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TAFE NSW is committed to services that support students with disabilities. Our commitment to providing educational opportunities for students with disabilities remains strong. In fact, we are broadening our reach across NSW, not reducing it. We are providing more accessible, better targeted and convenient training.
Students with disabilities make up around 10 per cent of our student population. We are a key provider of educational outcomes and qualifications to help people with disabilities move ahead to gain skills and be job ready. Commencing enrolments for students with disabilities are up by 10.6 per cent this year compared to the same time last year. This is higher than the projected forecast increase for all students. As the public provider, we need to make sure we are providing the necessary support to people with a disability when and how it is needed.
However, the way of providing that support can and should change to reflect changing needs and practices. The team at TAFE NSW is excited about improvements in technologies to support students with a disability and this technology means our support roles must adapt too.
The NSW Government provides Community Service Obligation (CSO) funding to enable TAFE NSW to provide accessible support services that help people with a disability to access vocational education and training. This budget is not changing. Additionally, all Smart and Skilled providers, including TAFE NSW, receive a 15% additional funding loading to support students with disabilities.
We take our legislative responsibility to support people with a disability very seriously, but more importantly, to support every student so they have the opportunity to succeed. Each individual will continue to be supported and have input into how that support is provided. More integrated approaches will only provide better support. We are committed to ensuring that everyone is given the opportunity to access vocational education. Additionally, we need to be clear and transparent on how we use this funding to make sure we maximise the benefit for the people who need and receive that support. We cannot justify paying for resources that might sit idle. We look towards a support model that clearly identities the needs of our students and where necessary, procures that support if it is outside of our expertise.
Importantly TAFE NSW needs to work in the context of other changes, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). TAFE NSW will take a state-wide approach to the provision of its disability support services and work closely with NDIS providers to ensure learner support provided by TAFE NSW maximises students' opportunity to succeed, not duplicate or add additional cost to Government.
Additionally, the Government has made adjustments to Smart & Skilled that reaffirm its position on enabling access to vocational education for students with a disability. From 1 January 2016, people with a disability and people who are the dependants of Disability Support Pension recipients are exempt from fees for any Smart and Skilled qualification they undertake, regardless of the number of qualifications in which they enrol or the level of the qualification.Previously there were restrictions around the number and level of courses.
The NSW Government's Directions Statement for Vocational Education and Training, released in July 2016, states that students will also be able to declare their disability at any time during the course of their training rather than just on enrolment.
These changes help to remove barriers to training experienced by people with a disability and simplify the enrolment process for training providers and students alike.
TAFE NSW is committed to providing quality skills training and support for students with disabilities.