By Warren Heggarty
Under the VET FEE-HELP loans system of funding vocational education, unscrupulous providers used high pressure tactics and inducements to sign people up to courses. Often the people were living on welfare and unable to carry the cost of the education. Worse, it seemed that many people were not even completing the courses that were leaving them out of pocket. Some who were signed up were not even aware they were enrolled.
According to a report in The Australian newspaper, the old system ‘ransacked more than $6 billion from the public purse in four years.’
The federal Education minister Simon Birmingham described it as a ‘monumental disaster’ and has announced that a new system would be introduced from January 2017.
Under this new scheme there will be limits set on loans, providers will need to prove their good faith, and only courses that align with industry demand will be eligible for VET Student Loans. Barriers to new providers entering the market will be set much higher to stop those who are not genuine.
• The workplace can be a great source of free training.
• VET-FEE HELP is a LOAN. Loans have to be repaid.
• Be especially careful of agents and brokers. Don’t deal with anyone offering “free” merchandise.
• Don’t give your tax file number to anyone unless you are sure of their credentials.
The moral of the story is that you have to be very careful what you sign up for. Even though the government has rejigged the VET system, you cannot put blind faith in all the bugs having been removed.
And because many cases are still before the courts, it is not possible for Panorama to give you a list of the dodgy colleges. However, bear in mind the rules shown in the green box.
Panorama also asked the Department of Education and Training what Flourish Australia staff can do if one of the people who access our services gets into difficulty with the student loan set up. For example, if they have been taken advantage of while acutely unwell. You should advise the person to gather as much information as possible and pass this on to the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training VET FEE HELP. But there is no guarantee that the Department would be able to help, so again: Beware!
Some previous rort reports
• Some agents and brokers have allegedly been passing on people’s Tax File Numbers to multiple providers.
• The government continued to provide funding to $140 million over three years to a private college despite the fact that students enrolled in it saw immediately that it was a scam.
• An instructor who worked for one private college testified to the Federal Court that ‘not a single student from one cohort of 80 studying on line’ ever responded to her emails.
• ‘A woman fined $120,000 for fabricating 11 bogus qualifications in aged and disability care used them to trick the training regulator into setting up her own private training college.’
• One report claimed that the VET FEE-HELP loans scheme ‘has created massive wealth for several private college owners…’
According to Rick Morton of the Australian The ‘rush to get training certificates for the family day care sector, which has been seriously rorted by more than $1 billion, was fuelled by the $6 billion fraud of the vocational education sector in a symbiotic raid on government funds.’
Information taken from reports by Julie Hare, Kylar Loussikian, Rick Morton and Natasha Bita of the Australian Newspaper and Eric Bagshaw and Kelsey Munro of the Sydney Morning Herald throughout 2015 and 2016.
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Flourish Australia Employment Services General Manager: Marty Golding, Program Manager, Disability Employment Services: Julie Duong. Panorama Employment is a regular supplement of Panorama magazine, Contact Warren.Heggarty@flourishaustralia.org.au, Grant.Everett@flourishaustralia.org.au. (02) 9393 9021, 5 Figtree Drive, Sydney Olympic Park 2127.
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