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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1139

(Question No. 960)

Senator MacGibbon asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 12 January 1994:

  (1) Are counselling services for veterans and their families under the MOP to be contracted out to psychologists and counsellors who are in private practice.

  (2) Was the VVCS established as a dedicated service because veterans were not using existing counselling services.

  (3) Have veterans, counsellors and VVCS staff been consulted about the proposed changes.

  (4) Why are changes to the MOP under trial in New South Wales and Victoria.

Senator Faulkner —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) The Metropolitan Outreach Program (MOP) is the service delivery model designed to extend the provision of contract counselling services for metropolitan veterans and their families in periods of high demand. The National Advisory Committee (NAC) on the VVCS has endorsed a six month trial for MOP. All of the Directors of Counselling also agreed to trial run MOP. Preparations are currently underway for implementing MOP in Sydney and Melbourne in consultation with the Directors of Counselling.

  All contract counsellors and psychologists must be appropriately qualified and experienced and approved by the VVCS before commencing counselling services on behalf of the VVCS. All of the contract counsellors would have experience in private practice.

  The implementation has been delayed pending the successful outcome of negotiations with the Public Sector Union on workplace bargaining issues. Negotiations have been completed successfully and an Agency Agreement, signed on 29 March 1994, is now in place.

  (2) Subsequent to a submission from the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA), and after discussions with other ex-service organisations, the Government agreed in 1981 to the establishment of a separate counselling service for Vietnam veterans. The VVCS was to be monitored by a National Advisory Committee comprising prominent members of the VVAA and the Returned Services League (RSL) to advise the Minister on policy matters relating to the VVCS and the needs of Vietnam veterans and their families.

  The counselling service was established in recognition of the fact that some Vietnam veterans had problems that could not be adequately handled within normal Departmental arrangements.

  (3) Yes, the changes were discussed at a conference for Directors of Counselling and were the focus of a special workshop to discuss the changes in detail.

  (4) At the conference for Directors of Counselling and as a result of the outcome of detailed discussions, all the Directors of Counselling agreed to trial MOP in Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney and Melbourne were considered to be the most appropriate metropolitan centres to trial the initiative.