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7.2.3 Family members to contribute

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Last amended 
23 January 2017

Legislation

When determining whether a person reasonably requires household services, sections 29(2) of SRCA and 215 of MRCA require a delegate to consider the extent to which household members, or any other relatives of the person, might reasonably be expected to provide household services for themselves and for the person and the need to avoid substantial disruption to the work or other activities of the household members.

What does “reasonably be expected” mean?

Clause 215 of the explanatory memorandum to the MRCA states that household services are not payable if there are other family or household members who could reasonably be expected to undertake those tasks without disruption to that person's employment or to other external commitments.

It is however, important that all cases are considered on their merits, with due regard to each client's individual needs and circumstances.

When making decisions about whether household services are reasonably required, DVA delegates must consider all of the paragraphs in in section 29(2) of SRCA and section 215 of MRCA as a whole. This means that even if the client was responsible for undertaking a task prior to their service related injury or disease and now is not able to do so, the delegate must still consider whether it is reasonable for other household members to be expected to undertake these tasks for themselves and for the client after the injury or disease, given their other commitments and their age. More information about the issues that must be considered can be found in section 7.2 of this Guide).

This does not mean that for every situation where at least one other healthy member of a household resides with the injured person, compensation for household services cannot be paid. The key consideration is what can reasonably expected of other household members, given their age and their own need for household services, and the need to avoid substantially disrupting household member’s employment or other commitments.

For further information about ‘substantial disruption’ please refer to section 7.2.4 of this Guide.

What is reasonable when a person moves in or out of a shared household

Considering what is reasonable is particularly important where a client has been living independently and receiving household services support, and then moves into a shared household. In this case, the client will not have been responsible for any particular domestic tasks in that household prior to their service related injury or illness, and other household members would have been undertaking all tasks. In this circumstance, provided there is not an unreasonable burden created by other household members continuing to complete all household services, including the tasks completed by a former household member if the client has taken their place, then a Rehabilitation Coordinator may consider that household services are no longer required.  

Conversely, if the person moves from a shared household to living independently, evidence from an assessment by a suitably qualified health professional such as an OT will be required to inform the decision about the type and level of support to the provided now the client is living alone. Consideration will need to be given to the client’s circumstances and to what tasks the client was responsible for prior to their service related injury or illness that they are unable to undertake after their injury. Please refer to section 7.2.1 of this Guide  for more information about how to determine whether a person undertook certain tasks prior to their injury.

Case law examples

As subsection 29(2) of the SRCA is almost identical to section 215 of the MRCA, the SRCA case law outlined below are relevant in considering the question of what can reasonably be expected of other household members.

In St Clair and Australian Postal Corporation [2001] the Tribunal stated that subsections 29(2) (c), 29(2) (d) and 29(4) (f) envisage that in a case where the applicant's wife is fit and well and his daughter is 17 years of age, the applicant's wife and family should reasonably be expected to look after themselves and to also help the applicant to a reasonable degree, without expecting to be paid. The Tribunal also noted that the applicant's wife and family should not have to bear an inordinate burden without recompense.

In Cavanagh and Comcare [2008] the Tribunal accepted that it would be reasonable for compensation to be paid for the following services: laundry assistance (washing, drying, ironing) four hours per week; household cleaning (vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, cleaning kitchen, cleaning bathroom, making beds) five hours per week; cooking seven hours per week; shopping three hours per week; gardening and maintenance three hours per week; and personal assistance (dressing, washing, brushing/drying hair, shaving legs and monitoring medication) ten hours per week, including travelling to medical appointments. The Tribunal also noted that one of the matters which is to be taken into account in determining the household or attendant care services that are reasonably required is the extent to which a relative of the employee might reasonably be expected to provide the services in question. Under subsection 29(2) (e), it is necessary to have regard to the need to avoid substantial disruption to the employment or other activities of any such relative (or other person available to provide assistance), but this matter does not appear in subsection 29(4). In this case the Tribunal concluded that it was reasonable for the employee's unemployed spouse to provide household services without recompense. However, the Tribunal further stated that if he obtained employment or became unwell and would no longer be able to provide the services, then the employee would be eligible to submit a further claim for household services. In these circumstances the household services would need to be undertaken by another party and compensation may become payable for a person who is not a member of employee's household to provide household services.

In Chowdhary and Comcare [1998] and Carr and the Australian Postal Corporation [2005], the Tribunal also held that compensation for household services was not payable as other household members could reasonably be expected to perform these services without substantial disruption to their employment or other activities.

High or complex needs clients

Claims for household services provided by a family member or housemate of a client with high or complex needs, must be carefully considered. Please refer to section 7.2.4 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library for further information about family or housemates providing household services.

Review of services following deployment of household member/s

If a client who is receiving compensation for household services lives with a person who usually undertakes household services and that person is deployed with the ADF, then it is reasonable to undertake a review of the clients’ circumstances to determine whether there needs to be a change to the services they are receiving. For example, if the lawn mowing for the home is usually undertaken by the spouse who is deployed, and the client is unable to do the mowing due to their accepted conditions and requests assistance, then the client’s current services can be reviewed. The person who is deployed could be a spouse, partner, child or housemate.

Any deployment allowances that are received by the ADF person who is deployed do not preclude a client’s eligibility for household services. Information on the Department of Defence Pay and Conditions website explains that deployment and separation allowances are paid to compensate that member for things such as uncomfortable conditions in the field and the hazards, stress and environmental factors they are likely to experience, as well as compensation for the time spent away from dependants.