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Armed Forces: Private Education

Volume 457: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what system of accountability is in place to monitor the decisions made by service personnel who have children in private education funded by his Department; what checks are made of (a) claims issued and (b) allowance sought; whether inappropriate claims can be recouped; and whether disciplinary action can be taken following misuse of funds. (125023)

All three services are required to ensure that all Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) applications are strictly in accordance with current regulations so that the allowance is only paid to those eligible and meets the Department’s aim.

The aim of CEA is to assist service personnel to achieve continuity of education for their child(ren) that would otherwise be denied in the maintained day school sector if their child(ren) accompanied them on frequent assignments both at home and overseas. On receipt of the allowance it is a parent’s choice whether to educate their child(ren) in either a state maintained or private boarding school.

A service applicant must acknowledge formally that they are submitting a CEA claim in accordance with current regulations. Also, they must certify that their family will move with them to their new duty station whenever their service requires them to do so. This is known as family mobility and is a significant commitment for a service family. Therefore, should a service person fail to move their family with them when they are assigned to a new duty station, then their entitlement to CEA will be reviewed. This may result in the allowance being stopped and the service person required to repay any CEA they have received prior to that posting.

At all times, the service claimant must fully accept that accompanied service is the overriding principle for maintaining CEA entitlement. Accompanied service is when a service person maintains a home in which their spouse/civil partner and any dependant child(ren) normally live and from which the service person travels daily to work. However, there are a few exceptions to the accompanied service criteria, but these only apply when it is unreasonable for a service person to be accompanied by their family, such as when they are undertaking an operational deployment. In such circumstances, the services ensure that CEA is only paid strictly in accordance with current regulations.

CEA is now administered by Joint Personnel Administration (JPA), which undertakes a number of automatic checks for all claims. JPA will check:

(a) that the claimant has a current mobility certificate and if the certificate is more than three-years old, or the service person is re-assigned or a child changes school, then a new mobility certificate must be completed. This will automatically prompt a review of the service person’s entitlement to CEA;

(b) that the child for whom the claim is being submitted is registered as a child of the claimant. This will also check that the child is between the ages of 8 and 18;

(c) that the state maintained or private boarding school in which the claimant wishes to place their child(ren) is registered on the Ministry of Defence Accredited Schools Database.

JPA will also limit the service claimant to one claim for each child per term. In addition, all claims are subject to manual authorisation by either service or civilian human resources (HR) staff. They will consider every claim and the claimant must provide receipted bills for the previous term’s school fees to their HR authoriser before any payment is approved. If, upon investigation, a claim is deemed to be fraudulent or contrary to regulations, then administrative action is undertaken to recover in full these payments. In addition, following an appropriate investigation, this could result in disciplinary action against a claimant.