Disability Employment Service providers lose Government funding over “poor performance”

Posted 1 year ago by Bianca Iovino
Disability Employment Service provides across the country will have some or all of their Government funding axed for services in a sector crackdown. [Source: iStock]
Disability Employment Service provides across the country will have some or all of their Government funding axed for services in a sector crackdown. [Source: iStock]

Many Disability Employment Service (DES) providers across Australia will lose Federal Government funding for some or all of their services due to “poor performance” as part of an overhaul of the disability sector.

More than 15,000 people with a disability will be affected, as six percent of services operated by DES providers nationwide are shut down.

The Federal Government has begun contacting 52 of the 104 national DES providers to inform them what services, if not all, will stop receiving funding, with eight providers earmarked to be effectively shut down from losing funding to all of their services.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth told ABC News that despite warnings, some providers still failed to supply adequate support for people with disability.

“Poorly performing DES providers were given every opportunity to put measures in place to improve and were aware of the formal review process,” says Ms Rishworth.

“It is vital that funding is directed to organisations who have proven they are delivering the best support to participants.”

A panel of commissioners heard evidence at the Disability Royal Commission that many DES providers were not achieving long-term outcomes for clients, with job placements ending abruptly or in some cases only lasting while subsidies were being paid.

Complaints were made of providers focusing on clients who were most likely to find work, while “parking” more disadvantaged job seekers and paying them little attention, or churning others through activities for little benefit.

Social profit organisation for people with disability, JFA Purple Orange, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robbi Williams says they have been concerned for a number of years about the poor performance and lack of long-term employment outcomes delivered by some DES providers.

He adds that this change is only a short-term solution and more needs to be done to properly support people with disability obtaining employment and staying in it.

“Moving forward, we would like to see the current DES review process lead to Government investment that reliably supports all people living with disability into authentic mainstream waged employment,” says Mr Williams.

“People living with disability deserve high-quality support to enter into and maintain genuine mainstream waged employment, not just to cycle through repeated short-term placements that often don’t match their skills or employment goals, or to be placed into some kind of ‘too-hard-basket’ and ignored completely.”

Anglicare Australia’s Executive Director Kasy Chambers says the Government’s changes to disability employment contracts should lead to more scrutiny on the rest of the system, as it often hurts people instead of helping them.

“This shake-up of disability employment puts welcome scrutiny on the system,” says Ms Chambers.

“Private providers are being paid millions of dollars to punish and breach people. Our research shows that the system is stopping them from finding work, harming people, and driving some to despair.”

People with a disability that will be affected by these changes will be moved to different providers nearby, and “mutual obligations”, or any requirements for them to seek work to earn disability support payments, will be waived for two months as the transition occurs.

Mr Williams says he welcomes the pause on mutual obligation requirements for those who are affected by this change, but urges the Federal Government to ensure everyone is informed, supported and their transitional period is streamlined.

“We urge the Government to take additional steps to ensure people are well informed and proactively supported based on their individual needs to make this transition so that they can take full advantage of new opportunities with another provider,” he says.

“Supporting people through what could be a challenging transition to a new provider with unknown staff and an unfamiliar environment will be a key factor in the extent to which better outcomes are achieved as a result of this decision.”

The review into DES providers began in March after it was first flagged as an issue towards the end of 2021.