7.95 Carer Payment provides income support to people who, because of caring responsibilities, are unable to support themselves through substantial paid employment. This section considers the limitations on participation in education or training, or paid or other productive work, associated with qualification for Carer Payment. The ALRC recommends that the current rules be more flexibly interpreted to better allow carers in receipt of Carer Payment, the majority of whom are of mature age, to combine care with work or study.
Carer Payment and mature age persons
7.96 There is a correlation between informal care, mature age and gender. The likelihood of a person providing care to someone else increases with age, ‘peaking for women between the ages of 55 years and 64 years and for men aged over 75’.
7.97 The age profile of Carer Payment recipients reflects this correlation. At December 2011, there were 195,183 Carer Payment recipients. Of these, 69% were aged 45 years and over; 57% were aged 45–64 and 11% were aged 65 years and over. Carer Payment recipients were predominantly women—69% of total recipients at December 2011.
7.98 The main policy intent of Carer Payment is to provide income support to carers who cannot participate substantially in paid work. However, Professor Michael Bittman, Dr Trish Hill and Ms Cathy Thomson have noted that Carer Payment also fits within a broader policy setting that aims to support the private provision of care, through self-care and informal care in the home. This is a form of care that is likely to increase with the ageing of the population.
7.99 Bittman, Hill and Thomson’s longitudinal study has shown that working age carers experience difficulties in combining paid work and care. Carers are more likely than non-carers to reduce their hours of work or exit from the labour force and to earn lower levels of income. Thus, the ‘privatisation of care’ objective stands in tension with the goal of promoting workforce participation, given the difficulty of combining paid work and care. The question of how to enable Carer Payment recipients to establish or maintain an attachment to the paid workforce falls squarely within these policy tensions.
Qualification for Carer Payment
7.100 To qualify for Carer Payment, a person must, among other things, be providing ‘constant care’ to a care receiver in the care receiver’s home. Constant care is not defined in the Social Security Act. However, the Guide to Social Security Law states that it amounts to care for a significant period each day of at least the equivalent of a normal working day.
7.101 In specific circumstances Carer Payment recipients are permitted to cease caring temporarily and remain qualified for Carer Payment. A Carer Payment recipient may cease caring for not more than 25 hours per week (including travel time) to undertake training, education, unpaid voluntary work or paid employment. This is often referred to as the ‘25-hour rule’.
7.102 DEEWR, DHS and FaHCSIA submitted that the 25-hour rule provided ‘a reasonable amount of time to work, study or train and still meet the constant care requirement’. By contrast, a number of other stakeholders considered that the
25-hour rule acted as a barrier to mature age workforce participation. COTA argued that ‘the 25-hour rule is too restrictive and … it severely limits carers’ opportunities to participate in the workforce … or prepare themselves to do so in the future’.
7.103 Carers Australia has stated that the current income support structure is limited in its ability to support transitions between caring and employment. It argued that ‘without strong supports for these transitions, caring will be viewed as carrying too many financial, social and health risks for many to take on such a role’.
7.104 A number of commentators have highlighted the difficulties faced by carers in re-entering the workforce when caring responsibilities cease. For example, research published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has noted that:
many carers, particularly those of working age, will not remain carers all their life. Caring status can change for a number of reasons, including the death of the person being cared for, the requirement for institutional care, partial or full recovery of the person requiring care, and a change of primary carer. There is strong evidence that long periods out of the labour force can make it difficult to re-enter the labour market.
7.105 This was echoed in submissions to this Inquiry. For example, OWN submitted that ‘informal carers returning to work are concerned their qualifications and skills are out of date and they may have lost confidence in their abilities and report being told they are too old’.
7.106 The rules restricting participation in paid or unpaid work or study, while still in receipt of Carer Payment, may act as barriers to work for mature age carers. The Guide to Social Security Law states that qualification for Carer Payment should be reviewed if a person ceases to care for more than 25 hours per week to participate in training, education, employment or voluntary work, as the person may no longer satisfy the constant care criteria.
7.107 In the Discussion Paper, the ALRC proposed that the Guide to Social Security Law be amended to indicate that the current 25-hour rule be more flexibly applied. Most stakeholders supported this proposal. While supporting this proposal, BSL was concerned to emphasise that the care provided by Carer Payment recipients should be acknowledged as productive work in its own right. BSL also asserted that Carer Payment recipients should not be obliged to engage in paid employment.
7.108 There are a number of instances in which participation in paid or voluntary work, education or training that exceeds 25 hours per week may be compatible with the constant care requirement. For example, Carers Australia noted that
changes in the use of technology, particularly the widespread use of internet capacities open up a wide range of opportunities for carers to combine employment, training volunteer work or educational pursuits from home with their ongoing caring responsibilities.
7.109 The Guide to Social Security Law currently recognises one example where paid work, voluntary work, education or training undertaken in the home may be compatible with a care recipient’s need for constant care. There is scope for further examples to be included in the Guide to Social Security Law to illustrate how care may be combined with home-based work or study. Such examples could include online education or training, or teleworking.
7.110 The ALRC considers that making it easier to retain an attachment to the paid workforce, to volunteer, or to obtain or update skills through training or education will benefit Carer Payment recipients. It may assist recipients to combine work and care, or in equipping them to engage in paid work after they cease caring. To facilitate this, the ALRC recommends that the Guide be amended to reflect a more flexible application of the 25-hour rule, and to provide further examples of combining care with work or study.
Recommendation 7–4 The Guide to Social Security Law should provide that a temporary cessation of constant care due to participation in paid employment, unpaid voluntary work, education or training that exceeds 25 hours per week:
(a) does not result in automatic cancellation of Carer Payment; and
(b) may, in some circumstances, be compatible with the constant care requirement for qualification for Carer Payment.
 FaHCSIA, Pension Review Report (2009), 10.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, Cat No 4430.0 (2003), 49.
 Senate Standing Committee on Education Employment and Workplace Relations, Additional Budget Estimates 2011–2012: Answers to Questions on Notice, Question No EW1043_12 (DEEWR) (30 April 2012).
 M Bittman, T Hill and C Thomson, ‘The Impact of Caring on Informal Carers’ Employment, Income and Earnings: a Longitudinal Approach’ (2007) 42(2) The Australian Journal of Social Issues 255, 256.
 Ibid, 261.
 Ibid, 256.
Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) ss 197B–197K, 198; FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [184.108.40.206].
 FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [1.1. C.310]. See also Milne and Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs  AATA 689, ; Callaghan and Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs  AATA 506, ; Yanz and Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs  AATA 410; Del Vecchio and Secretary, Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs  AATA 1145.
Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 198AC(4); FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [220.127.116.11]. A person may also temporarily cease caring in certain other circumstances, including for up to 63 whole days per year: Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 198AC; FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [18.104.22.168].
 DEEWR, DHS and FaHCSIA, Submission 101.
 Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 54; COTA, Submission 51; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 50; ACTU, Submission 38.
 COTA, Submission 51.
 Carers Australia, Submission to the Pension Review (2008), 21.
 For example, M Bittman, T Hill and C Thomson, ‘The Impact of Caring on Informal Carers’ Employment, Income and Earnings: a Longitudinal Approach’ (2007) 42(2) The Australian Journal of Social Issues 255; B Cass, ‘Care Giving and Employment: Policy Recognition of Care and Pathways to Labour Force Return’ (2006) 32(3) Australian Bulletin of Labour 240.
 B Edwards, D Higgins, M Gray, N Zmijewski, and M Kingston, The Nature and Impact of Caring For Family Members with a Disability in Australia (2008), Australian Institute of Family Studies Research Report 16, 108.
 COTA, Submission 51; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 50; Older Women’s Network NSW Inc, Submission 26.
 Older Women’s Network NSW Inc, Submission 26. NWRN similarly noted the significant disadvantage in the labour market faced by carers after caring responsibilities cease: National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 50.
 FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [22.214.171.124]. Working Credit provides some flexibility when a person takes up paid work. If a person takes up paid work for more than 25 hours per week that causes them to fail the constant care criterion, they are treated as qualified for the period it takes to run down their working credit balance. However, Working Credit will not apply where a person increases time spent in education, training or voluntary work.
 Australian Law Reform Commission, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, Discussion Paper 78 (2012), Proposal 5–3.
 National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN), Submission 99; National Seniors Australia, Submission 92; ACTU, Submission 88; Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 86; Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Submission 85; Carers Australia, Submission 81; Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA), Submission 80; Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Submission 78. Australian Industry Group supported Proposal 5–4: Australian Industry Group, Submission 97.
 Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 86. See Chapter 2 for further discussion of unpaid care work.
 Carers Australia, Submission 81.
 Australian Law Reform Commission, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, Discussion Paper 78 (2012), Proposal 5–4. The Guide currently provides one such example. The example is: ‘Jane cares for her aunt in her aunt’s home. Jane uses a room in her aunt’s house to make craft items that she sells through mail orders. Jane only attends to her business when she is not providing care for her aunt and can stop doing craftwork or packing orders at any time that her aunt needs her’: FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [126.96.36.199].
 Colmar Brunton Research and Deloitte Access Economics, NBN Enabled Telework: The Economic and Social Impact on Labour Force Participation (2012), prepared for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.