The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Exemptions from income management for people with school-age children

Decision-making principles

Only a designated principal carer may qualify for a responsible parenting category exemption. To qualify for a responsible parenting category exemption all the dependants of a principal carer must meet the conditions below or satisfy the conditions of for under school-aged children. However, if a child is a dependant of more than one person, for the purpose of this exemption, the child should generally be considered the dependant of the principal carer.

Example: If a child is 16 years old they cannot have a principal carer. In this case the child will generally be considered the dependent of the parent that would be the principal carer if the child was less than 16.

The responsible parenting category exemption applies in relation to people with one or more school aged children, where each child is:

  • enrolled in and attending school, and has no more than 5 absences for each of the previous 2 school terms that are not satisfactory to the person responsible for the operation of the school
  • enrolled in and attending school, has 5 or more absences that are not satisfactory to a person responsible for the operation of the school, but the person is taking reasonable steps to ensure that the child attends school as required, or
  • approved to receive home based schooling, or other alternative schooling arrangement, in accordance with the relevant state or territory legislation.

Centrelink must also have assessed that the person was not financially vulnerable during the previous 12 months by taking into account the decision-making principles in the financial vulnerability test, as specified in

A person is taking reasonable steps to ensure the child attends school if they have taken steps to stop truancy, for example, addressing bullying at school.

People will not be refused an exemption where school attendance is not appropriate for a child, or because the child is not attending school due to extenuating circumstances beyond their control.

Children enrolled in & attending school

Northern Territory legislation requires a child be enrolled in and attend school if the child is aged 6 years or older and below the minimum school leaving age, which is the age at which a child completes year 10 or at the age of 17 years, whichever comes sooner.

Children aged under 17 years, who have completed year 10, are required to attend school unless they are participating full-time in:

  • approved education or training (year 11 or 12, an education program at Charles Darwin University or Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, a higher education course or an accredited course or approved apprenticeship), or
  • if the child is 15 years or older, in paid employment, or a combination of approved education or training and paid employment, for a total of 25 hours per week or more (known as the compulsory participation phase).

The definition of a 'school' can include a place acceptable under the law of a state or territory as an alternative to school.

Proof of school attendance

Generally, attendance information should be provided in the school reports. In cases where the delegate is unable to determine the number of unexplained absences based on the information provided, they should consider the attendance percentage. An attendance rate of 90% or above is considered acceptable.

Part day absences

Where school attendance records are provided, they may show part day absences. A part day absence of one or more period/s should be considered to be one unexplained absence.

Example: Stephen had unexplained absences for third and fourth periods Monday, all day Wednesday, first period Thursday and last period Friday. He attended all other classes. For the purposes of determining Stephen's absences for consideration of an exemption from income management, Stephen had a total of 4 unexplained absences in that week.

Authorised & unauthorised absences

In cases where explained absences are reported as authorised or unauthorised (or similar language such as approved or unapproved), the following formula should apply:

  • An explained absence that is authorised is equivalent to an explained absence.
  • An explained absence that is unauthorised (without parent/guardian approval) is equivalent to an unexplained absence.

For further information on assessing school attendance go to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations - Assessing Absences and Non-School Days webpage.

Home schooling & distance education schooling

Suitable evidence of home schooling or distance education schooling includes evidence sourced from an appropriate state or territory education authority.

Discretion in cases of non-attendance

In the case of changed care arrangements, a foster parent or dependent carer who has taken over care of a child within the previous 6 months should not be held responsible for attendance patterns of a child before the transfer of care. School attendance should be considered only from the time the child commences care with the foster parent or dependent carer.

Example: Carol is being income managed under the Long-term Welfare Payment Recipients Measure and has an 8 year old daughter. Carol applies for an exemption from income management. The delegate first assesses Carol against the financial vulnerability test, and determines that she is not financially vulnerable and therefore satisfies part of the criteria to receive an exemption. Carol then provides the delegate with her daughter's school attendance record, which also satisfies the criterion for an exemption. As Carol has satisfied both the financial vulnerability and child engagement criteria, she is granted an exemption from income management.

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