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Program 1.5: Veterans’ Children Education Scheme

Objective

Program 1.5 provides financial assistance to eligible students under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986Veterans’ Children Education Scheme (VCES) and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme (MRCAETS) to assist with their education needs.

Overview

The VCES and MRCAETS grants are paid to eligible children of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who have died or have been severely injured as a result of service. The schemes provide financial assistance, student support services, guidance and counselling for eligible children to help them achieve their full potential in education and career training.

The grants cater for children undertaking primary, secondary and tertiary study and are normally provided only for full-time study within Australia.

Expenses

Administered and Departmental expenses
  2012–13 PBS1 ($ million) Estimated actual2 2012–13 ($ million) Outcome 2012–13 ($ million)
Administered 16.5 16.1 15.6
Departmental 3.0 2.8 3.0
Total resources 19.5 18.9 18.6

1 PBS in performance reporting tables means Portfolio Budget Statements.

2Estimated actual means the estimated expense or total for 2012–13 provided in the 2013–14 Portfolio Budget Statements. As the Budget is released in May each year but the financial year does not close off until 30 June, the current year numbers in the Budget can only be estimates.

Deliverables

DVA will:

  • process new claims under the VCES and MRCAETS
  • deliver financial assistance and allowances to eligible students.
Number of students receiving assistance
  2012–13 PBS Estimated actual 2012–13 Outcome 2012–13
Quantity: Number of primary students receiving assistance 717 717 711
Quantity: Number of secondary students receiving assistance 1401 1401 1040
Quantity: Number of tertiary students receiving assistance 920 920 901

Key performance indicators

Critical errors
  2012-13 PBS Estimated actual 2012-13 Outcome 2012-13
Quality: Critical errors <5% <5% 3.8%

Report on performance

Number of students

At 30 June 2013, 2713 eligible students were in receipt of an education allowance.

The number of students receiving assistance fluctuates over the course of an academic year because:

  • some students finish their courses mid year (TAFE and university courses)
  • commencing students can become eligible at different times throughout the year
  • course commencement and cessation dates vary depending on the course type and duration
  • some students commence full-time work and cease to study or vice versa.

The allowance for primary students is $245.40 per year; the fortnightly allowance for secondary and tertiary students ranges from $50.40 to $495, depending on the student’s circumstances.

Table 12 shows the total number of students supported by the schemes on a quarterly basis in 2012-13.

Table 12: Total number of students supported under the schemes in 2012-13
July 2012 October 2012 January 2013 April 2013
2902 2911 2566 2713

Over recent years there has been a small but consistent annual decline in the number of students supported by the schemes. The total number of eligible students in receipt of an education allowance decreased from 2899 students at 30 June 2012 to 2713 students at 30 June 2013. The decline in large part reflects the schemes’ eligibility criteria, which require that support be provided only to eligible children of ADF members who have died or have been severely injured as a result of service. In light of this it is expected that overall student numbers will continue to decline.

In early 2013, DVA followed up with all potential beneficiaries who had not submitted a claim, to identify any concerns or barriers preventing them from accessing the schemes. Analysis of the responses indicated that key reasons for not submitting a claim included:

  • the children were not of school age at the time the advice about the schemes was circulated and the parents/guardians did not remember to claim when the children began school
  • guardians did not think that grandchildren, step-children or other children in their care would be eligible
  • some people may not have fully understood the information provided to them about eligibility for the schemes at the time they were granted the relevant pension.

In response DVA is taking steps to better promote the schemes and improve awareness around eligibility criteria by establishing a dedicated Education Schemes page on DVA’s website; including articles in Vetaffairs; amending Education Scheme factsheets; and ensuring updated advice is provided to potential beneficiaries early in each school year.

A further factor contributing to the decline in participation is that, once a student turns 16, their family cannot receive both the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) paid by the Department of Human Services and a payment under the education schemes.

Changes to the FTB payments have resulted in some families with students aged 16 to 18 choosing to receive FTB rather than continuing to seek support under the education schemes. These students remain eligible for mentoring and counselling and other non-financial support available under the schemes and every effort is made to ensure families and students are aware of their continued eligibility for these non-financial forms of assistance.

In early 2013, DVA began collecting data on the number of eligible students who receive non-financial assistance under the schemes. In 2013 this support included additional tuition for some students and special financial assistance to help with such things as occupational therapy sessions for a student with dyslexia and providing internet access to aid research for a student undertaking year 12 studies. Table 13 provides further detail.

Table 13: Total number of students receiving non-financial assistance in 2013
Type of assistance received Number of eligible students
Additional tuition 287
Special financial assistance 26

Quality

The critical error rate of 3.8 per cent in 2012-13 was within the target of less than five per cent.

Australian National Audit Office Report

On 30 April 2013, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) tabled the report of its audit into the administration of the schemes. The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of DVA’s administration of the schemes against three main criteria: delivery of client service; advising clients and stakeholders; and reporting and evaluation.

In its report the ANAO noted that the two schemes comprise a mature program and that DVA has effective administrative practices in place to accurately determine client eligibility; to process claims; and to make payments. It was noted that in the student sample examined by the ANAO, eligibility was accurately assessed in all cases and benefit entitlements were paid in accordance with legislation.

The ANAO made two formal recommendations, both of which were accepted by the Department.

The first recommendation was that the Department conduct a review of both schemes to identify any changes necessary to further align current administrative arrangements with the legislative Instruments, and to consider aspects of the legislation within the context of broader education policy.

The first recommendation was that the Department conduct a review of both schemes to identify any changes necessary to further align current administrative arrangements with the legislative Instruments, and to consider aspects of the legislation within the context of broader education policy.

Scholarships

In 2012-13, tertiary students living away from home were entitled to receive an annual relocation scholarship payable at the rate of $4048 in their first year away from home, $2024 in their second and third years and $1012 for their fourth and subsequent years. These scholarship payments were made to 269 students in 2012-13.

Student Start-up Scholarships are also available to assist tertiary students to cover up-front higher education fees, including textbook and equipment fees. They are payable at the rate of $1025 each semester. In 2012-13, 701 students received these scholarship payments.

Long Tan Bursary Scheme

The Long Tan Bursary Scheme is available to the children of Vietnam veterans who have Australian residency status and who are enrolled or plan to enrol in post-secondary education in Australia. The scheme is administered by the Australian Veterans’ Children Assistance Trust on behalf of DVA.

Bursaries of up to $9000 each are awarded over a three-year period. Recipients receive their first bursary payment once acceptance of the award is notified, usually in March. In 2012-13, 76 applications from eligible children were received. From this group 50 bursaries were awarded for courses as diverse as engineering, science, law, journalism, education and nursing.

Further information about the scheme is available on the DVA website
at http://www.dva.gov.au/consultation-and-grants/grants/grant-and-bursary-programs/long-tan-bursary.

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