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B61/1992 INTRODUCTION OF THE REVISED VETERANS' CHILDREN EDUCATION SCHEME (VCES), 1 JANUARY 1993.
DATE OF ISSUE: 31 December 1992
INTRODUCTION OF THE REVISED VETERANS' CHILDREN EDUCATION SCHEME (VCES), 1 JANUARY 1993.
As a result of the review of the current Veterans' Children Education Scheme, recommendations for changes to the Scheme were presented to the Repatriation Commission.
2.On 24 November 1992, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs agreed to the proposed changes to the Scheme. The revised Scheme was tabled in Parliament on 26 November 1992 and the new Scheme will become
effective from 1 January 1993.
3.The purpose of this instruction is to advise of the changes to the VCES. Unless otherwise specified, these changes will be effective from 1 January 1993.
4.A separate Departmental Instruction is being prepared regarding implementation of the rates of education allowance to be introduced on 1 January 1993.
ELIGIBILITY FOR BENEFITS
5.The "Independence" criteria will no longer exist for those students who have made the "adult" choices of marriage or parenthood. A separate "Homeless Student" category will be established to cover those students who have been forced to become "independent of the family" due to circumstances beyond their control.
6.The rate of education allowance payable for "Homeless students" will be equivalent to the present age-based "Independent" rates.
7.Future applicants, as well as those students who are currently receiving the Independent rate of allowance under the Scheme, who are married or are in a de facto relationship with a child of that relationship, should be advised of the need to apply for the Independent rate of allowance under AUSTUDY.
Personal Income Testing
8.As the VCES education allowances are considered to be compensation rather than income support, the personal income testing currently applied to VCES allowances will be abolished.
9.Those "60" category payments with miscellaneous code "1156" (which indicates that the student's allowance has been reduced because of income in excess of the current allowable limit) need to be increased to the maximum rate of education allowance, effective from the first payday in January 1993.
Date of Grant of Benefits
10.The date of grant of the education allowance has been changed to ensure that the benefits provided through the Scheme will be used as support during the period of the student's education.
11.Applications received after close of business 31 December 1992 will only be considered for a grant of benefits from:
(a)the date of commencement of the first formal year of primary education; or
(b)the first payday in January of the year in which application is made for an eligible child for the purpose of the Scheme; or
(c)the first payday after the student meets the eligibility criteria for the purpose of the Scheme,whichever is the later, provided the student at that time has not attained the age of 25 years, and subject to clearances with the Departments of Education Employment and Training and Social Security (which prevent dual Commonwealth payments for students aged 16 years and over.)
Extending the Approved Course List
12.The Boards will be given the discretion to recommend to Commission that benefits be granted to a student who may not be undertaking a course approved for the payment of AUSTUDY but where the course is essential to the student's career and no other AUSTUDY approved course is available.
13.Benefits would normally only be considered in the exceptional case where:
.there is no relevant AUSTUDY approved course; or
.the entry quota to an approved course is limited, even though the student is academically qualified for acceptance in that course; or
. a student requires a higher degree as a minimum employment qualification, for example, a Masters degree to practice Psychology.
14.As far as possible the qualifications gained from a non-approved course should be investigated to ensure suitability to the student's future employment field.
15.Only the fortnightly education allowance will be payable, any fees or costs associated with the course will need to be met by the student.
Indexation of Allowances
16.The education allowances for primary students and secondary students, under the age of sixteen and living at home are to be adjusted annually in line with the Consumer Price Index, effective from the first payday in January 1993.
THE VETERANS' CHILDREN EDUCATION BOARDS
17. Effective from 1 January 1994, appointment of members to the Veterans' Children Education Boards will be made according to the nominated person's ability to make a direct contribution to the students' education, in terms of providing guidance or referring students to other support services.
18.The Boards in each State will be constituted of at least five and no more than ten members, one of whom can be the Deputy Commissioner or a representative of the Repatriation Commission.
19.Appointment of members to the Boards will be made on the basis of application and subsequent interview selection process. The pre-selection interview will be conducted by the Board Chairperson and a person nominated by the Commission.
20. Commission will appoint an interim Board in each State from 1 January 1993 to and including 31 December 1993. Further instructions regarding appointment of Board members from 1 January 1994 will be issued.
Claim for Benefits
21.All applications received after the close of business 31 December 1992 will be processed in accordance with the revised Scheme.
22.Any claim for benefits for an eligible child must be made as a formal claim lodged on an application form approved by the Commission.
23.The current application forms, [Numbers D2566 and D2697(p1) Oct 92], should continue to be used until new application forms are designed and printed.
Payment of the Allowance
24.Payment of the education allowance will be made to the person specified under Part 3 - Education Allowances of the revised Scheme.
Leave of Absence
25.Leave of Absence from full-time study has been extended from two to three years. A student who has ceased full-time study for more than three years shall be ineligible to apply or re-apply for benefits under the Scheme and should be advised of the need to apply for an allowance under AUSTUDY.
Levels of Education
26.To enable administration of the payment of allowances throughout Australia to be consistent, the Scheme has been amended to refer to "levels of education", rather than particular years of primary or secondary school.
27.In States where Year 7 is the final formal year of Primary education, transitional provisions (VCES 9.1.1) allow for payment of the fortnightly education allowance during 1993. This provision will cease from 1 January 1994 and potential Year 7 students in the relevant States should be advised accordingly.
28.In cases where an allowance was granted to a student under the previous Soldiers' or Veterans' Children Education Schemes, transitional provisions (VCES 9.2.1) allow for payment to continue as appropriate.
Cancellation of an Allowance
29.In order for an education allowance to be cancelled prior to a student completing a course of full-time education, it will be necessary for the case to be referred by a Board to the Commission. The submission must outline the investigations which have been made and the reasons for the recommendation to cancel the student's allowance.
30.Provision will remain in the revised Scheme for the Board to consider funding for Special Financial Assistance and Additional Tuition. The maximum amounts for these additional benefits will remain the same as in 1992.
31.Special Financial Assistance will continue to be granted in cases where it is considered that exceptional circumstances have affected or will affect a student's progress. The updated "Guide to Supplementary Benefits, Part 6" will provide examples of instances in which Special (Financial) Assistance has been previously provided.
32.Funding for Additional Tuition may be considered in cases where an education authority establishes a discrepancy between the student's intellectual potential and the student's actual academic achievement.
33.The value of the tuition to the student's education must be considered, and where continued tuition has been requested, the Board should assess the effectiveness of previous tuition.
34.The list of Delegations, which authorises various Departmental Officers to determine cases on behalf of the Repatriation Commission, has been updated and will be issued through the State Program Manager, Benefits in each State.
THE SCHEME'S ROLE
Improved Client Communication
35.The survey of client groups, which was conducted as one part of the VCES review process, highlighted the fact that the VCES client groups, particularly those in country areas, do not seem to be aware of what the Scheme can offer in the way of benefits and advice, and what services the Boards can offer in terms of assisting students to achieve their potential in education.
36. The new Scheme will need to be promoted to the present VCES client group and those organisations associated with beneficiaries. In addition, wherever possible, a claim for benefits should be followed up with a telephone call or face to face interview to outline the benefits provided by the Scheme.
Guidance and Counselling
37.Guidance and counselling are unique and significant features of the VCES.
38."Guidance" refers to the advice offered to students regarding their educational progress, planning of their studies and other education related matters.
39."Counselling" refers to the advice provided by a qualified professional, which may be related to either education or personal matters affecting that student.
40.Providing educational guidance is seen as a function of the Education Boards, acting either individually or in small groups.
41.However, unless the Board member has specific qualifications to provide counselling, the student should be referred or encouraged to seek appropriate professional counselling.
42.From the surveys conducted with parents, students and teachers it became apparent that there is a requirement for the Scheme to act as a facilitator between VCES clients and the specialised services which already exist in the community.
43.It will be necessary for the Secretary and Boards to establish networks and "directories" of specialised assistance in the education fields and community areas in order to secure the most appropriate support services for VCES students.
Extending the eligibility criteria
44.The Review examined the need for an extension of eligibility criteria and recommended that guidance and counselling support benefits be provided through the Scheme for children of veterans with a diminished ability to provide "normal" levels of parental support.
45.Although the Commission has accepted this recommendation, it will be necessary to amend the Veterans' Entitlement Act to provide the legislative authority to extend the current VCES eligibility criteria. As this will take some time, the implementation date for this proposal is expected to be 1 January 1994.
46.Any enquiries regarding the revised VCES or the implementation of the procedures outlined above should be directed to Meleta James, Compensation and Review, on 06289 6457.
NATIONAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR
23 December 1992