VET FEE-HELP Unfair Debt wiped under Redress Scheme after Vocational College collapses

Bianca Hackett sitting at a desk next to shuttered windows holding a mobile and writing in a book

PHOTO: Bianca Hackett says she wasn’t looked after when the Sage Institute collapsed. (ABC News)

Another example of …

appeasing the ideologs rusted onto the view that the private sector can do it better

dogma driven dedication to reducing the possibility of having or providing workplaces that may enable/have union members providing such training

-frustrating but in the name of providing ‘choice’ the commitments are needed to maintain a publicly funded training system

REMEMBER this when it comes to the next round of ELECTIONEERING AND SLOGANEERING …B.S. …

WHAT an effing mess!

VET FEE-HELP unfair debt wiped under redress scheme after vocational college collapses

7.30 By Paul Farrell

16 DECEMBER 2019

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Bianca Hackett always wanted to study child care. But just months after signing up for a diploma, her training college collapsed.

Key points:

  • Bianca Hackett was left with an $18,000 debt when her training college collapsed
  • The VET Ombudsman has more than 7,000 active complaints
  • A government redress scheme has seen almost $500 million of unfair debt written off

She quickly found herself with an $18,000 debt and no qualifications.

“There was a lot of reassurance that we would be looked after, and we weren’t,” Ms Hackett told 7.30.

“I’ve suffered depression and anxiety ever since.”

Ms Hackett is one of thousands of students who were victims of vocational training college providers operating under what was known as the VET FEE-HELP scheme.

Under the VET FEE-HELP scheme, registered training organisations received federal subsidies upfront from the Federal Government for signing up students to training courses.

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“There really was a lack of rules or protections built into this scheme, which meant that private providers or marketers even could sign students out and get paid straight away just for the enrolment,” Gerard Brody from the Consumer Action Law Centre told 7.30.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has pursued some college owners for running “ghost colleges”, which operate fraudulent enterprises with no real teaching in order to reap those subsidies.

In some extreme cases, students were even signed up for courses without their knowledge.

‘Very stressful, very upsetting’

Sage training college advertisement

PHOTO: Sage training colleges collapsed in 2017. (Supplied)

Ms Hackett signed up for a childhood diploma at the Sage Institute in Brisbane in 2016.

She paid an $18,000 fee that was added to her VET FEE-HELP loan and was excited to attend classes.

“It was really professional,” she said.

“You got your uniform, you got a backpack, all that kind of stuff.”

But in 2017 she received a message on Facebook advising her not to come in because the college had closed.

Sage eventually ceased trading due to insolvency and all its campuses across the country closed. It was not one of the colleges pursued by the Australian Federal Police for any wrongdoing.

Ms Hackett tried to find another college to accept her to complete her training but because she had already taken out one loan, she was unable to take on another.

“It was very stressful, very upsetting,” she said.

“Just not knowing where to go, not knowing what to do.”

Debt wiped

Head shot of wearing glasses and suit with no tie

PHOTO: Gerard Brody says unfair debts cancelled by the redress scheme so far may only be the tip of the iceberg. (ABC News)

The Federal Government has made significant changes to tighten up the scheme.

It abolished the debts and renamed the fee scheme VET Student Loans.

And it created a redress scheme to waive some existing debts.

In October this year, Ms Hackett learnt she could take up her concerns with the VET Ombudsman under this scheme.

She lodged a complaint in October, and just weeks ago received welcome news; her debt would soon be waived.

“I’m relieved that the debt’s gone,” she said.

*“But I’m still very disappointed and feel let down.”

Mr Brody said the redress scheme was working well to resolve unfair debts, but he believed there may be thousands of students who still have debts some potentially without their knowledge.

“I worry that it’s the tip of the iceberg, given there was over $6 billion involved in the scheme overall,” he said.

Complaints up 200 per cent

Bianca Hackett sitting on a chair holding her sleeping daughter in her lap

PHOTO: Bianca Hackett says the college collapse and debt took an emotional and financial toll on her family. (ABC News)

The latest figures from the VET Ombudsman shows that a staggering $462 million in bad debts was wiped from 36,000 students since the redress scheme came into operation.

There are strong indications that figure could rise — there are more than 7,000 active complaints still with the ombudsman, and a wait of up to 12 months to assess them.

There has also been a rapid spike in the number of complaints in the last three months, with a 200 per cent increase in the July to September 2019 period.

There are likely to be other students, like Ms Hackett, who are still unaware they can potentially have their debts wiped.

“It’s happening over the place. And it shouldn’t be,” Ms Hackett said.

“We’re the ones who suffer from it mentally, emotionally and financially.”