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24/1994 1994 Release of New GOs - Practice & Procedure
Central Office Instruction
amending General Orders (1993 edition)
Instruction No. 24
Date of Effect: 22 March 1994
RELEASE OF NEW GENERAL ORDERS
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURAL MATTERS VOLUME
The purpose of this instruction is to formally issue two further parts of the new General Orders. The two parts are for inclusion in the Practice and Procedural Volume and cover the subjects of:
PART 1 SUBSIDY PROCEDURAL MATTERS
PART 3 DATA ENTRY PROTOCOLS
When the decision was taken to write and issue a completely new set of General Orders following the bedding down of the Subsidy Scheme, it was agreed that the new document would contain two volumes. The first volume would cover 'Legislation Interpretation & Policy' and the second volume 'Practice & Procedural Matters'.
Four parts of the first volume were issued in October 1993 and the two parts of the second volume as listed above were dispatched to all State and Regional Offices on 16 March 1994.
Part 1 relating to 'Subsidy Procedural Matters' represents those matters which were part of the former General Orders but which are not considered to be policy issues as such. The purpose of this Part is to provide general guidance and information on procedural matters associated with implementing and administering the policy outlined in the Legislation Interpretation & Policy Parts. It is not intended that this Part be taken to be a comprehensive procedural manual for all tasks undertaken. Rather, State Program Managers and delegated officers are to use their own discretion in such matters. Procedures should be flexible enough to take account of any local arrangements, yet at the same time result in clients receiving uniformly high standards of quality service and advice from all Departmental Offices.
The earlier Legislation Interpretation & Policy Parts are aimed at achieving a uniformly correct and fair way of dealing with all casework under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918. They place the same rights and obligations on clients and staff irrespective of State Office boundaries.
In addition to policy considerations, there are some procedural matters which also need to be addressed in a uniformly acceptable way and these matters are set out in the 'Subsidy Procedural Matters' part.
The purpose of establishing Data Entry Protocols is to enable data to be recorded in a consistent manner across all data entry points and to facilitate any data interchange.
The Data Entry Protocols are included as Part 3 of the 'Practice & Procedural Matters' volume of the DSH General Orders as a ready reference instruction for all staff to adhere to when entering data into the ADP Systems. The protocols provide a standard form of data entry in respect of client details (including correspondence address details).
The protocols are developed to cover the vast majority of data entry needs, but there will be rare cases where the number of characters required to be entered exceeds the maximum allowable for that particular field. In such cases, unless the protocol provides for the use of the next line field, staff are to use their judgement on an appropriate abbreviation, which will, of course, mean a break of protocol.
Changes in Policy or Practice
In preparing the new procedural General Orders the opportunity to examine and revise our approach to a range of issues has been taken and all staff are urged to become familiar with the content of this new part. In particular, the following changes are brought to attention:
The allocation of file numbers was the subject of Central Office Instruction 20 effective from 1 January 1993. This instruction has been revised and incorporated into the new GOs as 1.1 and Chapter 2. The system changes that have occurred in Insurance since that COI was issued have also been taken into account. COI 20 is therefore superseded by this issue. Please destroy copies of COI 20 and delete it from the list of operative COIs.
Action to be Taken Regarding False Declaration
The content of new GO 1.4 reflects the changes that have occurred in relation to these matters within the Department since the publication of the Benefits Prosecution Guidelines. Action to be taken by the Housing Sub-program is to conform with the remainder of the Benefits Program.
Marriage of Two Eligible Persons Each in Receipt of an Advance
The old GOs 34.2 and 34.3 prescribed the subsidy cancellation action to be taken where two eligible persons, each in receipt of an advance, become the husband or wife of the other. The power in ss.26(4) of the Act is discretionary, but as a matter of policy, was exercised in most cases as far as is known. It must be remembered though, that this power preceded the amendments allowing portability and the pooling of entitlements. As such, the policy to cancel in every case is outdated. This was hinted at in the Entitlement GO 3.7.9, but in hindsight, a stronger policy message perhaps should have been conveyed in that GO. The opportunity has therefore been taken to propose a change of procedure in the Procedural GO 1.5 and to reflect a change of policy in an amended Entitlement GO 3.7.9. A copy of the new Entitlement GO 3.7.9 will be issued in the near future.
Term/Review/Cancellation of Relief
On close examination of the legislation covering the relief provisions it became evident that there is no legislative power to review or cancel Instalment Relief during the currency of a Certificate of Entitlement granting instalment relief for a specified period. This has been confirmed by legal advice. As a result, it became necessary to rewrite the GOs covering this subject, but there is no change to the basic philosophy of the policy contained in the old GOs. This has been achieved by suggesting a normal term for instalment relief of 12 months and setting a maximum term of two years.
The absence of legislative power to review or cancel relief also impacts on the action to be taken on the marriage or death of a relief recipient, as well as when a relief recipient ceases to occupy a property.
Relief Term - Recurring Expenses
The policy to limit the normal term for instalment relief to 12 months and to set a maximum term of two years also impacts on the arrangements for assisting with the payment of recurring expenses. There is no legislative provision to issue a certificate for recurring expenses without a corresponding application. Your attention is drawn to new GOs 3.3 and 3.4.2 for further details.
Term - Essential Repairs
It should also be pointed out that the policy in the former GO 41.8 did not allow the term for repaying an advance for essential repairs to exceed the balance of term of the current subsidised advance. The new GO 4.3 refers to these arrangements as the norm but correctly points out that the legislation provides for a longer term if considered necessary. A client could incur financial hardship if this provision was not considered as an option at the time of utilising the benefit. It might even cause the client not to proceed to apply for a benefit to which he/she is legally entitled.
Relief - Inclusion of Cost of Technical Advice to Widow/Widower
Other changes made reflect our changed role from mortgagee lender to subsidy provider and our gradual withdrawal from some of the more paternalistic/bureaucratic practices such as the seeking of documentary evidence of repairs to be carried out through quotes and technical inspections. In this regard the former GO 40.19 stipulated that any charges for inspections by a consultant will be payable by the widow direct to the consultant, but if payment of the fee would cause hardship, she may be reimbursed from the Widow Advance provided one is approved. Bearing in mind that we no longer have the technical expertise of Work Supervisors as we had in the past, and the fact that the Minister's Hardship Guidelines enable a fairly mechanical approach to deciding whether a widow/widower is suffering the hardship defined, it is considered entirely appropriate to allow the cost of any necessary technical expertise provided to a widow/widower to be included in the overall cost of the work to be done as a matter of routine. This is consistent with the Government's often stated policy of assisting the elderly to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible. Because of the Hardship Guidelines we would normally be in a position to judge whether a widow/widower is likely to be successful in her/his application before she/he incurs any expense in obtaining independent technical advice. The new GO 3.4.1 has been written along these lines. That new GO also mentions that details of the repairs required should be obtained from the widow/widower or her/his representative and that a technical inspection and report will not normally be requested.
The changes to the General Orders covering appealable/reviewable decisions in Chapter 5 are the result of input from the Benefits Compensation and Review Branch.
Copies of Parts 1 and 3 of the new 'Practice & Procedural Matters' volume of the General Orders, covering 'Subsidy Procedural Matters' and 'Data Entry Protocols' respectively, have been forwarded under separate cover. They are to be added to the GOs folders provided in October 1993.
In addition, sufficient copies of the 'Data Entry Protocols' have been provided so that all staff, in both Subsidy and Insurance have their own copy. It is essential that all staff involved in data entry tasks adhere to the protocols except, as mentioned earlier in this Instruction, in the very rare circumstances where one does not apply.
This opportunity is also taken to issue an amended Index to the 'Subsidy Procedural Matters' part following a late change to the pagination of the document at around the printing stage. The new Index is attached.
18 March 1994