The provisions of SSAct subsection 5(18) mean that only one person at a time can be the principal carer (1.1.P.412) of a child. In all shared care situations (PP, NSA, YA (job seeker) and SpB), it is necessary to determine which of the carers is the principal carer.
Example: A couple have separated and have joint legal responsibility (1.1.L.33) for, and share the care of, their child who is under 6. One of the parents previously received PPP under SSAct subsection 500D(1). Subsection 5(19) requires that a determination be made stating which person is the principal carer of the child, and therefore has the PP child.
In all cases where care is shared a written determination must be made which:
If the care of a child is being shared by 2 people and only one of them has legal responsibility for the day-to-day care, welfare and development of the young person, and the young person is in the adult's care, only that person is the principal carer.
Act reference: SSAct section 5(18) Only one person at a time can be the principal carer of a particular child, section 5(19) If the secretary is satisfied..., section 500D(1) A child is a PP child...
Care should be taken to ensure that it is not assumed that a child is always the dependent child of their parent, but the assessment should fully explore whether the person legally responsible for the child is actually providing care for the child. In some cases grandparents or relatives who have taken on responsibility of caring for the child where the parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child can be determined to be principal carers.
As subsection 5(19) does not list any specific criteria that should or should not be taken into account in making a determination, all the circumstances of each case need to be considered. However, given that the principal carer determination is based upon majority care of a child, it will generally be appropriate to decide that the person providing the greater degree of care is the principal carer, EVEN if that person has not claimed income support.
Example: Sally has the care of her 9 year old child 55% of the time over a period, and her ex-partner Dan has the care of their child for the remaining 45% of the time. Sally is working full-time and has not claimed NSA. Dan is not working and is in receipt of NSA and is seeking to be made the principal carer. In this case, Sally would be determined as the principal carer, as she has the greater degree of care. This determination is made despite the fact that Sally has not claimed income support.
If the difference in the level of care provided by the 2 carers is less than 10%, care is considered to be shared equally.
Example: Where care is shared 54/46% or 50/50%.
In situations of equal care where only one of the carers is claiming or receiving income support, that person should be determined as the principal carer. If both carers are claiming or receiving income support, the carer who is most in need of a favourable determination should be deemed principal carer.
A decision maker MUST take into account the following factors when deciding which carer is in most need of a favourable determination:
The following factors MAY be taken into consideration by the decision maker, if further information is required to make the determination:
Example: Mary and John are separated and equally share the care of their daughter Cathy. Mary has been receiving NSA with principal carer status since August 2006, and John lodges a claim for NSA in October 2007. The rate that would be payable to John is approximately the same as that being paid to Mary. Neither John nor Mary owns any substantial assets such as a house or car. John has recent workforce experience, which increases his employment prospects in the area. It is fair to argue that a decision that cancelled Mary's status as principal carer would have a more significant impact than a decision to reject John's claim to be deemed principal carer, especially as John has greater employment prospects than Mary. Therefore Mary should continue to be specified as the principal carer of Cathy while John should have generic NSA requirements/concessions.
If the care arrangements for 2 or more children are identical, it is NOT appropriate to 'allocate' each parent as the principal carer of a child, thus enabling both parents to qualify for income support as a principal carer. Different determinations about which parent is the principal carer of each child should only be made if the circumstances relating to the care of the children are not the same, and justify a different decision.
In order to make a determination about which parent is the principal carer of each child, each child must be assessed separately based on the care arrangements applying to them. If the care arrangements for each child are the same, then the determinations as to which parent is the principal carer must also be the same. That is, if parent A is determined as the principal carer of child 1, and the care arrangements for child 2 are the same, then parent A must also be determined as the principal carer for child 2. This is because the same factors leading to the first decision also apply to the second.
Example 1: Jenny and Scott are separated, and share the care of their 2 children 50/50. The children are kept together at all times, and spend one week living with their mother, and the other week living with their father. Because the care arrangements for the children are identical, one parent must be determined as the principal carer of both children.
Example 2: Nicholas and Thomasina are divorced and share the care of their children, Jack and Jill, equally but the children live separately, one with each parent and swapping houses each week. In this case also, because the share of care is equal, other factors need to be taken into account to determine who is the principal carer. If these other factors are common to both children, the same parent would be considered the principal carer of both, despite the fact that the children do not live with their principal carer at the same time.
In general it would only be appropriate to allocate a principal carer to each child where the children's care arrangements are sufficiently different to warrant this.
Example: One parent has the greater degree of care of one child (or more children), and the other parent has the greater degree of care of the other child(ren).
To avoid a debt being created for payments received before the determination is made, if a person is already receiving income support as a principal carer after the commencement of shared care (or a decrease in the degree of shared care) and before a determination has been made under subsection 5(19), consideration should be given to making different determinations for the period before and after the date of determination. This would only be necessary if the application of subsection 5(19) will result in a change of the determination as to who is the principal carer. In this situation, different determinations should be made if:
Explanation: This is intended to avoid a debt being created for payments received before the determination is made, PROVIDED that:
Example 1: Janice is receiving PP for one child aged under 6 at the single rate and has 100% care of the child. This degree of care changes on 27 April 2007 so that she has 40% care and her former partner, David, has 60% care. Janice complies by notifying this on 11 May 2007 and the payment for the entitlement period, which ended 9 May 2007, has already been issued. David has not claimed PP.
On 12 May, Janice is specified as the principal carer and the recipient of PP between 26 April 2007 and 9 May 2007 inclusive. David is specified as the principal carer from 10 May 2007. This means that Janice loses qualification from 10 May 2007 instead of 27 April 2007 and automatic termination therefore does not apply. Payment to Janice is cancelled from 10 May 2007. No debt arises for the payment made on 1 May 2007.
Example 2: Betty is receiving PP for one child at the single rate and has 100% care of the child. The degree of care changes on 27 April 2010 so that Betty has 40% care and her former partner, Kristin, has 60% care. Betty does not notify this until 25 May 2010, and so has not complied. Subsequently, Kristin is specified as the principal carer under subsection 5(19) from 27 April 2010. Payment to Betty automatically terminates under SSAct section 94 from 27 April 2010, and the final payment issued was on 14 May 2010 in respect of the entitlement period ending 12 May. Therefore, a debt arises for the period 27 April 2010 to 12 May 2010.
Act reference: SSAct section 5(18) Only one person at a time can be the principal carer of a particular child
SS(Admin)Act section 80 Cancellation or suspension determination, section 94 Automatic cancellation-recipient not complying..., section 93 Automatic cancellation-recipient complying...
The same decision making processes as outlined above apply where a person is covered by the PP transitional arrangement under SSAct section 500D(3).
However, where a determination is made that the parent is receipt of PP under the transitional arrangement (parent A) is no longer the principal carer of a particular child, and the child in question is aged:
then parent B would not be eligible for PP, and would instead be a principal carer on the appropriate payment such as NSA, YA job seeker or SpB.
Example: Bridget is receiving PP for a 9 year old child at the single rate and has 100% care of the child. The degree of care changes on 1 April 2007 so that Bridget has 40% care and her former partner, Jason, has 60% care. As Jason is not a member of a couple, his eligibility for PP at the single rate is assessed under SSAct subsection 500D(2). Since the child has turned 8, Jason is not eligible for PP at the single rate, and must instead claim another income support payment such as NSA or YA job seeker, if needed.
Act reference: SSAct section 500D PP child, section 500F When a person is covered by the PP transitional arrangement, section 542FA Disabled children or other family circumstances exemption (YA), section 602C(3) Relief from activity test - people with disabled children and other circumstances (NSA), section 731DB(3) Relief from activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances (SpB), section 731GA Relief from activity test - certain principal carers and people with partial capaciy to work (SpB), section 1061ZA(2A) PCC (YA partial capacity to work and single principal carer), section 1061ZA(2B) PCC (NSA partial capacity to work and single principal carer), section 1061ZM(1BA) PCC extended qualification (NSA/YA single principal carer), section 1067G-B3 Person who is independent (YA), section 1067G-C1 Qualification for PhA (YA), section 1068-B5 Maximum basic rate for certain NSA recipients, section 1068-D2B Newstart recipients who have a partial capacity to work or are principal carers
Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.P.340 PP child (PP), 1.1.D.70 Dependent child, 184.108.40.206 Child-related Qualification for PP - Shared Care, 220.127.116.11 Qualification for NSA, 18.104.22.168 Qualification for YA, 22.214.171.124 Qualification for SpB, 3.9 Concession Cards - Qualification Provisions
Last reviewed: 2 January 2013