Bills Digest no. 143 2009–10
Social Security Amendment (Flexible Participation
Requirements for Principal Carers) Bill 2010
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
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Social Security Amendment (Flexible
Participation Requirements for Principal Carers) Bill
Date introduced: 10 March 2010
Portfolio: Employment and Workplace Relations
Commencement: 1 July 2010.
links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second
reading speech can be found on the Bills page, which is at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/.
When Bills have been passed they can be found at ComLaw, which is
The purpose of the Social
Security Amendment (Flexible Participation Requirements for
Principal Carers) Bill 2010 (the Bill) is to amend the Social
Security Act 1991 (the Act), so as to change the participation
requirements for principal carers who receive income support,
allowing them to more effectively balance parenting
responsibilities with participation requirements.
In July 2006, participation requirements were introduced for
people who were receiving income support payments and were parents
or carers for children. They were termed Principal Carers and
certain aspects of their entitlements and obligations were modified
to recognise the impact of their caring role.
Principal carers can be eligible for Parenting Payment, Newstart
Allowance, Youth Allowance (for jobseekers) or Special Benefit.
They are generally subject to a part-time participation requirement
once their youngest child reaches the age of six years. Principal
carers can satisfy those requirements by:
- looking for suitable part-time paid work of at least 15 hours
- participating in approved activities including voluntary work,
study, training and self employment
- involvement in the Job Network, or
- working part-time for between 15 and 25 hours per week.
However, principal carers have access to a range of exemptions
from those participation requirements where specific situations
apply. Automatic exemptions apply where the principal carer is:
- an active registered foster carer
- home schooling their child
- providing distance education for their child
- caring for four or more children, or
- caring for a related child (not their child) in accordance with
a family law order.
Other exemptions are available on a case by case basis in
situations where the principal carer is unable to undertake 15
hours of paid work per week, which include:
- caring for a child with a disability
- being a kinship carer
- being subject to domestic violence
- undergoing high stress from a recent relationship
- the death of an immediate family member
- providing full-time care for a temporarily ill or injured
- caring for a frail aged or disabled adult family
In June 2008, the Government commissioned a review of the
participation rules for parents and mature age job seekers in
response to feedback that some of the requirements were unduly
onerous and added no value to income support recipients’ job
search efforts. The Participation Review Taskforce (the Taskforce)
reported to the Government in August 2008 and its report was made
public at the time of the 2009 Budget in May 2009. In its report,
the Taskforce recommended that the operation of participation
requirements for parents be fine tuned. These recommendations were agreed to by
the Government and will be implemented from 1 July 2010. The full
list of changes was set out in the Budget press release from the
Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, as
Government will adopt the Taskforce’s recommendations
- Allowing principal carer parents to meet participation
requirements by combining part-time study, voluntary work with
vocational value and part-time paid work.
- Supporting principal carer parents wanting to start their own
business to participate in self- employment programs such as the
New Enterprise Incentive Scheme on a part-time basis.
- Confirming that principal carer parents will be exempt from
part-time participation requirements during the fortnight that
includes the Christmas and New Year public holidays, recognising
child care is very difficult to obtain.
- Introducing a new 12 month exemption for grandparents and other
relatives who are entering into kinship care arrangements
recognised through a court order or case plan.
- Improving the arrangements for foster carers so they have a
more reasonable period of exemption from activity requirements
between foster care placements.
- Extending the current ‘large family’ exemption of
four children up to age 16 to include older children if they are
still living at home and enrolled in school, and extending current
distance education and home-schooling exemptions to when the
youngest child completes school.
- Improving the ability of parents experiencing domestic violence
to obtain exemptions from participation requirements and allowing
greater discretion for exemptions to be extended beyond the
existing 16 weeks.
- Allowing principal carer parents who work during school term
more flexible arrangements over the long school holidays, if they
are temporarily not employed but are likely to resume employment
once the school term re-commences.
recommendations that will be implemented include making more
information available to parents about exemptions and allowing more
practical reporting for carers and parents on their earnings and
participation efforts to Centrelink via the internet or
The Bill implements the recommended changes that require
legislative amendments. Other recommendations can be implemented
administratively or by legislative instrument.
The measures will cost $26.8 million over the four years 2009-10
Schedule 1 of the Bill sets out amendments proposed in relation
to participation requirement exemptions to principal carers
receiving the following types of income support payments:
- Newstart Allowance
- Parenting Payment
- Youth Allowance, or
- Special Benefits,
who have school-aged children and who must otherwise report at
least 15 hours of approved activities to Centrelink each week.
The Schedule deals with participation requirement exemptions
that would apply in relation to those recipients who:
- experience domestic violence
- care for four or more children
- home school and distance educate their child
- provide kinship care for children who are relatives, through a
care plan prepared or accepted by the State or Territory
- provide emergency or respite foster care.
Item 3 inserts new sections 5F and
5G into the Act, which set out the definitions of
‘main supporter’ and ‘secondary pupil
In general, if a person is the main supporter of a
‘secondary pupil child’, that person is regarded as the
‘main supporter’ of that child (proposed
subsection 5G(1)). However, in determining whether a
person is the main supporter of a secondary pupil child, existing
subsections 5(18)–(22) and 5(24) would apply as they
currently do in determining whether someone is the principal carer
for a child (proposed subsection 5G(2)).
Proposed section 5F defines ‘secondary
pupil child’. The definition excludes the situation where the
‘secondary pupil child’ is actually the partner of a
These definitions contribute to extending certain participation
requirement exemptions available to people who receive the
above-mentioned income support payments. Currently, for example,
parents who home school or distance educate their children may only
receive a participation requirement exemption until their youngest
child turns 16 years of age. This amendment extends the
availability of the exemption until that child finishes high
Item 4 substitutes existing paragraph
502C(2)(a) of the Act, so as to allow a Parenting Payment
recipient to claim a participation requirement exemption due to
domestic violence without having to leave the relationship.
Existing paragraph 502C(2)(a) requires the person to have left the
relationship, which gave rise to the domestic violence, before they
could claim the exemption.
Items 7, 13 and
19 propose similar amendments in relation to
recipients of the Youth Allowance, Newstart Allowance and Special
Item 6 substitutes existing subsection
502D(3A) of the Act with new subsections
502D(3A)–(3C). Section 502D relates to
determinations made by the Secretary that a participation
requirement exemption applies to a person in particular
Proposed subsection 502D(3A) provides that the
Secretary must make such a determination if he or she is satisfied
that the person is the principal carer of one or more children,
including being the main supporter of one or more secondary pupil
Proposed subsection 5D(3B) provides that the
Secretary must make such a determination if satisfied that the
person is the main supporter of one or more secondary pupil
children and is also either the home or distance educator of one or
more of those children.
The Explanatory Memorandum states:
Paragraphs 502D(3)(b) and (c) of the Social
Security Act provide an exemption to a person who is receiving
Parenting Payment where the Secretary is satisfied the person is
the principal carer of one or more children, and:
- the person is a home educator of that child, or one or more of
those children; or
- the person is a distance educator of that child, or one or more
of those children.
These exemptions are maintained.
New subsection 502D(3B) will extend the
participation exemptions contained in paragraphs 502D(3)(b) and (c)
to a person who is the main supporter of one or more secondary
Proposed subsection 502D(3C) provides that the
Secretary must also make a determination if satisfied that:
- the person is a principal carer of one or more children
- the person is a relative other than a parent of a child
(kin child), and
- the person is complying with a written order, prepared or
accepted by a State or Territory authority, that the kin child
lives with the person.
Items 9, 15 and
21 propose similar amendments in relation to
recipients of the Youth Allowance, Newstart Allowance and Special
Items 9, 15 and
21 also propose to amend sections 542FA, 602C and
731DB in the Act, by inserting new
subsections 542FA(3B), 602C(3B)
and 731DB(3B) respectively. These proposed
subsections require the Secretary to make a determination that a
participation requirement exemption applies to a person if
satisfied that the person:
- is not the principal carer of one or more children
- is a registered and active foster carer, and
- provides emergency or respite foster care.
This amendment extends the participation
requirement exemption from the current situation where the person
must be a principal carer in order for the exemption to apply
(existing subsection 502D(3)). Note, however, that the current
exemption for principal carers is being maintained.
Items 10–12, 16–18
and 22–24 propose similar amendments in
relation to recipients of the Youth Allowance, Newstart Allowance
and Special Benefit.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further
information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2410.
12 May 2010
Bills Digest Service
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