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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6317


Senator Mark Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 4 October 2002:

(1) How many veterans' children have received assistance under the Veterans' Children's Assistance Scheme, by state, since its inception.

(2) How many successful applicants have had their participation cancelled.

(3) How many participants have failed to complete courses funded by the program.

(4) In how many cases have participants been asked to refund payments, and what sum has been repaid in total to date.

(5) (a) How many cases of fraud have been investigated; (b) how many prosecutions have been launched; and (c) how many convictions have been obtained.

(6) (a) What debts from participants are currently outstanding; and (b) how many cases are involved.

(7) What counselling is provided to those who fail to complete courses.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator's question:

(1) At 30 June each year, the number of people receiving benefits through the Veterans' Children Education Scheme since its inception in 1987 is as follows:

Year

Number

1988

2,446

1989

2,261

1990

2,187

1991

2,163

1992

2,221

1993

2,310

1994

2,616

1995

2,867

1996

3,361

1997

3,946

1998

4,313

1999

4,499

2000

4,810

2001

5,148

2002

5,344

Information at a State level is only available from 1998 and is as follows:

Year

QLD

NSW*

VIC

TAS

SA*

WA

Total

1998

1,201

1,258

725

271

263

595

4,313

1999

1,242

1,296

756

271

303

631

4,499

2000

1,414

1,279

830

259

363

665

4,810

2001

1,546

1,304

857

280

440

721

5,148

2002

1,749

1,238

838

260

480

779

5,344

* The NSW figures include the Australian Capital Territory and the SA figures include the Northern Territory.

Students receive benefits through primary, secondary and tertiary education and can therefore be included in the annual figures for many years.

(2) In time all students receiving Veterans' Children Education Scheme benefits have these benefits cancelled because they cease to be eligible. Students cease to be eligible because they cease full-time education, either because they have:

· completed their studies; or

· chosen not to continue; or

· been unable to continue with their studies.

No record is kept of the number of students who, for whatever reason, cease full-time education before completing their studies.

(3) No courses are funded by the Veterans' Children Education Scheme. The Scheme provides financial assistance only, through the payment of Education Allowance.

(4) In all overpayment cases the client is asked to repay the debt. Records specifically identifying Veterans' Children Education Scheme debts are only available following the implementation of a new recording system during 2000. The total number of overpayment cases in the period is 334 and the amount repaid to date is $146,567.

(5) (a) There is no record of the number of Veterans' Children Education Scheme (VCES) fraud cases investigated. However, all overpayments are examined for possible fraud. If possible fraud is detected these matters are referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for possible further action. This is done in accordance with the fraud control policy of the Commonwealth. The Minister advises that two cases are currently being investigated by the DPP.

(b) and (c) No prosecution of VCES cases has so far been conducted by the DPP and therefore there have been no convictions.

(6) (a) Current as yet unrecovered overpayments amount to a national total of $288,178.

(b) 165.

(7) Counselling and guidance is available to students at any time they are on the Veterans' Children Education Scheme (VCES) and may help to prevent students from withdrawing from courses. Guidance and counselling is an important part of the VCES and aimed at helping students to achieve their full potential in education or career training.