The provider claimed an educational outcome and got paid for an unnecessary course that involves the jobseeker doing nothing while sitting in a classroom for 5 days a week. He’s Australian from birth, and his literacy and numeracy skills are better than the instructor.”
— Specialist disability provider
There are people walking the streets encouraging young people with disabilities to sign up for training programs with offers that include the provision of ‘free’ iPads or laptops if they will sign up.
If individuals are unfortunate to be beguiled into signing, they incur a debt that then attracts interest and, while the course is ‘free’, the debt is anything but, and it may never be repaid.
Abuses of training programs including the offer of inducements to sign up for unnecessary or inappropriate training is rife at the moment — these waste taxpayers money, saddle people with disability with debt they will never repay, do not contribute to employment that leads to economic independence, and tarnishes the reputation of education, training and employment programs.
Capacity to provide valid consent
Many people with intellectual disability will find it difficult to understand the detail of complex contractual propositions without supported decision assistance.
Without independent safeguards this group of people will frequently acquiesce to the wishes of others particularly when subject to premeditated marketing techniques aimed to achieve a sale in the best interests of a business or service.
According to the specialist legal service, Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS);
“People with intellectual disability may need support in entering into contracts; i.e. they may need help to understand the nature and effect of the specific contract at the time it is made. The more complex the transaction and the higher the value of the property, the greater the understanding and help required.”(3)
IDRS state that help for people with intellectual disability to understand a contract may include;
- “having a support person present
- making them feel comfortable and not vulnerable
- having the contract read and explained in simple terms
- asking them to explain in their own words what the contract means
- asking questions that test their memory
- testing their ability to understand their needs and how to meet them
- asking questions that test if they understand when and how much to pay
- avoiding the use of questions that only need a “yes’ or “no” answer
- overcoming any speech problems
- avoiding nodding” or “smiling” etc. to influence answers
- checking for undue influence
- allowing time to think, or change their mind, or get independent advice.”(4)
These kinds of help recognise the impact of intellectual impairment in making informed decisions without undue influence. If, after this help, a person with intellectual disability does not understand the general nature and effect of the contract, then they are said to ‘lack legal capacity.’ It is clear that VET providers, and their associated marketing personnel and organisations, do not regularly provide safeguards and protections of this nature – nor does it appear that they are required to provide these minimum types of help, before signing up youth with intellectual disability.
Inducements such as iPads and laptops should not be permitted and should be considered a major non-compliance of standards and breach of consumer protection laws.
The Senate committee should recommend a minimum set of safeguards that include independent support to assist youth with intellectual disability before an enrolment for a VET course is approved for government funding.
Whereas Inclusion Australia knows that this level of support is explicitly needed for youth with intellectual disability, we are of the opinion that these kinds of help would provide universal safeguards and protections for all youth being offered VET courses due to the general vulnerability of youth due to their inexperience.
VET courses offered to youth should be highly relevant to their needs
Education, training and employment programs should provide services that highly relevant to the needs of participants. To be relevant, a program must first clearly identify what needs a participant has, and what is most relevant to meeting those needs.
What is most alarming for Inclusion Australia is that some VET providers are signing up youth with intellectual disability for courses which are inappropriate to their ability and capacity to benefit.
As a result, many will struggle to complete the requirements of the course, most are likely to withdraw and fail to complete the course, and failure will exacerbate an already fragile sense of self-esteem about being able to succeed in the adult world of work.
The costs of such failure to the individual, their families, their community and the nation is enormous. We are currently in the midst of a paradigm change where we wish to support youth with intellectual disability to increase their social and economic participation as opposed to traditional experiences of lifelong dependence on the pension outside the labour force.