Will Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) become the new VET FEE-HELP? Professor John Hewson, former national Liberal Opposition Leader, doesn’t refer to VET FEE-HELP, but his article in the Sydney Morning Herald (24 May 2018) makes clear his distaste for “a profit-seeking private sector keen to game the system” and tap into the Commonwealth Government’s “rivers of gold”, to come from NDIS.
Think pink batts and primary school construction programs, both of which Professor Hewson uses as examples as how not to run government programs.
Professor Hewson writes:
“The private sector rush is now on to get involved with the NDIS and home care packages. Again the capacity of depleted departments to handle the dramatic increases in numbers of people wanting to register is inadequate…. NDIS [costs will increase] … to more than $21 billion …. The number of people identified as having a disability is expected to quadruple.”
“With the NDIS, part of the rush is to register as a disability service provider. The registration process has been described to me as merely ‘tick and flick’. Not surprisingly, the number of providers is also expected to quadruple, into tens of thousands.”
“It seems that the private sector rush to get some sort of registration/accreditation for these and other programs is driven by a desire to either access the government’s “rivers of gold” directly and/or develop a fee-based service or consultancy business that in some cases will exploit the vulnerable.”
“If you had any doubt as to the private sector’s desire to be part of the defence gravy train, just stand at the baggage collection area at Canberra airport and note the dominance of large illuminated billboards advertising global defence contractors.”
“Australia cannot afford another large government spending program going wrong, particularly one that attempts to assist vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians. VET FEE-HELP has already damaged Australian VET’s reputation for years. It was a program badly set up, badly managed and let to run way too long,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.
“Professor Hewson’s warning about how the private for-profit sector has its eyes on the next government ‘rivers of gold’ must be taken seriously,” said Dr Perlgut.
“If you think the days of private sector rorting government programs are gone, think again. Australia’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has been given an increase in funds - from $21,233,000 in 2017/18 to $26,961,000 in 2018/19 - to cope with the increased numbers of non-university institutions that are applying for higher education status, The Australian tells us,” said Dr Perlgut.
“Although we applaud additional resources for TEQSA as the tertiary education regulator, this is NOT good news, because it indicates the continuation of a concerted and systematic push by the for-profit higher education sector to gain market share in Australian university education by accessing government-supplied loans,” said Dr Perlgut.
“What can VET FEE-HELP, pink batts and primary school facilities funding all tell us? Rushed Commonwealth Government funding programs – especially to the private for-profit sector – is open to abuse,” said Dr Perlgut.
Postscript on 30 June 2018: The Sydney Morning Herald reported today ("Shamed out of day care, companies set their sights on NDIS billions") that, "Family day-care operators whose businesses were found to be fraudulent or unsafe are now targeting the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme in new ventures." This reinforces the warning made by Dr John Hewson in May (see above). "The government is now rolling out a $209 million Quality and Safeguards Commission, an independent statutory body set to begin work in NSW and South Australia next month and all states by mid-2020," the article reports.