Thursday, 16 August 2007
Social Security Amendment (2007 Measures No. 2) Bill 2007
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill contains amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to give effect to policy announcements made in the budget and other measures. These measures build on the Welfare to Work reforms already introduced, ensuring better arrangements for principal carers, improved consistency in income support decisions and greater clarity in the application of social security law.
The bill recognises the significant responsibility that relatives sometimes take on with regard to the care of a child, extending exemptions from participation requirements already in place for some principal carers. The amendments ensure grandparents and other relatives who take on the responsibility for the care of a child as principal carers, but not as formal foster carers under state or territory law, have access to an automatic exemption from their participation requirements. Recipients of parenting payment, Newstart allowance, youth allowance (other) and special benefit, who care for a related child as a result of a family law order under the Family Law Act 1975, will now have access to this exemption.
Single principal carers receiving Newstart allowance or youth allowance (other) who are eligible for this exemption, will also access a higher rate of payment for the duration of the exemption. The higher rate is equivalent to the parenting payment (single) rate of payment.
The bill improves the operation of social security provisions governing a person’s transfer between one income support payment and another. These provisions currently enable a person to be transferred from one payment to another, without the need for a claim form, where the person becomes newly eligible for the other payment and the secretary considers it appropriate to make the transfer. The amendments will further reduce the administrative burden in transferring people from one payment to another, by placing restrictions on the time frame in which a transfer can be made. This will ensure a recipient’s qualification for payment will be assessed in a similar time period as the claim was made. In addition, transfers to the closed payments of mature age and partner allowance will no longer be possible.
The amendments provide for new guidelines to be made regarding assessments of partial capacity to work, current or continuing inability to work, application of the impairment tables and incapacity exemptions from the activity test. In addition, outdated references to ‘medical officers’ in the impairment tables have been replaced with the term ‘assessors’. These changes will ensure continued consistency across decision makers for income support decisions and reviews.
The bill also makes a technical amendment to clarify that waiver of a social security debt recovery due to special circumstances is not available to a person who knowingly fails or omits to comply with social security law.
These amendments provide even further support to people assisted under the government’s Welfare to Work reforms. There are minimal financial implications associated with this bill.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Griffin) adjourned.