3.2.11.70 Mutual Obligation Requirements for NSA/YA Job Seekers - Exemptions - Principal Carer Parents with Special Family Circumstances - Case-by-Case Exemptions

Summary

This topic provides information on case-by-case exemptions for principal carer parent job seekers with special family circumstances. It also discusses assessments for this type of exemption from mutual obligation requirements.

For a broad overview of mutual obligation requirements for NSA/YA job seekers - exemptions policy, see 3.2.11.50.

There are 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.

Case-by-case exemptions for these circumstances should be considered, assessed and granted as described below.

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

A principal carer parent receiving NSA or YA (job seeker) caring for at least one 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 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 one child with a disability can apply for one 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 NSA. She cares for one 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 one child, Toni. Jessica is a principal carer parent receiving NSA. 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 542FA Disabled child or other family circumstances exemption, section 602C Relief from Activity Test-people with disabled children and other circumstances

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

Principal carer 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 one or more other periods (each not exceeding 16 weeks).

If the arrangement is informal, the principal carer will not be able to access an automatic exemption (3.5.1.270). However, if the arrangement is formal, the principal carer 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 1975 and the person is complying with that order.

Example: Mary is a 48 year old grandparent who is a single NSA 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 DHS 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 NSA 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.

For situations where a principal carer parent job seeker is a relative, but not a parent of a child, and the child is living with the principal carer in accordance with a document prepared or accepted by a state/territory authority. This is also referred to as 'kinship care'. Refer to 3.2.11.60.

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

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

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

For NSA/YA recipients who are principal carers of one 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 DHS social worker as to whether an exemption should be granted.

If this is the first determination in relation to the principal carer 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 DHS 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 DHS social worker), then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant subsequent exemptions from requirements for one 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 DHS social worker.

Example 1: Michelle is the partner of Phillip and she is receiving NSA 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 until the situation stabilises.

Example 2: Three months ago Sam was abused by her partner. Sam separated from her partner and moved out with her children to live with her parents in very overcrowded conditions. Sam and her partner reconciled 2 months ago and all seemed well for a while but the threats have now started again and she is fearful of further harm. Sam is anxious and not confident in her ability to search for employment. Sam is considering whether to move out again but she is reluctant to disrupt her children's lives again and has not yet made a decision on separating permanently from 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 until her situation stabilises.

Act reference: SSAct section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption, section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

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 DHS 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 DHS social worker), then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant one or more subsequent periods of exemption (each period not exceeding 16 weeks).

Act reference: SSAct section 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption, section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

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. Fourteen 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 NSA, YA and SpB.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc., section 502F Special circumstances

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 one 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 DHS 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 DHS 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 one 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 NSA, with one child, Michael, aged 13 at school. Michael contracts glandular fever, 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 NSA, with one 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 DHS 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 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption, section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

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.

Care for the frail/aged or disabled adult family member 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). However, consideration should be given in situations where the principal carer temporarily moves to care for the frail/aged or disabled adult family member for very short periods of time, up to 8 weeks (1.1.P.412) or if the carer takes their child/ren with them.

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 one 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 NSA. 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 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption, section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

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 one 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 married to Andy and she is a principal carer parent receiving NSA. Thomas, their 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 they hold him back from starting school until the following year. Anne and Andy intend to enrol Thomas in primary school at the start of the next year, when Thomas will be 6 years 6 months. 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 542F Domestic violence or other special family circumstances exemption, section 602B Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Last reviewed: 1 July 2015