Most job seekers receiving NSA, are required to focus on job search. However, participation in an alternative full-time activity such as a course of education or training may be appropriate in some circumstances.
Social security law precludes full-time students from qualifying for NSA unless they are required to undertake a course of full-time education or training (1.1.F.225) as a term of a newstart EPP. The intention of this is primarily to allow job seekers who are unlikely to find work with their existing skills to be referred to courses with a vocational focus that will enhance their immediate employability.
A job seeker who is participating in an approved full-time short course is not required to undertake job search or participate in other activities. However, if a job seeker is undertaking full-time education or training as an approved activity, they may still be required to attend the office of their employment services provider or Centrelink and they must accept any offer of suitable employment which fits around the timing of their training (see further information on accepting suitable work).
Principal carers (1.1.P.412) in receipt of NSA who satisfy and continue to satisfy their participation requirements through approved study of at least 30 hours per fortnight (which includes any contact and non-contact hours) included in their EPP are not required to actively seek work or accept any offers of suitable employment in addition to complying with the terms of their EPP. For further information please see 1.1.P.418.
For most NSA recipients, participation in a full-time education or training course can ONLY be approved once they enter a provider's program and can only be approved by their provider. For most NSA recipients, this means that they may participate in a short course of education or training only after they enter employment services and only if their provider determines that participation is necessary and/or would lead to an early employment outcome.
Employment services providers should only approve a full-time education or training course if they include it in a job seeker's EPP and only if:
Note: The general rules for participation in short courses also apply to principal carers with the exception that the principal carer is only required to participate in the short course for 30 hours per fortnight, where the 30 hours of study includes both contact and non-contact hours.
Centrelink can approve participation in a full-time course for job seekers prior to entering employment services or another provider's program if the job seeker has been identified as requiring training under the Skills for Education and Employment or Adult Migrant English Program.
Centrelink can approve participation in a full-time course for any job seeker prior to entering employment services or another provider's program if:
Note: Principal carers are only required to participate in any course approved by Centrelink prior to entering employment services or another provider's program on a part-time basis of 30 hours per fortnight, where the 30 hours of study includes both contact and non-contact hours.
Centrelink is responsible for approving participation in a full-time short course for SpB recipients who are subject to activity test requirements, but only in accordance with the rules outlined above for NSA recipients. Note also the section below on full-time academic study.
A work experience activity requirement applies to job seekers entering the work experience phase or compulsory activity phase while participating in JSA. A job seeker who is commenced with JSA and wishes to undertake study to meet their work experience activity requirement can undertake approved study that meets the hourly requirements for work experience activities.
Young people studying full-time should generally be paid as YA full-time students. However, YA job seekers should also be encouraged to remain in some form of part-time study or training until they have sufficient skills or qualifications to obtain sustainable employment. The delegate (i.e. Centrelink or employment services provider) may consider an activity of part-time study in combination with other activities, including job search or part-time work, bearing in mind the job seeker's long-term as well as short-term needs.
Young people who are under the age of 22 years and seek to undertake a full-time short course as an approved activity while receiving YA (other) may do so when they enrol in a full-time vocational short course of less than 12 months which would improve their short term employment prospects, or when they have reached their ALLOWABLE TIME or satisfactory progress time limit but still have less than 12 months of study remaining to complete their course.
Prior to commencement in full employment services with an employment services provider, YA job seekers who wish to study in a full-time short course must approach Centrelink for approval.
YA job seekers in employment services who wish to study in a full-time short course are to approach the employment services provider for approval.
Principal carers in receipt of YA can fully satisfy their participation requirements by undertaking at least 30 hours of approved study (including any contact and non-contact hours) per fortnight in accordance with their EPP.
In general, social security law precludes full-time students from receiving NSA if they are eligible for Austudy or for YA as a full-time student. NSA is a payment for people who are unemployed and looking for work. It is not a payment for full-time students.
However, in exceptional circumstances, full-time academic study can be approved by a provider, or Centrelink as a term of an EPP. To be approved the study must meet the guidelines outlined under 'Participation in a full-time short course for NSA recipients - general rule' and/or ‘Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients'.
An example of when full-time academic study might be approved is where a person has been unsuccessful in their job search but has only a single study period (e.g. a semester) to complete in order to obtain a degree that would greatly improve their employment prospects.
Where a provider approves full-time study as per the guidelines above, there is no requirement for the person to test their eligibility for a student payment even if the job seeker is undertaking an academic course and could qualify for Austudy.
Separate rules exist around academic study for single principal carers in receipt of NSA who have been granted PES for their study (see below ‘Approved study (PES granted) for single principal carer NSA recipients').
A full-time academic course cannot be approved for an NSA recipient just because they have exhausted their allowable time on a student payment. Similarly, SpB cannot be granted to a student on the grounds that no other income support payment is available. SpB can be paid where a person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood through circumstances beyond their control. If a person would qualify for NSA if they were not a student they are not eligible for SpB because being a student is not beyond their control. However, if a person qualifies for SpB for some other reason, such as non-residency, Centrelink can approve participation in education and training but this must be done in accordance with the NSA rules described under 'Participation in a full-time short course for NSA recipients prior to entering employment services or another provider's program'.
Generally, full-time study of more than 12 months duration or Masters or Doctorate study cannot be approved for NSA recipients except for:
Job seekers granted DSP between 11 May 2005 and 30 June 2006 who at their first review after 1 July 2006, are transferred to NSA or YA (job seeker), are able to continue their studies in the same course and be qualified for payment if, at the time of transfer, they were studying and receiving PES (220.127.116.11). They can continue to undertake the course as their approved activity until the course has been completed or they cease to be eligible for NSA or YA.
Example: Sam is granted DSP on 30 June 2005. He begins a Diploma in Computer Studies at a TAFE college. This course meets the criteria as a qualifying course and Sam is granted PES. In June 2007 Sam's eligibility for DSP is reviewed. As he applied for DSP between 11 May 2005 and 30 June 2006, he is reviewed and reassessed against the 15 hour eligibility criteria. Sam is assessed as having a work capacity of 15 to 29 hours per week and is transferred to NSA. Sam will continue to receive PES while he continues to undertake his Computer Studies Diploma, providing he continues to receive NSA.
If a principal carer (whether partnered or single) is undertaking full-time or part-time study as a PP recipient and then transfers to NSA or YA (job seeker), then they can continue to complete their course of study even if the remainder of the course is longer than 12 months in duration. In addition, they will be taken as meeting all participation requirements (including job search and mutual obligation) while completing their course as long as they continue studying in the same course for at least 30 hours per fortnight (including contact and non-contact hours).
Example: Jenny was granted PPS on 24 October 2005. She begins studying full-time in a 4 year Bachelor of Computer Science at a university in February 2010. In March 2011, Jenny's youngest child turns 6, so she becomes subject to participation requirements. While Jenny is studying this course on a full-time basis she is deemed to be meeting her participation requirements in full. In March 2013, her youngest child turns 8 years old and she claims NSA. Because Jenny was studying full-time immediately prior to moving to NSA she can complete the course while in receipt of NSA. Furthermore, she will continue to satisfy her participation requirements in full while completing that course on a full-time basis.
Single principal carers in receipt of NSA may undertake any course for which they are granted PES, this includes academic and longer courses (greater than 12 months) and have this study count toward meeting their activity test requirements. Where an approved course, for which PES is granted, is being undertaken full-time or 30 hours per fortnight, this will fully meet their participation requirements, and the single principal carer will not be required to undertake additional activities.
Single principal carer NSA recipients undertaking approved part-time study of less than 30 hours per fortnight for which PES is granted, will be able to use this study toward meeting their participation requirements. However, they must remain connected to an employment services provider and undertake additional activities to meet their activity test requirements. Any additional activities a principal carer is undertaking in order to meet the activity test must not conflict with the principal carer's study.
For the purpose of the activity test, a single principal carer can continue to undertake the study for which PES was granted as an approved activity until that study has been completed.
Example 1: David is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. He is accepted into a full-time Bachelor of Arts and applies for PES through DHS. He is granted PES and therefore his course is recognised as an approved course. Because David is undertaking his course on a full- time basis, he fully meets his activity test requirements and does not need to undertake any additional activities.
Example 2: Sarah is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. She is accepted into a part-time Masters of Occupational Therapy (20 hours per fortnight). She is granted PES through DHS and is able to have the Masters recognised as an approved course. However, because Sarah is undertaking the course part-time she must remain connected with her employment services provider and undertake other activities to meet her activity test requirements.
Example 3: William is a single principal carer in receipt of NSA. William is accepted into a Bachelor of Science and applies for PES. William's claim for PES is rejected as William has exhausted his PES eligibility at the Bachelor degree level. This study cannot be included in the EPP as an approved activity and William would generally need to look for work and/or undertake additional activities.
A job seeker with full-time requirements who is undertaking either full-time or part-time education or training as an approved activity can only be required to accept an offer of suitable employment if the hours of employment would fit around the timing of their study (see examples below).
People with part-time participation requirements (e.g. principal carers and people with a partial capacity to work) are not required to accept any suitable work if they are fully meeting their requirements through their participation in approved education or training.
Where a provider agrees that participation in part-time education or training will enhance the job seeker's employability, the part-time activity should be included in the job seeker's EPP. These job seekers will only be required to accept suitable work which fits around the timing of their study and taking into consideration their personal circumstances and assessed capacity may have their job search or other participation requirements reduced.
What happens if a job seeker is undertaking part-time education or training but their provider does not agree that the activity should be included in the job seeker's EPP? Job seekers can undertake part-time education or training at any time but if the activity is not approved and included in their EPP they must continue to fully meet all of their activity test requirements. Providers must approve any course a job seeker is undertaking and enter it into the job seekers EPP if the job seeker is a single principal carer and has been granted PES for that course.
Example 1: Jo is undertaking a child care worker certificate II course. This is an approved activity in her EPP. She is required to attend TAFE 5 mornings a week from 9am till 12 noon. She is offered paid work 2 full days per week. Jo is not required to accept this job as it will interfere with her capacity to complete her training. Jo can choose to accept the job and renegotiate her TAFE attendance times or withdraw from her course.
Example 2: Jack has full-time activity test requirements and is undertaking a child care worker certificate II course and required to attend TAFE 5 mornings a week. This is a suitable activity in his EPP. Jack is offered paid work involving 2 evening shifts (3pm till 8pm) per week. Jack would be required to accept this work as it does not impact on his education/training commitments.
Example 3: Melanie is in the same course as Jo and Jack. Melanie is offered paid work at a child care centre but the hours she is required to work conflict with her study commitments. It is preferable for Melanie to accept this work and renegotiate her contact hours to enable her to complete her study. However if this is not possible then Melanie could refuse this job offer.
Job seekers undertaking education or training are still required to attend the office of their employment services provider or Centrelink if required to do so. However, appointments should be scheduled for times that do not conflict with the job seeker's study timetable.
Note: Principal carer parents and people with a partial capacity to work who are fully meeting their participation requirements are not required to attend appointments - they have no additional requirements.
Example: Bill is undertaking a course as an aged care worker. He is required to be at TAFE all day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. His provider notifies Bill that he is required to attend an appointment with them on Tuesday at 1.30pm. This is not a reasonable time to expect Bill to attend an appointment as it conflicts with his study commitments. The appointment should be scheduled for a Thursday or Friday when Bill is not required to be at TAFE.
Act reference: SSAct section 613 Full-time students, section 606 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-terms, section 607 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-principal carers, section 607A Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-people with partial capacity to work, section 607B Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-requirement to participate in an approved program of work, section 544B Youth Allowance Employment Pathway Plans-terms
Policy reference: SS Guide 18.104.22.168 PES & Progress Rules for Tertiary Study, 1.1.M.140 Minimum time (YA, Austudy, PES), 1.1.P.412 Principal carer, 1.1.P.418 Principal Carer - study, 22.214.171.124 Qualification for PES
Last reviewed: 2 January 2014