Centrelink volunteering obligations

In response to questions from volunteering involving organisations and peak bodies, the following FAQ’s were compiled (January 2013). Answers have been developed in consultation with PM&C and Centrelink to assist all VIO’s to clarify their role and responsibilities in relation to voluntary work and Centrelink clients.

1. I’ve heard that Centrelink customers need to do 25 hours per week voluntary work to meet requirements. Is this correct? Why can’t Centrelink customers do a combo of voluntary work and other activities?

Under Social Security Law, any job seeker aged 55 years or over in receipt of Newstart Allowance, Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders) or Parenting Payment can choose to undertake voluntary work with an approved organisation to meet their Activity Test or participation requirements.  These job seekers can undertake suitable paid work or voluntary work of 30 hours per fortnight or a combination of both of these activities to meet their requirements.

Job seekers who are under 55 years of age may negotiate with their Job Services Australia provider to include voluntary work as their agreed participation activity. This would generally only be available to job seekers who are the principal carer of a dependent child under 16.

2. Can I request a list of all approved organisations for DHS purposes?
Due to privacy this list is not released. However at any time, the Department can advise if a particular organisation is listed on the Departments’ internal database.

3. Why are some schools being told by Education Departments that they cannot be approved as a voluntary organisation for DHS purposes? 

To seek approval, voluntary organisations must complete a “Voluntary Work and Community Work – Request for Organisation Approval” form (SU461) (attached).  Based on the information provided by the voluntary organisation and the organisation meeting the approval criteria (detailed below), the organisation will be approved for voluntary work purposes, and the details of the organisation will be entered into the internal database.

4. Can SES volunteers use their voluntary work for Centrelink purposes?

Each individual State Emergency Service Office is required to be formally approved before they can be recorded on the internal database.

To be approved by DHS as an activity which fully satisfies a job seeker’s Activity Test or participation requirements, a voluntary work placement must:

  • occur without payment other than for out of pocket expenses, and
  • have a community focus, and
  • not be undertaken in the job seeker’s own home, and
  • not primarily promote a particular religious or political view, and
  • not involve working for the job seeker’s or a family member of the job seeker’s own organisation, and
  • not involve violence towards people or damage to property, and
  • not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
  • not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.

For an individual to have voluntary work approved to meet the Activity Test they will need to complete the Voluntary Work – Verification of Approved Voluntary Work (SU462) (see below) form and return it to a DHS Service Centre.

Approval process for Voluntary Work

1. What is the approval process for Voluntary Work for job seekers under 55 years old with Activity Test/participation requirements?

Job seekers who are under 55 years of age may negotiate with their Job Services Australia provider to include voluntary work as their agreed participation activity. This would generally only be available to job seekers who are the principal carer of a dependent child under 16. The voluntary work activity would usually need to be focused on providing the job seeker with improved employment prospects, for example, where there are low employment opportunities in the area, limited educational opportunities and there are significant vocational aspects to the voluntary work. Where the voluntary work is not approved as a job seeker’s sole requirement, it may still be able to partially satisfy participation requirements, as agreed with the provider.

These under 55 year old job seekers will not usually have a specific voluntary work activity code placed on their DHS record, but the agreed activity will be recorded in their Employment Pathway Plan (an agreement to undertake specified activities) by their provider. It is therefore difficult to determine an overall ‘count’ of people undertaking voluntary work to satisfy, or partially satisfy, their Activity Test or participation requirements.

Voluntary Work for job seekers with Activity Test/participation requirements (aged 55 and over)

Under Social Security Law, any job seeker aged 55 years or over in receipt of Newstart Allowance, Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders) or Parenting Payment can choose to undertake voluntary work with an approved organisation to meet their Activity Test or participation requirements.  These job seekers can undertake suitable paid work or voluntary work of 30 hours per fortnight or a combination of both of these activities to meet their requirements.

Voluntary work can be undertaken at any time, including evenings and weekends.  If the Department of Human Services (DHS) approves a voluntary work activity, the job seeker must remain connected to their Job Services Australia provider even though they do not have any job search requirements.  These job seekers are expected to accept any offers of suitable paid work, either full time or an increase in part time hours, and accept all referrals to job interviews, but will be fully meeting their requirements while undertaking these activities.  Both DHS and Job Services Australia providers can approve voluntary work to fully meet requirements for job seekers aged 55 years and over.

There are two parts to the voluntary work approval process:

  • Approval of the voluntary work organisation
  • Approval of the voluntary work placement within the organisation

2. What is the approvals process for voluntary organisations?

Where DHS is approving a voluntary work activity for a job seeker, the organisation will be formally approved and recorded in an internal database.

To seek approval, voluntary organisations must complete a “Voluntary Work and Community Work – Request for Organisation Approval” form (SU461). Based on the information provided by the voluntary organisation and the organisation meeting the approval criteria (detailed below), the organisation will be approved for voluntary work purposes, and the details of the organisation will be entered into the internal database.

Organisations must meet the following criteria to be approved as voluntary organisations:

  • be a ‘not for profit’ organisation.  This can be verified through one of the following:
  • articles of incorporation or certificate of incorporation and/or their constitution;
  • being a registered member of the National/State/Regional Volunteer Centre; or
  • other verifiable documentation proving their ‘not for profit’ status, such as documentation proving that they are a Charitable Trust
  • be community based
  • have appropriate Public Liability and Personal Accident insurance in place to cover job seekers. The voluntary organisation must hold a minimum of $5 million public liability insurance. There is no minimum amount of personal accident insurance, but organisations should seek independent professional advice on the level of insurance they should have in place.

3. What is the Approvals process for individual voluntary work placements?

To be approved by DHS as an activity which fully satisfies a job seeker’s Activity Test or participation requirements, a voluntary work placement must:

  • occur without payment other than for out of pocket expenses, and
  • have a community focus, and
  • not be undertaken in the job seeker’s own home, and
  • not primarily promote a particular religious or political view, and
  • not involve working for the job seeker’s or a family member of the job seeker’s own organisation, and
  • not involve violence towards people or damage to property, and
  • not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
  • not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.

Job seekers whose voluntary work is approved by DHS will have a specific activity code placed on their DHS record to indicate their participation in voluntary work/ combined voluntary work and paid employment activities.

Below are the links to the Department of Human Services website where the Voluntary Work forms (SU461 and SU462) can be found.

Voluntary Work – Request for Organisational Approval

Voluntary Work – Verification of Voluntary Work form

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