Discretion should be used to ensure that an exemption is applied only for the period the child/ren concerned may reasonably be expected to require the same level of care.

Principal carer parent job seekers who are caring for at least 1 child with a disability can apply for 1 or more further periods of exemption, each also not to exceed 12 months. Discretion should be used in considering if a further period of exemption should be granted and the most appropriate duration of that exemption.

Principal carer parents caring for a child with disability who have applied for and are awaiting a determination of their eligibility for CP (child) can be granted a temporary exemption from mutual obligation requirements for the time taken to assess the parent's claim for CP.

Example 1: Paula is a sole principal carer parent receiving JSP. She cares for 1 dependent child, Johnny, aged 11, who has special care needs due to disability. Paula applies for an exemption from her mutual obligation requirements because Johnny needs constant care when at home and Paula also needs to be available to provide Johnny with supervision and regular assistance when he is at school. Paula obtains an assessment from Johnny's THP and school which both confirm Paula's ongoing requirement to be available for additional care needs during school hours. On the basis of this substantiating evidence, Paula is granted an exemption for a period of 12 months. After the 12 month period of the exemption, Paula applies for a further exemption from requirements. Her case is reviewed with reports from the THP, and school. As a result of Johnny's ongoing high care needs, she receives a further 12 month exemption.

Example 2: Jessica and Luke have 1 child, Toni. Jessica is a principal carer parent receiving JSP. She has been caring for Toni who has highly challenging behaviour resulting from Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder. In the basis of reports from Toni's THP and school it is determined that while Jessica needs to be on call, she does not have to provide additional care on a regular basis for Toni during school hours. For instance, over the last year she has only been required to provide additional care for Toni at school on 3 separate occasions. Jessica is therefore assessed as having a capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours a week of part-time work and is not granted the exemption.

Act reference: SSAct section 502D People with disabled children and other circumstances (PP), section 542FA Disabled child or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (JSP), section 731DB Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB)

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.C.90 CA child (CA), 3.6.4.10 Qualification for CP

Principal carer parent job seeker is/has been subject to domestic violence

For JSP/YA (other) recipients who are principal carer parents of 1 or more children and have been subjected to domestic violence in the 26 weeks before making of the determination, primary consideration should be given to the assessment made by a Services Australia social worker as to whether an exemption should be granted.

If this is the first determination in relation to the principal carer parent on or after 1 July 2010 on the basis of domestic violence, the job seeker must be granted an exemption for an initial period of 16 weeks, irrespective of the principal carer parent job seeker's relationship status.

In all other cases the delegate may use discretion to determine the appropriate length of the exemption, which may be up to 16 weeks. An exemption should be applied only for the period in which it would be unreasonable to expect the job seeker to satisfy part-time mutual obligation requirements. Primary consideration should be given to the report of a Services Australia social worker to determine the most appropriate period of exemption.

If the effect of circumstances which merited the initial period of exemption remain in effect (as assessed by a Services Australia social worker), then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant subsequent exemptions from requirements for 1 or more other periods (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

Where domestic violence is suspected an employment services provider MUST refer affected recipients to a Services Australia social worker.

Example 1: Michelle is the partner of Phillip and she is receiving JSP as a principal carer parent. She is experiencing physical harm from Phillip and now feels very unsafe. Due to this domestic violence, and being the first time a domestic violence exemption has been made for her since 1 July 2010, Michelle is eligible for an exemption for a period of 16 weeks (for the initial exemption) and she can then reapply for periods up to 16 weeks for subsequent periods if needed.

Example 2: 3 months ago Sam was abused by her partner. Sam is eligible for an exemption for a period of 16 weeks initially and she can then reapply for periods up to 16 weeks for subsequent periods if needed.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.D.235 Domestic and/or family violence, 3.7.4.20 Qualification for CrP - Extreme Circumstances (domestic & family violence)

Principal carer parent job seeker is experiencing unusually high stress associated with a relationship separation

Some principal carer parent job seekers apply for income support payment due to relationship separation. Relationship separation is usually associated with some stress but this in itself is not a ground for exemption from mutual obligation requirements. However, relationship separation may sometimes be associated with unusually high levels of emotional and stress related problems, or psychological or behavioural problems.

Principal carer parent job seekers who experience unusually high levels of stress associated with relationship separation may be granted an exemption. In these instances primary consideration should be given to the assessment made by a Services Australia social worker as to whether an exemption should be granted and the appropriate length of the exemption.

The maximum period of exemption for principal carer parent job seekers in these circumstances is 16 weeks, but, if circumstances which merited the initial period of exemption remain in effect (as assessed by a Services Australia social worker), then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant 1 or more subsequent periods of exemption (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

Note: Job seekers who are not principal carer parents who experience high levels of stress associated with relationship breakdown may be eligible for a major personal crisis exemption.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Death of an immediate family member of a principal carer parent job seeker

The exemption period granted following the death of an immediate family member of a principal carer parent job seeker should usually be 14 weeks, but can be up to a maximum period of 16 weeks. 14 weeks is the time period that bereavement payment is paid to eligible recipients. An exemption can be granted regardless of whether or not the principal carer parent job seeker is eligible for bereavement payment. In determining whether to grant an exemption for the death of an immediate family member, the primary consideration should be the relationship of the job seeker to the deceased and evidence of the death. For more information on determining if a death has occurred see 2.2.6.

Example: The immediate family member of a principal carer parent job seeker includes their partner or children (stepchildren are included in this category).

This participation exemption applies to recipients of JSP, YA (other) and SpB.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Principal carer parent job seeker is caring for a dependent child with a temporary illness or injury

A situation where a dependent child is sick and at home from school for 1 or 2 days may have little impact on a principal carer parent job seeker's ability to meet their part-time mutual obligation requirements, but Services Australia and the job seeker's employment services provider must take this into consideration if, for example, the job seeker did not attend a job interview or WFD due to caring for a sick child. However, the principal carer parent job seeker is expected to notify Services Australia or the employment services provider of an inability to meet a particular requirement with a view to making alternative arrangements.

If, however, medical evidence indicates that a school age child is sick or injured and cannot attend school for an extended period (for example, several weeks or months with an illness such as glandular fever), the principal carer parent job seeker may be temporarily exempted from mutual obligation requirements. Consideration should be given to the report from the THP (and school, where appropriate) when such a determination is made.

The maximum period of exemption for principal carer parent job seekers in these circumstances is 16 weeks, but, if the circumstances meriting the initial period of exemption remain in effect, then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant 1 or more subsequent periods of exemption from requirements (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

If a school age child is recovering from an illness or injury and a THP (and the school) says the child can be re-integrated back into school while recovering, then the principal carer parent job seeker may be able to undertake a reduced level of mutual obligation requirements for a temporary period and should not necessarily be exempted.

Example 1: Anna is a single principal carer parent receiving JSP, with 1 child, Michael, aged 13 at school. Michael has a serious accident, and his THP considers that he will require 3 months to recuperate with graduated return to full-time school attendance to occur in the final month. His school also agrees with this course of action. On the basis of this assessment Anna is granted a temporary exemption for 2 months while she is caring for Michael full-time at home. In the final month of Michael's recuperation, reduced mutual obligation requirements would be more appropriate for Anna together with flexible arrangements negotiated for her to meet these requirements.

Example 2: Patricia is a sole principal carer parent receiving JSP, with 1 child Andy, aged 11. Andy contracts a particularly debilitating bout of the flu and is unable to attend school for a week. Patricia needs to care for Andy during the week that he has the flu. Patricia would need to notify Services Australia and the employment services provider that she cannot attend a job interview or participate in WFD during that time due to Andy's flu. However, an exemption would not be granted and she would be expected to job search from home.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Principal carer parent job seeker is caring for frail/aged or disabled adult family member

A principal carer parent job seeker with a child aged under 16, who is caring for a frail/aged or disabled adult family member, may have their mutual obligation requirements reduced, or an exemption from requirements granted, on a temporary basis. The application for reduced mutual obligation requirements or exemption needs to be supported by a report from a THP. If reduced mutual obligation requirements is considered the most appropriate action an assessment of the suitability of any job offer would need to take account of these caring responsibilities.

As this exemption type is only available for principal carer parents, care for the frail/aged or disabled adult family member generally needs to be undertaken at the carer's home, or in a nearby local area (such that travelling for care is undertaken on a daily basis). If the principal carer parent moves in to the frail/aged or disabled adult family member's home to care for them, they may lose their principal carer parent status unless the care is for a short period of time (up to 8 weeks), or if they take their child/ren with them. This is because of the definition of principal carer parent (1.1.P.412).

Note: Non-principal carer parent job seekers are not eligible for this exemption type, but may be eligible for a special circumstances exemption when a person is unexpectedly required to provide full-time care for an adult. An exemption should only be applied if no alternative caring arrangements are available and CP is not payable to the carer.

A temporary reduction in mutual obligation requirements or an exemption can be obtained for periodic care (e.g. for an aged relative visiting for a few weeks a year) for the period of the care of the frail/aged person.

In these circumstances, an assessment from the frail/aged or disabled family member's THP is required in order to determine the functional impact of the family member's care needs upon the principal carer parent job seeker's available time and therefore capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours a week of part-time work while the family member is in the job seeker's care.

If the determination is made that an exemption should be granted, the maximum initial period of exemption from requirements is 16 weeks. If, however, the circumstances meriting the initial period of exemption remain in effect, then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant 1 or more subsequent periods of exemption from mutual obligation requirements (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

Example: Georgia has a 6 year old daughter, Elizabeth, at school. Georgia is a principal carer parent receiving JSP. Georgia's mother, Joanna, aged 85 is ill and comes to live with her. Georgia obtains a supporting statement from Joanna's THP, and can apply for a temporary exemption from her mutual obligation requirements while she cares for her mother at home.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Principal carer parent job seeker has a 6 year old child who has not started school

A principal carer parent job seeker who is providing full-time care for a child who has not started school, despite turning 6, may be granted a temporary exemption for the period of time the child remains at home. Once the child starts school the exemption should be ended and the principal carer parent job seeker will be subject to mutual obligation requirements.

The maximum period of exemption for job seekers in these circumstances is 16 weeks, but, if the circumstances meriting the initial period of exemption remain in effect, then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant 1 or more subsequent periods of exemption from requirements (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

If a child begins school but attends less than 5 days a week due to a phasing-in arrangement, then the principal carer parent job seeker may be able to undertake reduced mutual obligation requirements for a temporary period and should not necessarily be exempted.

Example: Anne is a principal carer parent receiving JSP. Thomas, her child, has a number of periods of sickness at the time he is about to commence school aged 5 years and 6 months, and consequently is held him back from starting school until the following year (when he will be 6 years and 6 months old). Anne can apply for a renewable temporary exemption from requirements (with supporting documentation about the reasons for Thomas not being able to start school until after he was over 6 years) until the start of the following school year.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc. (PP), section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (JSP), section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc. (SpB)

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Last reviewed: 20 March 2020