Work and development orders

People experiencing hardship may be able to resolve their State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) debt through other activities.

This can be done through a work and development order and may include:

  • undertaking treatment or counselling programs
  • attending educational, vocational or life skills courses
  • completing unpaid work with an approved hardship partner.

You must have an established relationship with an approved hardship partner who agrees to:

  • support your work and development activity
  • apply to SPER for an order on your behalf.

Hardship partners

A hardship partner is an approved community organisation or financial or health practitioner that provides services or activities that can be included in a work and development order.

Different hardship partners can help in different ways. Some may be able to offer counselling and treatment programs, while others offer courses or the opportunity to do unpaid work.

Whether or not a hardship partner can help will depend on:

  • their location
  • the services they provide
  • whether you meet the eligibility criteria.

A hardship partner will assess your eligibility for a work and development order, determine an appropriate activity plan, and apply on your behalf.

Find a hardship partner.

Who is eligible

If you have the support of your approved hardship partner, you may be eligible for a work and development order if you can’t pay your debt because of:

  • mental illness
  • domestic and family violence
  • homelessness
  • intellectual and cognitive disability
  • substance use disorder
  • financial hardship.

The hardship partner can explain the eligibility criteria and advise what evidence you’ll need to provide. It is up to the hardship partner to apply on your behalf.

Activities you can do

Your hardship partner will develop an activity or treatment plan, supervise your progress and report to SPER on the extent of activities undertaken each month.

Activities include:

  • educational, vocational and life-skill courses
  • financial and other counselling
  • medical, mental health and substance-use disorder treatment
  • mentoring programs (for under 25s)
  • unpaid work
  • culturally appropriate programs in rural and remote communities.

Some debts, including compensation and restitution, cannot be included in a work and development order. You still need to pay these debts.


If your work and development order is approved, you must:

  • do the activities or treatment plan as advised by the hardship partner
  • notify your hardship partner if your address or contact details change.

If you don't complete all the requirements of your order, it may be cancelled and you’ll have to pay the rest of your debt. This may affect your ability to get another work and development order in the future.

If your circumstances change and you can pay the debt, tell your hardship partner and contact us to pay or apply for a payment plan.

If you're injured while completing your order, let your hardship partner know and they’ll tell you what to do next. You won't receive credit towards your SPER debt if you can't carry out the activities of your order.

More information

Phone 1300 365 635 or read the work and development order fact sheet to learn more.

It’s important that you deal with your outstanding SPER debt. Contact us to discuss other options that may be available to you.