SpB is intended to be a short-term income support payment for people who do not qualify for any other type of payment and have no other means of support. SpB is not intended as a payment for students. However there are circumstances where SpB recipients may be able to undertake study while receiving SpB.
For the purposes of SpB, part-time study is generally defined as less than 20 hours study a week (including contact hours and private study). However, if the institution through which the study is undertaken classifies the study as full-time, it should be considered full-time, regardless of the hours involved.
Activity tested recipients, that is recipients subject to either the SpB activity test which is based in policy or the SpB NVH activity test which is based in legislation, may undertake part-time study provided they are able to fully satisfy their job search and other obligations.
NVH activity tested recipients may undertake part-time study as part of their activity agreement and as a mutual obligation option, in addition to job search.
There are no restrictions on undertaking part-time study for non-activity tested recipients.
Act reference: SSAct section 736 Secretary may require certain persons…, section 737 Full-time students, section 731M Special Benefit Employment Pathway Plans-terms
For most income support recipients, full-time training or study can generally only be approved by an employment services provider. However, for SpB recipients Centrelink is able to approve these activities.
For the purposes of SpB, full-time study is defined as 20 hours or more study a week (including contact hours and private study) or study that is classified as full-time by the institution through which it is undertaken.
NVH activity tested recipients may undertake full-time study including a full-time course of vocational training as part of their activity test under an EPP.
SpB activity tested recipients and non-activity tested recipients may undertake full-time study including a full-time course of vocational training if the course is likely to improve the person's prospects for obtaining, or assist the person in seeking suitable paid work.
Any type of study or training of less than 12 months duration can be approved but it should be approved only if it is likely to lead to an early employment outcome. Generally, this means vocational courses or courses that will clearly enhance the person's immediate employability (e.g. a first aid certificate).
Academic study can be approved if the circumstances warrant it.
Example: Where a person has been unsuccessful in their job search but has only a single unit to complete in order to obtain a degree that would greatly improve their employment prospects.
Under no circumstances can full-time study of more than 12 months duration be approved.
Exception: Recipients under 18 years (see below).
Act reference: SSAct section 736 Secretary may require certain persons…, section 737 Full-time students
Policy reference: SS Guide 188.8.131.52 What are the SpB Activity Tests?
SpB recipients can undertake a full-time course of vocational training or another full-time course provided ALL the following conditions are satisfied:
In cases where SpB recipients are permitted to study full-time, the intention is to allow these people to gain the knowledge and/or skills that will assist them to undertake work in the future. Full-time tertiary studies such as bachelor degrees and above are generally not considered appropriate because they are not required in most cases for a person to undertake suitable work, although they may be permitted under certain circumstances in the form of a full-time vocational short course.
Recipients under 18 years may undertake full-time secondary study of more than 12 months duration. A recipient who turns 18 years while undertaking secondary school may complete that year on a full-time basis.
Last reviewed: 12 November 2012