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7.2.4 Substantial disruption
Expectation of household members with external commitments
It is not considered reasonable that household members be required to give up employment, educational, sporting, recreational or community commitments in order to provide additional household support to a client. Delegates are expected to be sensitive to each client's individual circumstances when making decisions about what it is reasonable to expect family members to contribute to helping with the proper running and maintenance of their household.
As a general guide, it is reasonable to expect that children aged 8 years of age and older can be responsible for:
- making their own bed;
- keeping their own room tidy; and
- small amounts of sweeping, vacuuming or dusting.
However, it would not be reasonable to expect children of this age to undertake "heavy" household activities such as being solely responsible for cleaning all bathrooms, all outside tasks such as mowing, or vacuuming the whole house.
As a guide, household members from 13 years of age could reasonably be expected to provide up to 4 hours household assistance per week each, even if they were working a limited number of hours per week and/or engaged in other (educational, sporting or community) external commitments. This may include for example, regularly helping with washing up, unpacking and packing dishwashers, putting washing on, hanging it out and bringing it in, helping with cooking, lawn mowing on flat ground where there are no safety concerns, cleaning their own rooms etc.
It is however, important that individual circumstances are always taken into account, particularly where a family is already under additional pressure becasue of the nature of the client's service related injuries or illnesses. For example, a more flexible apporach may be required if there are babies or very young children in a family, and the client is experiencing severe pain most of the time. In these types of circumstances, it could be argued that household services at a higher level may be required for a specified period, of for example, a year, while the client learns to manage their pain more effectively, or undergoes further treatment to help alleviate symptoms. It is also important that a whole-of-person apprach is utilised when considering a client's circumstances, and where there are indicators that a client is struggling to manage the impact of their service-related injury or disease, they are referred for a rehabilitation assessment.
Comcare’s approach for clients with entitlements under the SRCA may provide some useful guidance for decision makers, where clients have relatively straightforward needs for support. Their approach is that:
- partners or older adult family members would need be engaged in 60 hours per week of employment, educational or scheduled recreational activities before it is unreasonable to expect that they undertake any additional housework on behalf of the client;
- children 13-18 years of age would need to be engaged in 45 hours per week of employment, educational or scheduled recreational activities before it is unreasonable to expect that they undertake any additional housework on behalf of the client;
- other adult housemates would need to be engaged in 60 hours per week of employment, educational or scheduled recreational activities before it is unreasonable to expect that they undertake any additional housework on behalf of the client.
This must not be interpreted to mean that if there is a child of 13-18 years or an active and healthy adult in the client's household, that household services cannot be provided. Comcare's approach is not prescriptive. Each individual case must be considered on its merits, based on evidence provided in support of the claim, and with an awareness of the client's whole-of-person needs and their current circumstances.
The use of the term "any additional housework on behalf of the client" does not imply that other family members or partners are expected to take on all responsibility for household services, if the client was responsible for all household services prior to their service injury or disease. Rather, Comcare's approach suggests that other family members may share in managing the range of tasks that must be undertaken for the proper running and maintenance of the client's household.
Additional flexibility should be utilised when older children are expected to be undertaking high levels of study outside of school hours, for example, when they are undertaking studies at year 11 or 12 level or they are undertaking a heavy study load at university.
It is not considered reasonable that any adult boarders in a household undertake additional household tasks on behalf of the client.
High or complex needs clients
Where clients with high or complex needs reside with other household members, it is important that the other household members are not paid to provide household services that they can reasonably be expected to undertake without payment.
The same consideration about whether a family member or housemate could reasonably be expected to undertake household tasks without disruption to their employment or to other external commitments applies when they live with a client with high or complex needs. A family member or housemate should not be compensated for household services such as general house cleaning and meal preparation, if they would undertake these tasks as part of their normal household. However, if there are household services tasks that the family member or housemate would not otherwise undertake except for the client with high or complex needs residing with them, such as specific meal preparation to meet the client’s specific dietary requirements or cleaning of a modified bathroom, compensation for household services may be considered. If the family member or housemate is unable to undertake these additional tasks without substantial disruption to their external commitments, an external provider should be considered to provide the household services.