ParentsNext Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for ParentsNext?

You are required to participate in ParentsNext if you meet the eligibility criteria.

ParentsNext is delivered in two streams—the Intensive Stream and the Targeted Stream.

The same base eligibility requirements apply in both streams for compulsory participants.

You need to:

  • have been receiving Parenting Payment for at least the past six months
  • have a child under six years of age
  • have no reported earnings from employment in the past six-month period
  • meet one of the additional eligibility criteria.

There are different additional eligibility requirements for the Intensive and Targeted Streams.

If you live in an Intensive Stream location, you need to meet one of the following:

  • be an early school leaver with a youngest child at least six months of age
  • have been assessed as highly disadvantaged with a youngest child at least six months of age, or
  • have a youngest child at least five years of age.

If you live in a Targeted Stream location, you need to meet one of the following:

  • be an early school leaver with a youngest child at least one year of age
  • have been assessed as highly disadvantaged with a youngest child at least three years of age, or
  • have a youngest child at least five years of age and be part of a jobless family (no reported earnings from employment in the previous six months—if you have a partner, this includes their earnings).

The Intensive Stream operates in 30 locations, and the Targeted Stream operates in all remaining non-remote regions.

Can I volunteer for ParentsNext?

You can volunteer for ParentsNext if you receive Parenting Payment, have a child aged under six years, and live in an Intensive Stream location (see list below).

Volunteers receive the same support and benefits as compulsory participants, but they are not subject to the Targeted Compliance Framework and cannot have their Parenting Payment suspended for failing to participate. However, volunteers are exited from the program if they fail to participate as agreed.

The Intensive Stream locations are:

What is the Targeted Compliance Framework?

The compliance approach for ParentsNext is known as the Targeted Compliance Framework. This also applies to jobactive and Disability Employment Services. The framework is about balancing a participant’s obligations to prepare for work with maintaining their payments.

Under the Targeted Compliance Framework, compliance action includes payment suspensions, demerits and financial penalties. The system also includes safeguards to protect those who cannot meet their requirements, including two capability reviews, valid/acceptable reasons for non-attendance, and exemptions.

What is a Participation Plan?

Your ParentsNext provider works with you to create an individually tailored Participation Plan that you both agree to.

Your Participation Plan sets out your education and employment related goals and the appointments and activities you agree to participate in. It takes account of your personal circumstances and caring responsibilities, and your capacity to undertake the agreed activities. It cannot include unsuitable or unreasonable requirements.

What types of activities do I have to do?

You and your provider discuss your education and employment goals. You then need to agree on which suitable activities will help you move towards those goals. Activities vary based on your particular goals. Types of activities include education, training or voluntary work.

Playgroups or similar activities, which provide social connections and networking opportunities, may be appropriate for parents with limited work history or significant non-vocational barriers (this means barriers to participating in work that do not directly related to your education, training or skills). If the most appropriate activities are non-vocational or pre-vocational in nature, they still need to support you to achieve your goals.

How many hours do I have to spend on activities?

There are no specified hours for participation in ParentsNext, but all participants do need to have at least one activity in their Participation Plan. The type of activity you agree to in your Participation Plan determines the amount of time you spend. For example, going to a parenting course might involve two hours a week for four weeks, while a TAFE course may require two hours, twice a week, for six weeks.

Do I have to go to an appointment or activity? What happens if I don’t want to attend?

Under Social Security Law, recipients of Parenting Payment, who are compulsory participants in ParentsNext, must:

  • attend all scheduled ParentsNext provider and third party appointments
  • agree to a tailored Participation Plan
  • participate in the activities you agree to in your Participation Plan.

If you don’t meet the requirements you agreed to in your Participation Plan, your Parenting Payment will be suspended until you re-engage in the program. You need to contact your provider to discuss what you have to do to re-engage.

Please note, if you contact your ParentsNext provider before your requirement and you have a reasonable excuse for not attending, your payment will not be suspended.

I’m busy with my kids—what happens if I can’t attend an appointment or activity?

If you can’t attend an appointment or an activity you have to report on, you need to contact your ParentsNext provider beforehand. If you have a valid reason, for example if your child is sick or you had a family emergency, your payment won’t be suspended and you can reschedule your appointment or activity.

If you can’t advise your provider beforehand, you need to contact your provider as soon as possible after you’ve missed the required appointment or activity to explain what happened. Your provider will then reschedule your requirement.

Once you have completed your requirement, your payment suspension will be lifted and you will receive your payment. If your new requirement is more than two business days away, your payment suspension will be lifted straight away.

Your ParentsNext provider works closely with you to support you to meet your program requirements. This includes changing your appointment times if necessary or referring you to activities that better suit your circumstances.

How often do I have to report my attendance at my activity?

From 15 July 2019, you will need to report your attendance no more than once per fortnight. If you currently have a Participation Plan that requires you to report more often, the reduced reporting will not change until you meet with your provider and have your Participation Plan updated.

What are flexible activities? Do I have to report my attendance at them?

Flexible activities are those activities that do not require a participant to attend an event or location or do not occur at a specific date or time. Flexible activities include but are not limited to:

  • online study or education
  • research activities such as researching vocational pathways or courses

From 15 July 2019, once your Participation Plan has been updated, you won’t have to report your attendance when undertaking flexible activities.

If you currently have a Participation Plan that requires you to report your flexible activities attendance, you will have to continue to report until you meet with your provider and have your Participation Plan updated.

Will I be reminded about attending my activity?

You may receive notifications from the jobactive app, an email or SMS reminders if you have selected one of those channels as your preferred contact method. Messages are sent at 11am and 3pm if you haven’t already reported your attendance.

From 1 July 2019, the department started sending SMS notifications on the day of participants scheduled activity reminding participants to report their attendance.

If you have not received a SMS reminder and would like to, please talk to your provider who can update your notification method and make sure your contact details are up to date.

What if I don’t agree with my Participation Plan?

You are in control of your Participation Plan. It should suit your goals and circumstances. You should be involved in developing your Participation Plan with your provider, and you both need to agree to it. You can either sign your Participation Plan immediately, or have 10 business days ‘think time’ to consider the activities or discuss them with your family.

Your Participation Plan can also be updated at any time. This includes when your activity ends and you need a new suitable activity, when your education or employment goals change, or when your personal circumstances change.

If you are not happy with your Participation Plan, the first thing to do is discuss the matter with your ParentsNext provider. If you are not happy with your ParentsNext provider’s service and feedback, or if you are not comfortable discussing your concerns directly with them, you can contact the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, by either:

It’s important to discuss any concerns with your provider or with the department because if you don’t sign the Participation Plan (after the ‘think time’) your payment will be suspended until you do sign it.

What if I’m not satisfied with the services I’m receiving from my ParentsNext provider?

If you don’t think you are receiving the right help, or would like to make a complaint, please talk to your provider first. Your provider will offer a feedback process, which is fair and will try to resolve your concerns.

If you feel you can’t talk to your provider, or you are still not happy, you can make a complaint directly to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, by either:

You may also transfer to another local provider, either by agreement with your current provider, or by talking to the department’s National Customer Service Line.

Do I have to participate during a personal crisis?

There may be times that circumstances mean you may not be able to participate in ParentsNext. For example, you or someone in your family may be ill, you may be experiencing serious issues like domestic or family violence or a personal crisis. If this is happening, please discuss your circumstances with your ParentsNext provider or Centrelink. ParentsNext can support you during these times by connecting you with support and services in your local community. You may also be able to be exempted from your compulsory activities.

Do I have to participate if I’m already studying?

If you are already studying (accredited courses) when you start in ParentsNext, this can be included as your agreed activity in your Participation Plan. You will then only be required to attend quarterly appointments with your provider in addition to your study. ParentsNext providers may also be able to assist you while you are studying. For example, this may include helping you to access child care, transport, financial advice or safe housing.

Do I have to report my activity attendance if I’m studying?

From 15 July 2019, if you are new to ParentsNext and the agreed activity in your Participation Plan is full time study, you will not need to report your activity attendance.

If you are currently a ParentsNext participant, you need to continue to report your attendance as required in your Participation Plan until you meet with your provider and have your Participation Plan updated to remove the reporting requirements.

Your plan can be updated at your next appointment with your provider or you can contact your provider to have your appointment sooner.

How is my privacy protected?

ParentsNext providers must comply with the Privacy Act 1988 and Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) when dealing with your personal information.

ParentsNext participants usually sign a Privacy Notification and Consent form, agreeing to the collection of their sensitive information, which is a type of personal information that has greater protection under the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs). Sensitive information includes details such as your cultural or linguistic background, any criminal record, medical information and membership of professional or trade associations.

Your personal information may only be collected, used and disclosed for the purpose of delivering work-related services as provided under social security law, or for other purposes if you consent.

If you choose not to sign the Privacy Notification and Consent form, you are still required to participate in the program, but this may limit the types of services your ParentsNext provider can offer you.

The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business clearly instructs providers that they must not force you into signing the form. Please report any cases of this to the department by:

What can I do if I don’t think I should have been referred to ParentsNext?

If you are concerned about your eligibility or referral to ParentsNext, and have already started in the program, discuss this with your ParentsNext provider. You can also contact the Department of Human Services or the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business to investigate further.

You can contact the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, by either: