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.

3.11.14 Consequences for not meeting mutual obligation requirements - CDP job seeker compliance framework


People who are declared program participants (i.e. CDP participants) under the Social Security (Declared Program Participant) Determination 2018, and in receipt of participation payments are subject to the compliance arrangements set out in SS(Admin)Act Division 3A.

Social security law defines 'participation payments' as:

  • jobseeker payment
  • YA, unless the recipient is a full-time student or a new apprentice
  • PP, if the recipient is subject to participation requirements, and
  • SpB, if the person is a NVH.

In this section of the Guide, people receiving participation payments are referred to as participants.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(1)-'nominated visa holder', section 28 Approved programs of work for income support payment

Social Security (Declared Program Participant) Determination 2018

Activity arrangements from May 2021

Since May 2021, participation in activities (such as WFD) is voluntary. Participants may volunteer to attend the activities that are in their Job Plan, but if they don't attend then compliance action will not be taken.

Even though activities are currently voluntary, CDP participants must still meet the other mutual obligation requirements in their Job Plans. This includes:

  • attending appointments with a CDP service provider
  • submitting job search, if relevant
  • attending job interviews when they are offered
  • accepting suitable paid work
  • not voluntarily leaving suitable paid work without a reasonable excuse.

Objectives of the compliance framework

The purpose of the compliance legislation is to encourage participants to meet their mutual obligation requirements. That is, to do all that they can to find work and participate in employment services and other activities designed to improve their job prospects. Participants who have a good reason for not meeting their requirements should not be penalised. Participants who do not meet their mutual obligation requirements should be reconnected with employment services as quickly as possible.

Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 42A Simplified outline of this Division, section 42SA Immediate non-payment of participation payments for certain failures

Role of providers

CDP providers do not make compliance decisions under social security law. Providers report non-compliance to Services Australia, for Services Australia to make compliance penalty decisions. Providers are to consider the above objectives when deciding whether to report non-compliance. Guidelines for providers emphasise the discretion they have to consider strategies such as giving a participant another chance to attend an appointment, if they believe this will be a more effective way of re-engaging the participant than compliance action.

Role of Services Australia

The legislation gives Services Australia officers, as delegated decision makers, some discretion when deciding if a participant has a reasonable excuse for failing to meet their requirements and in deciding if they have been persistently non-compliant. This discretion is limited, however, if a participant fails to give prior notice of their excuse when it was reasonable to expect them to do so.

Even where no reasonable excuse exists, the legislation also gives Services Australia the discretion not to apply a NSNP failure, a connection failure, a non-attendance failure, a reconnection failure or a serious failure, despite the failure being applicable. The discretion not to apply a penalty even where a participant has no reasonable excuse for their actions should be exercised only in very limited and exceptional circumstances.

Example: Jane is a 22 year old JSP recipient participating in the CDP. She has a history of non-compliance over a 6-month period. Services Australia conducts a CCA and finds that Jane has no barriers to participation. However, Jane is 7 months pregnant and intends to claim PP as soon as her baby is born. Jane's pregnancy has not affected her capacity to comply and does not provide a reasonable excuse for any of her past failures, so Services Australia could apply a serious failure. However, the decision maker decides not to do so as applying the failure would serve no purpose as a deterrent to future non-compliance and would cause unnecessary financial hardship to Jane and her child.

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