3.5.1.280 Mutual Obligation Requirements Exemption in Special Family Circumstances - Case-by-Case (PP)

Summary

This topic provides information on case-by-case exemptions from mutual obligation requirements for PP recipients with special family circumstances. It discusses assessments of this type of exemption from mutual obligation requirements.

Act reference: Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.5.1.260 Mutual obligation requirements exemption in special family circumstances - overview (PP)

Case-by-case exemptions

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

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

PP recipient caring for a child with a disability

A PP recipient 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 that child/ren are such that, as a result, the PP recipient does not have capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours of paid part-time work a week. A determination should give regard to:

  • the extent to which the child is able to attend school without the PP recipient being constantly at hand or on call, and
  • a statement from the school (where appropriate) and/or 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 PP recipients applying for this exemption are in receipt of CA (child), the delegate should consider this as sufficient verification that the child/ren concerned has/have a disability. However, whether PP recipients are in receipt of 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 PP recipient's available time and therefore capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours a week of part-time work. 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 general practitioner or a medical specialist who has been treating the child.

If the 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.

PP recipients 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 together with the most appropriate duration of that exemption.

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 their mutual obligation requirements for the time taken to assess the parent's claim for CP.

Example 1: Paula is a sole parent receiving PPS. She cares for one dependent child, Johnny, aged 7, who has special care needs due to a 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 has one child, Toni aged 6. She has been caring for Toni who has highly challenging behaviour resulting from attention deficit hyper-activity disorder. On 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(2) 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

PP recipient is involved in the provision of informal kinship or family care (i.e. without a family law order providing for the arrangement)

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 method.

The maximum period of exemption for PP recipients 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 their mutual obligation requirements for one or more other periods (also 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 PP recipient is looking after the child/ren who is/are directed to live with the PP recipient under a parenting order, a state child order or an overseas child order which are made or registered under the Family Law Act 1975 and the person is complying with that order.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C(2)(b) Special circumstances relating to the person's family

PP recipient is/has been subjected to domestic violence

For PP recipients who are or have been subjected to domestic violence in the 26 weeks before making the determination, primary regard 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 PP recipient on or after 1 July 2010 on the basis of domestic violence, the person must be granted an exemption for an initial period of 16 weeks, irrespective of the person'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 PP recipient to satisfy their 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 circumstances or 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, employment services providers MUST refer affected recipients to DHS's social workers.

Example: Kim is the partner of Garry. She is experiencing physical harm from Garry and has left the home with her children aged 9 and 7 years. Kim claims PPS. Due to this domestic violence, and being the first time a domestic violence exemption has been made for her since 1 July 2010, Kim 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.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C Domestic violence etc.

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)

PP recipient is experiencing unusually high stress associated with a relationship separation

Often PPS recipients apply for income support payment due to relationship separation. This may sometimes be associated with unusually high levels of emotional and stress related problems, or psychological or behavioural problems.

Relationship separation is usually associated with high levels of stress and this in itself is not grounds for an exemption. However, principal carer parents who experience unusually high levels of stress associated with relationship separation, may be granted an exemption. In these instances primary regard should be given to the assessment made by a DHS social worker as to whether an exemption should be granted, together with the appropriate length of the exemption.

The maximum period of exemption for PP recipients 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 subsequent exemptions from mutual obligation requirements for one or more other periods (also not exceeding 16 weeks).

Act reference: SSAct section 502C(2)(b) Special circumstances relating to the person's family

Death of an immediate family member

The exemption period granted following the death of a member of a recipient's immediate family is usually 14 weeks but can be up to a maximum of 16 weeks. Fourteen weeks is the time period that bereavement payment is paid to eligible recipients. An exemption can be granted whether or not the PP recipient 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 PP recipient to the deceased, and evidence of the death. For more information on determining if a death has occurred see 2.2.6.

Example: A PP recipient's immediate family includes their partner or children (stepchildren are included in this category).

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

PP recipient 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 PP recipient's ability to meet their part-time mutual obligation requirements, and DHS and employment services providers must make allowances if, for example, a PP recipient did not attend a job interview or WFD due to caring for a sick child, although the PP recipient should still be expected to notify the JSA provider that they could not attend (with a view to arranging alternative attendance/participation times).

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 PP recipient may be temporarily exempted from requirements. Regard 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 PP recipients 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 (also each 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 PP recipient may be able to have reduced mutual obligation requirements for a temporary period and should not necessarily be exempted.

Example 1: Anna is a sole parent receiving PP, with one child, Michael, aged 6 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.

Example 2: Patricia is a sole parent receiving PP, with one child Andy, aged 7. 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 her 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 still be expected to undertake job searches from home.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C(2)(b) Special circumstances relating to the person's family

PP recipient is caring for frail/aged or disabled adult family member

A PP recipient with a school-age child aged 6 to 15 inclusive, who is caring for a frail/aged or disabled adult family member, may have their mutual obligation requirements reduced, or an exemption from mutual obligation requirements granted, on a temporary basis. The application for reduced requirements or an 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).

A temporary reduction in mutual obligation requirements or an exemption can also 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 person's care needs upon the PP recipient's available time and therefore capacity to look for or undertake 15 hours a week of part-time work while the frail/aged or disabled family member is in the PP recipient'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 subsequent exemptions from requirements for one or more other periods (also not exceeding 16 weeks).

Example: Georgia has a 6 year old daughter, Elizabeth, at school. Georgia receives PPS. 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 requirements while she cares for her mother at home.

Act reference: SSAct section 502C(2)(b) Special circumstances relating to the person's family

PP recipient has a child who does not start school until after they turn 6 years old

As a PP recipient would be providing full-time care to a child who has not started school, despite turning 6, it would be appropriate to grant a temporary exemption for the period of time the child remains at home. Once the child starts school the exemption should be terminated and the PP recipient will be expected to be subject to mutual obligation requirements.

The maximum period of exemption for PP recipients 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 (also each not exceeding 16 weeks).

If a child begins school attending less than 5 days a week, due to a phasing into school arrangement, then the PP recipient may be able to undertake reduced mutual obligation requirements for a temporary period and should not necessarily be exempted.

Example: Andy is receiving PP. Thomas his child, has a number of periods of sickness at the time he is about to commence school aged 5 years 6 months, and consequently they hold him back from starting school until the following year. Andy intends to enrol Thomas in primary school at the start of the next year, when Thomas will be 6 years 6 months. Andy can apply for a renewable temporary exemption from requirements once Thomas turns 6 (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(2)(b) Special circumstances relating to the person's family

Last reviewed: 1 July 2015