Plenty to come with this huge scam, no wonder private training “Colleges” and the like are popping up like flies to a pile of shit.
Money for nothing, scrounge as much money as you can from the hopeless job seekers and the desperate with pathetic unneeded useless courses unsuitable for their needs, and signing them to huge debt, all for the gov kickbacks.
Falsifying applications, interviews, outcomes for more gov bonuses. What is yet to come, is the people behind some of these companies are retired or ex Federal and State MP’s who were smart (silly) enough to jump on the band wagon! These payments amount to billions over the time, and most in need get nothing out of it, nor have their circumstances improved.
The bloody rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Some involved with ICAC are yet to be exposed on gov contracts to house these gov job seeker services. Wrapping up long over valued leases.
New legislation to ban training providers from offering ‘miraculously’ short diploma courses
Training providers will be banned from offering “miraculously” short diploma courses, and from offering students incentives to sign up, under new legislation to be introduced by the Federal Government.
Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham said he was “very concerned” the Government’s vocational education loans scheme (VET FEE-HELP) was being abused and announced a range of measures to crack down on rogue providers.
“I’m very concerned about the range of distortions and abuse of the VET FEE-HELP scheme that’s occurring around Australia,” he told the ABC.
“I’ve had all too many examples of students who are being ripped off, vulnerable people taken advantage of, all of it being put on a tab for the taxpayer.
“So these reforms are designed to clamp down on dishonest behaviour, unethical behaviour amongst vocational education and training providers and make sure we restore integrity to a very important system.”
VET FEE-HELP is a HECS-style loans scheme that requires students to repay the Commonwealth once they earn a certain amount.
Senator Birmingham said he had heard “horrible stories” about dodgy training providers offering students laptops, meals, prizes and cash to sign up for courses that they did not need or would not lead to a job.
In some cases, he said students had been told the course in which they enrolled was free, when it was not.
“There’s no doubt that especially in relation to incentives and inducements for sign up, that has been a widespread activity over the last few months, if not couple of years since Labor opened up this system in 2012,” he said.
“Our reforms will shut the door on that.”
Under the changes, training providers would be required to have a minimum number of units of study in their diplomas and advanced diplomas, they would be banned from offering inducements or incentives to encourage students to sign up for courses, and they would be required to “properly assess” a student’s educational abilities before enrolment.
If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham
Training providers would also be banned from accepting course fees in a single up-front transaction, to give students more time to consider their options.
“We are addressing the gaping holes that existed in the guidelines when Labor opened the scheme up in 2012 and making sure that through doing that, we restore some quality to the system,” Senator Birmingham said.
The Government estimated the changes would prevent students from taking out $16.3 billion in bad loans over the next 10 years, but Senator Birmingham admitted it would come at a cost to the sector.
“That will come at some cost to the industry, but ultimately I’m determined that these measures will shut down bad business models,” he said.
“If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.”
According to Government figures, more than 180,000 students accessed the VET FEE-HELP scheme last year, taking out more than $1.6 billion in loans.
Evocca College under investigation by the Australian Skills Quality Authority after reports of low graduation rates
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
Figures obtained by the ABC show Evocca College has a graduation rate of about 10 per cent despite claiming more than $290 million in government funding via the VET FEE-HELP student loan scheme.
The figures show out of 38,213 students who signed up to its diploma courses in the past four years, only 2,058 were handed diplomas by October 2014.
There were 16,567 students who officially cancelled and 3,897 who timed out of the course.
The college said about 15,000 were still on track to graduate.
More than 20 former Evocca employees spoke to the ABC about questionable practices at the college after concerns about the training provider were first aired in January.
Since then the graduation rates of the college have been the subject of debate.
Now more allegations have come to light including that it enrolled students ill-equipped for diploma level courses without enough support, that it enrolled students who did not pass the required literacy test, and that it backdated tutor qualification forms to pass federal government audits.
Former staff claimed the college actively sought to hamper students who wanted to leave the college and cease adding to their government training debt.
An email obtained by the ABC shows the college sent an email to staff stating that “cancellation is a banned word”.
There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.Australian Skills Quality Authority chief commissioner Chris Robinson
The college rejected suggestions it was taking advantage of the the VET FEE-HELP student training loan scheme, which was opened up to diploma courses in recent years.
In a statement, a company spokesman said they had a team of people dedicated to reaching out to students who were not attending.
“In cases where we have been through all possible processes endeavouring to re-engage a student, but have not been able to do so, we will cancel their enrolment, and have many thousands of documented cases to back this up,” he said.
The spokesman said the enrolment figures were not accurate and did not take into account “the flexible model that we deliver in allowing students more time than many other providers to complete their courses at no additional cost, which provides for differing levels of ability and also a variety of personal circumstances”.
It comes after a senate inquiry into the training loan scheme handed down its interim report on Monday.
Under VET FEE-HELP students can borrow up to $96,000 from the government for training, plus a 20 per cent loan fee, but not make repayments until they earn more than $53,000.
The loans attract interest in line with inflation (indexation) and the level of debt accrued can affect people’s ability to take out some types of loans in the future.
Free iPads ending up at pawn shops
One of the key criticisms of many new players in the diploma-level training market is the use of incentives such as free laptops and iPads to sign students up to courses, and ultimately training debts.
In Sydney’s west the Mega Cash pawn shop around the corner from Evocca’s Mt Druitt campus sees up to five students a day trying to pawn their computers.
“I was getting about five a day, last week,” manager Dean Rasmussen said.
“We can’t take the iPads because as the college tells us, they still own them until the student finishes the course so they cannot legally sell it or loan [it].”
There are similar reports in other states.
Evocca has 40 campuses around Australia and enrols about 15,000 students.
Evocca said the computers were loaned to students in line with a scheme with Federal Government approval.
“They are provided as a necessary tool with which students may become familiar with technology and also complete their studies, especially as many do not have the immediate wherewithal to purchase their own,” a spokesman said.
Former employee Steven Fogerty said the computers were useless as learning tools because they did not come equipped with relevant learning software such as Microsoft Office.
“The concept of giving students an iPad is purely an incentive because they’re a toy,” he said.
Regulator to investigate
The federal regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, said it has been investigating a number of complaints about Evocca.
Chief commissioner Chris Robinson said some related to recruitment practices and others related to its operations.
He said the ABC raised new allegations the regulator was not aware of.
“We certainly are concerned about some of [the allegations],” he said.
“It would be very good if people have information and concerns in the way Evocca has operated to come through ASQA.”
He said the regulator audited 4,000 colleges in the past three years and suspended or chose not to renew many providers.
“Certainly not enough providers are fully compliant at all times,” he said.
“There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.”
Staff come forward
More than 20 former Evocca employees have come forward to the ABC with concerns about the college’s operation.
Mr Fogerty was a business management tutor at Mt Druitt campus for six months.
He said they regularly discussed at morning meetings the low educational ability of students recruited by the company’s sales agents.
“We’d all say we know this is wrong,” he said.
In vocational training, students typically progress through Certificates I to III or IV before undertaking a diploma level course, unless they have extensive workplace experience.
Mr Fogerty said he had one student who had vision and hearing impairments who was enrolled despite not writing 100 words as required by the Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) entrance test.
This student was then given little or no extra support despite his impairments.
“They would let anyone into this college. Your intellectual abilities were not even considered,” he said.
“If you were an Australian citizen and you could sign your name, you’re in.”
Other students included migrants with poor English skills, single mothers and elderly people, many of whom he said did not get appropriate learning support.
Evocca said it had a thorough pre-enrolment process that ensured students understood the requirements and were capable of completing the course.
“It is due to these self-imposed standards of closely vetting any potential student that, although we receive many thousands of inquiries annually, only 14 per cent of these result in enrolments,” a company spokesman said.
Claims of backdating forms
Former Queensland branch manager Michelle Naylor said when the college was audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority it deliberately backdated staff qualification paperwork to pass the audit.
“We were asked to go through everyone’s qualifications,” she said.
“If they didn’t have qualifications we were asked to sign a form called Working Under Supervision and unfortunately I had to backdate a couple of those to the term the tutors commenced work.
“I didn’t know I was supervising them, I thought they had qualifications and experience.
“I knew I was doing the wrong thing.”
The college denied any wrongdoing and said it would “update” paperwork of those who were required to be supervised while they were in the process of obtaining their Certificate IV in Workplace Training.
“This was an internal administrative process, which was in part designed to ensure some transparency and accountability for those who were undertaking this training, to ensure that it was completed in a timely manner, and that those being supervised were of an acceptable standard,” a spokesman said.
Students say they lose out
Dylan Palmer would travel three hours each day to study digital gaming at Evocca’s Brisbane campus.
He was referred to the course by a friend who received $100 cash from Evocca and Dylan received a free laptop.
“It was a lot of fun at first but as I went on it kind of jumped from point A to point C without ever really explaining point B and it just got really confusing for me,” he said.
I did struggle. It was very, very hard. There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.Leanne Fraser
The 21-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and said he did not receive sufficient support.
“Sometimes they’d just say ‘watch the video again’.”
He now has a $27,000 VET FEE-HELP debt.
Also in Queensland, single mother Leanne Fraser would travel two hours each day for a diploma in tourism.
She has multiple sclerosis and said there was no help for students with a disability.
“I did struggle. It was very, very hard,” she said.
“There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.”
A college spokesman said the Evocca teaching model was based on doing everything it could to support students.
“[There is] a robust system in place for the ongoing management of students, including regular one-to-one catch ups with tutors, to ensure that these objectives are achieved.”
23rd February 2015
Now, a Four Corners investigation shows how the scheme is being manipulated and, at times, systematically exploited. Reporter Linton Besser reveals the corruption at the heart of the program aimed at helping some of this country’s most vulnerable people.
He travels to suburbs where unemployment is a way of life. He meets Kym, struggling to find work and pull her daughter out of a cycle of poverty.
There to help are private and not-for-profit job agencies, paid by the Government to help find work for Kym and others like her. These agencies have blossomed thanks to the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1998, and are thriving on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Unemployment is now big business in Australia. Each year the Government spends about $1.3 billion on its welfare to work scheme.
But what happens when there are simply not enough jobs to go around?
What Four Corners discovers is a system open to abuse where the unemployed have become a commodity. Some agencies bend the rules, others break them.
“I would say about 80 percent of claims that come through have some sort of manipulation on them.” – Agency whistleblower
Four Corners goes inside the industry, finding shocking evidence of fraud, manipulation, falsified paperwork, and the recycling of the unemployed through temporary jobs.
Hours are bumped up, wages are inflated, and in many cases, vital evidence to support claims from the taxpayer appears to have been falsified. One former jobseeker tells Four Corners her paperwork appears to have been completely forged.
In recent years Government checks have forced some companies to pay back millions of dollars, but few are sanctioned. Former job agency employees say crucial internal records are adjusted in preparation for government audits.
“That, I guess, caused alarm bells for me… Claims that have been claimed, signatures that weren’t on them, and we were sort of told, you know, if the signature’s not on it, get it any way that you can.” – Former job agency employee
As the nation grapples with rising unemployment, Four Corners raises uncomfortable questions about the charities and profit-takers making a buck from Australia’s jobless.
“THE JOBS GAME”, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd February at 8.30pm on ABC. The program is replayed on Tuesday 24th February at 10.00am and Wednesday at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview
Government recovers over $41 million worth of false claims after ‘rorting’ of Job Services Australia scheme
The Federal Government has clawed back more than $41 million worth of false claims by private employment agencies in just the past three years.
The agencies are contracted by the Government under a privatised welfare-to-work program called Job Services Australia, a sprawling $1.3 billion-a-year scheme designed to get the unemployed into work.
A Four Corners investigation has found rorting of the scheme is rampant. Forgery, manipulation of records and the lodgement of inflated claims for fees are widespread.
One former agency employee said he had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records doctored by his agency to support suspect claims against the taxpayer.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department.Rupert Taylor-Price
The managing director of a private employment agency told Four Corners: “There are incentives to be involved in sharp practices from a financial and performance perspective.”
“We had to do the same thing [because] everyone was doing it,” the source said.
“The Government does not want to expose the whole industry.”
Three years ago a top-level inquiry into just one type of fee found spectacular rates of failure, forcing cancellation of that particular fee and prompting industry-wide ructions.
Ominously, the inquiry noted that just 40 per cent of the claims it examined could be confirmed by documentary evidence, or by the testimony of jobseekers and their employers.
The Abbott administration has made some changes to the scheme that take effect mid-way through this year.
But critics say these changes will do little, if anything, to stop widespread gaming of the contract.
Only one in 10 enjoy ‘a better chance of gaining employment’
The ABC has learned that fraud investigators attached to the Department of Employment have launched probes into many of the major agencies contracted to the program since its inception in 1998.
For-profit companies, including the market leader, Max Employment, have been investigated for particular allegations, as well as well-loved Australian charities including the Salvation Army.
There are a variety of means by which the contract is exploited.
The ABC is not suggesting that any particular agency is engaged in the full range of rorts, or other means by which the contract can be optimised.
But despite a long parade of whistleblowers detailing allegations of the misappropriation of taxpayer funds by some agencies, and highly questionable practices by others, the government has declined to detail instances where it has ever sanctioned any single agency operating under the scheme.
But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds. So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.Rupert Taylor-Price
In one case to be examined on Four Corners, investigators were forced to shelve their inquiries when they discovered a departmental official had explicitly told the agency that it could still collect fees for services the Government knew had never been delivered.
Rupert Taylor-Price, whose software company analyses government data generated by the program, says the scheme is being routinely “optimised” to the detriment of jobseekers.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department,” Mr Taylor-Price said.
“But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds.
“So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.”
He says he believes only one in 10 participants in the program enjoy “a better chance of gaining employment”.
The program was created 17 years ago, when the Howard government effectively privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).
The new policy created a pseudo-marketplace of jobseekers who were forced under Centrelink’s rules to attend private agencies, which would be paid to find them work.
Since then, more than $18 billion has been spent on the welfare to work program – first labelled Job Network, and now known as Job Services Australia.
It has been a cheaper scheme than the CES, but critics say it has also been far less helpful at assisting long-term unemployed people back into work.
‘You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there’
Academics and experts have repeatedly pointed out the glaring paradox at the heart of the program: how can these agencies have any impact on the unemployed when the number of jobless far outstrip the number of job vacancies?
“[The welfare to work program] patently hasn’t worked,” said Professor Bill Mitchell, director of Newcastle University’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity.
“It’s an impossible task … there’s not enough jobs to go around. You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there, and that’s the dilemma of the whole system.
“We’ve had a demand-side constraint – not enough jobs – and all this vigorous energy and money being poured into a supply-side initiative as if that’s the problem.”
Periodically, the jobs program has been mired in scandal. A major Productivity Commission inquiry in 2002 made adverse findings about the program, including that the long-term unemployed were being “parked”.
It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation.Former senior departmental investigator
Just three years after Job Network was launched, one prominent job agency was accused of shovelling thousands of people into phoney jobs.
In what has become a pattern, a subsequent inquiry cleared the agency of fraud but demanded the repayment of thousands of dollars.
Insiders have told Four Corners that department managers have been reluctant to tighten up the program’s governing contract to prevent blatant rip-offs.
“It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation,” said a former senior departmental investigator.
He said he had significant doubts about the will of successive governments to root out the fraud perpetrated against the contract.
“The department was more interested in getting its money back [than sanctioning agencies] … it’s very politically-driven,” the former investigator said.
The Department of Employment provided figures to Four Corners which showed that millions of dollars are routinely recouped from agencies, as a result of audits, self-identification by agencies and other “program assurance activities”.
In 2011–2012, $8.34 million was recovered.
The figure spiked to $23.81 million the following year after the inquiry into one particular type of fee.
And last year, another $9.12 million was reclaimed.
A department spokesman said typical repayments by agencies amounted to “less than 1 per cent of the amount paid each year”, and said it had “robust systems” to detect inappropriate claims for fees.
He would not answer a series of specific questions about past or current investigations conducted by the department.
“In cases of suspected fraud, matters are referred to agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” the spokesman said.
“Since 2006 the Department has made 38 referrals to the appropriate authorities.”
RESPONSES TO FOUR CORNERS
Statement in response – Four Corners Interview Request | 30 January, 2015
Statement by Salvation Army in response to Four Corners | 5 February, 2015
Letter of concern regarding the Job Network | November 1999
Job Services Australia review and evaluation | Department of Employment | 2014
Labour Force Figures, January 2015 | Australian Bureau of Statistics
Management of Services Delivered by Job Services Australia | Australian National Audit Office | 2013/14
ACOSS submission to APESAA | 2012
Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services | Whitlam Institute | UWS | 2011
A review of developments in the Job Network | Research Paper | Paliamentary Library | 24 December, 2007
Centerlink Quarterly Breach Data | Participation and activity test requirements and penalties for workforce age payments | 20 September 2003
Wage Subsidies | Job Access
Parliamentry Debate | Job Network question to Tony Abbott then Minister for Employment Services | 7 December, 1998
Unemployment | Topic Page | ABC News | Regularly Updated
Young Australians are not giving up on work, despite high unemployment | The Guardian | 17 February 2015
REMINDER: Why employment and unemployment are both rising in Australia | Business Insider | 16 February 2015
Social Service Agency Reacts to Welfare Contractor’s Controversy | Voice of OC | 17 June, 2014
Australia Unemployment Rate 1978-2015 | Trading Economics | 12 February, 2015
Job seeker funding still open to fraud, despite fee reforms | Sydney Morning Herald | 22 April, 2013
Federal Agency Finds Workfare Contractor Violated Wage Law | New York Times | 1 September, 2000
Job Services Australia | The Australian Government employment services system that supports job seekers and employers.
Jobs Australia | The national peak body for nonprofit organisations that assist unemployed people to get and keep jobs