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Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011

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2011-2012

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FAMILY PARTICIPATION MEASURES) BILL 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator the Honourable Chris Evans)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FAMILY PARTICIPATION MEASURES) BILL 2011

This Bill implements the Government’s 2011-12 Budget Commitment as part of Building Australia’s Future Workforce for the Teenage Parents and Jobless Families measures.

These measures provide new services, opportunities and responsibilities to boost the educational attainment, job readiness, child wellbeing and functioning of families with young children in some of the most disadvantaged locations in the country.

 

Teenage Parent Measure

 

This is a 3.5 year trial starting 1 January 2012 that will apply to teenage parents with a youngest child under 6 years of age who are receiving Parenting Payment, are 19 years or under, have not completed year 12 or an equivalent qualification and reside in one of ten locations of identified disadvantage. The ten locations are the Local Government Areas of Logan (QLD), Rockhampton (QLD), Playford (SA), Bankstown (NSW), Wyong (NSW), Shellharbour (NSW), Greater Shepparton (VIC), Hume (VIC), Burnie (TAS) and Kwinana (WA).

 

Once a parent’s youngest child turns six months, they will need to attend a general information interview with Centrelink. At this interview, Centrelink will explain the initiative to the parent including what they will be required to do as part of the initiative once their youngest child turns one, including the services and assistance that they can access.

 

Once their youngest child turns one, these Parenting Payment recipients will be required to attend Centrelink to discuss and develop a participation plan that focuses on them attaining Year 12 or equivalent and getting good early health and education outcomes for their children. There will be a range of activities that a parent will be able to choose from, to put in their plan. Parents will need to agree to comply with the plan. They will be supported by a range of extra services in the locations. 

 

Jobless Families Measure

 

This is a 3 year trial starting on 1 July 2012 that applies to Parenting Payment recipients who: have been on income support for two years or more, or are under the age of 23 years, and not working or studying, and who have a youngest child under 6 years of age.

 

Parents will be required to attend interviews and workshops with Centrelink (depending on the age of their youngest child) where they will develop a plan that focuses on job preparation and education/health outcomes for their child. Unlike the teenage parent measure, Centrelink will not require evidence of compliance with the plan.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Amendments

 

The amendments in this Bill require Parenting Payment recipients with children under six who are participating in the trials to satisfy certain requirements. The Bill also enables Centrelink to apply income support suspensions in instances where parents fail to meet any of their requirements.

 

Parents who fail to attend appointments/workshops with Centrelink without a reasonable excuse, including for the purpose of discussing an Employment Pathway Plan, will have their income support payments suspended. Parents will need to attend a rescheduled appointment/workshop in order to have their income support payment released (with full back pay).

 

If a parent informs Centrelink that they are unable to attend an appointment/workshop and Centrelink determines that the parent has a reasonable excuse for not attending, the parent will not have their income support payments suspended. The parent will be required to attend a rescheduled appointment/workshop at a later date and failure to do so may result in suspension of income support.

 

The Bill will also introduce requirements for parents in the trials to sign a Employment Pathway Plan. Parents who fail to sign Employment Pathway Plans will have their income support payments suspended. Parents will be required to sign their plan in order to have their income support payment suspension lifted (with full back pay).

 

The Bill includes an expansion of the types of activities that can be included in a Parenting Payment recipient’s Employment Pathway Plan, such as activities that focus on the health, well-being and education of the child and the education of the parent. These child-focussed and education activities would not be included in Employment Pathway Plans for Parenting Payment recipients who have compulsory requirements to look for work (i.e. those with a youngest child aged six or more). 

 

Employment Pathway Plans for parents in the trials will not include compulsory requirements to place children into childcare or require parents to look for or accept work.  If these activities are voluntarily included in the plan, and cannot subsequently be met, they will need to renegotiate their plan with Centrelink.

 

Should a parent in the teenage parent trial fail to comply with an activity/activities in their Employment Pathway Plan, then they may have their income support suspended until they provide evidence of participation.

 

There are no sanctions for parents in the jobless family trial if they fail to comply with the activities in their Employment Pathway Plan.

 

The Bill will ensure parents in either trial will not incur debts to the Commonwealth should they fail to comply with the activities in their Employment Pathway Plan. If the parent has been claiming Parenting Payment and Centrelink identifies that the person has not been complying with the activities in their Employment Pathway Plan, then they will not incur a debt, but other sanctions such as more frequent interviews with Centrelink and suspension of income support will apply.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

 

Departmental expenses associated with this Bill are to be absorbed.  The financial impact of this legislation on income support payments is nil or minimal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FAMILY PARTICIPATION MEASURES) BILL 2011

 

 

For ease of description, this Explanatory Memorandum uses the following abbreviations:

 

 

Administration Act ’ means the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.

 

Bill ’ means this Bill, i.e. the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011.

 

SS Act ’ means the Social Security Act 1991.

 

 

 

Clause 1 - short title

 

This clause provides for the Bill, when it is enacted, to be cited as the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Act 2011 .

 

 

Clause 2 - commencement

 

This clause provides that the Bill will commence on 1 January 2012. 

 

Clause 3 - schedule(s)

 

This clause provides that each Act that is specified in a Schedule to this Bill is amended or repealed as set out in applicable items of the Schedule concerned, and any other item in a Schedule to the Bill has effect according to its terms. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schedule 1 - Amendments

 

Item 1

 

Item 1 amends the definition of ‘subject to participation requirements’ in subsection 23(1) of the SS Act by adding a reference to paragraph 500(1)(ca).  This reflects the amendment made by item 2 of this Schedule.   

 

Item 2

 

Item 2 inserts a new paragraph 500(1)(ca) into the SS Act, the effect of which is that in a case where a person is in a class of persons specified by legislative instrument under subsection 500(2) (as inserted by item 3 of this Schedule) one of the requirements the person will need to satisfy to be qualified for parenting payment is to meet any participation requirements that apply to the person under section 500A.       

 

The new paragraph 500(1)(ca) applies for the purpose of determining whether a person is qualified for parenting payment for a period beginning on or after 1 January 2012 (see under item 20 below).

 

 

Item 3

 

Item 3 inserts a new subsection 500(2) into the SS Act, which provides that for the purpose of paragraph 500(1)(ca), the Minister may, by legislative instrument, specify a class of persons. 

 

Item 4

 

Item 4 inserts a new subsection 501A(1A) which provides that without limiting the requirements that a Parenting Payment Employment Pathway Plan may contain, a plan relating to a person to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) applies may contain requirements about one or more of:

 

-           the person’s education;

-           the health of a PP child of the person;

-           the education of a PP child of the person. 

 

Item 5

 

Item 5 inserts a new subsection 502D(3AA) which provides that despite subsection 502D(3) the Secretary must not make a determination under that subsection in relation to a person to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) applies. 

 

 

Item 6

 

Item 6 inserts a new subsection 502D(3AB) which provides that despite subsection 502D(3A) the Secretary must not make a determination under that subsection in relation to a person to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) applies. 

Item 7

 

Item 7 amends paragraph 729(2)(bc) of the SS Act to add a reference to paragraph 500(1)(ca) as inserted by item 2 of this Schedule.  This updates the cross-reference in paragraph 729(bc) to reflect the new paragraph 500(1)(ca). 

 

 

Item 8

 

Item 8 inserts a new subsection 1223(2) in the SS Act which provides that if:

 

-           an amount has been paid to a person by way of parenting payment; and

-           the person is someone to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) as inserted by item 2 of this Schedule applies; and

-           the amount was paid on the basis that the person was qualified for parenting payment when the person was not qualified only because the person failed to meet one or more participation requirements that applied to the person under section 500A;

 

the amount is not a debt due to the Commonwealth.

 

Item 9

 

Item 9 inserts a new subsection 1223(7A) in the SS Act which provides that if an amount of parenting payment has been paid to a person, and the person is someone to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) as inserted by item 2 of this Schedule applies, and

 

-           when the amount was calculated, the rate of their parenting payment as increased by an amount of approved program of work supplement, training supplement, or National Green Jobs Corps supplement (supplement amount); and

-           the amount of parenting payment was paid on the basis that the person was qualified for parenting payment when the person was not qualified only because the person failed to meet one or more participation requirements that applied to the person under section 500A;

 

the supplement amount is not a debt due to the Commonwealth.  

 

 

Item 10

 

Item 10 inserts a new paragraph 42C(4)(ba) in the Administration Act, to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 11

 

Item 11 inserts a new paragraph 42E(4)(da) in the Administration Act, to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 12

 

Item 12 substitutes a new subsection 42H(3) in the Administration Act to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 13

 

Item 13 inserts a new paragraph 42M(3)(c) in the Administration Act, to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

Item 14

 

Item 14 substitutes a new subsection 42N(2) in the Administration Act, to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 15

 

Item 15 substitutes a new subsection 42S(2) in the Administration Act, to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 16

 

Item 16 substitutes a new subsection 42SA(1A) in the Administration Act to reflect section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 17

 

It is not intended that the compliance provisions regarding participation requirements contained in Part 3, Division 3A, Subdivision A to Subdivision EA of the Administration Act will apply to persons specified by the legislative instrument referred to in paragraph 500(1)(ca).  Instead, for persons specified in that instrument, a new section 42SB inserted in the Administration Act by item 17 will apply.  

 

Subsection 42SB(1) provides that section 42SB applies in relation to a person who is receiving parenting payment and is someone to whom paragraph 500(1)(ca) of the SS Act applies. 

 

Subsection 42SB(2) provides that the Secretary may determine that the parenting payment is not payable to the person if:

 

                        - the person fails to comply with a requirement that was notified to the person under subsection 63(2) or (4) of the Administration Act; or

                        -  the person fails to comply with a requirement under section 501 of SS Act to enter into an employment pathway plan; or

                        -  the person fails to participate, on a day, in an activity that the person is required to undertake by an employment pathway plan that is in force in relation to the person; or

                        -  the person fails to attend an appointment that the person is required to attend by an employment pathway plan that is in force in relation to the person.

 

Subsection 42SB(3) provides that the parenting payment is not payable to the person for the period beginning on the day the person first commits the failure and ending at the end of:

 

                        - the day before the day on which the person notifies the Secretary that the person intends to comply with the requirement; or

                        - if the Secretary determines that an earlier day is more appropriate than the day that would otherwise apply under paragraph (a)—that earlier day.

                

Section 42SB(4) provides that if a period ends under subsection 42SB(3) regarding the person, then, subject to the social security law, the parenting payment becomes payable to the person for that period. 

 

Item 18

 

Item 18 amends paragraph 42U(1)(c) of the Administration Act so that so that it refers to paragraph 42H(3)(a) and not subsection 42H(3).  This reflects the amendment made by item 12 of this Schedule and section 42SB as inserted by item 18 of this Schedule. 

 

Item 19

 

Item 19 amends paragraph 42U(1)(d) of the Administration Act so that so that it refers to paragraph 42N(2)(a) and not subsection 42N(2). This reflects the amendment made by item 14 of this Schedule and section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

Item 20

 

Item 20 amends paragraph 42UA(2) of the Administration Act so that so that it refers to paragraph 42H(3)(a) and not subsection 42H(3). This reflects the amendment made by item 12 of this Schedule and section 42SB as inserted by item 17 of this Schedule. 

 

 

Item 21

 

Item 21 provides that paragraph 500(1)(ca) of the SS Act, as inserted by item 2 of this Schedule, applies for the purpose of determining whether a person is qualified for parenting payment for a period beginning on or after 1 January 2012.

 

 

 

 

Item 22

 

Item 22 makes clear that the amendment of section 502D of the Social Security Act 1991 made by this Schedule does not affect the validity, after 1 January 2012, of a determination made under that section before that date.