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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3936

(Question No. 4353)

Mr Blunt asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 19 August 1986:

(1) How many prisoners on remand in the goals of each State and Territory are receiving unemployment benefits.

(2) How long has each of these prisoners been in receipt of unemployment benefit?

(3) What has been the cost to the Federal Government of these payments for each State and Territory for each of the last 5 financial years?

(4) What advice has he received on whether receipt of unemployment benefits by prisoners on remand is contrary to his department's regulations and the Social Security Act.

(5) What action, and when, has he taken to stop these payments; if no action has been taken, why not.

(6) Has he received complete co-operation from the NSW Government and the NSW Corrective Services Department in respect of these matters.

Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Department of Social Security is not aware of any prisoner on remand in receipt of unemployment benefit; under existing arrangements, when details are made available by relevant authorities action is taken to terminate payment.

(2) See (1) above.

(3) Information as to the number of overpayments over the past 5 years and the amounts involved caused as a result of people on remand in prisons receiving unemployment benefits to which they were not entitled is not available.

(4) Persons on remand are not entitled to receive unemployment benefits because they cannot satisfy requirements in the Social Security Act that they are available for employment and are taking reasonable steps to obtain such employment. An amendment to the Social Security Act to take effect from 1 December 1986 specifically precludes payment of assistance under the Act to prisoners on remand.

(5) See (1) and (4) above.

(6) The relevant authorities in New South Wales have provided a comprehensive listing of prisoners, including prisoners on remand, and are supplying regular details of admissions to prisons.