A particular funding announcement in the 2018-19 Federal Budget will help Australians with disability be better supported in their search for a job.
The Disability Employment Services (DES) program supporting people with disability to find and maintain employment has undergone some major changes.
“Over the next four years, the Australian Government will continue to invest over $3 billion in DES and associated services to help people with disability get long-term employment,” a Department of Social Services spokesperson says.
An additional $300 million over the next 10 years will also allow payments to DES providers to be indexed for the first time, meaning individual rates of payments in the program will be increased by a measure of inflation.
“This will ensure DES providers can continue to support people with disability to look for work, without the funding they receive to provide that support being reduced in value, over time, by inflation, that is, by increases in wages and other costs,” a departmental spokesperson says.
The reformed program will improve participant choice and control, provide incentives for providers to place job seekers into employment, increase competition and include a trial which will expand DES eligibility to students in their last year of school.
The DES can be divided into two parts. The Disability Management Service helps job seekers with a disability, injury or health condition who need assistance in finding a job and receiving occasional support to maintain employment, whereas the Employment Support Service supports job seekers with permanent disability in finding a job while providing ongoing support to keep the job.
A new panel of large, medium and small for-profit and not-for-profit organisations will deliver the reformed program from 1 July 2018.
Under the reform, people with disability will have more control over choosing their provider to ensure they receive the correct individualised support required to enter the workforce. If they wish, participants can change their provider up to five times over two years.
“DES providers will now have to attract job seekers to their organisation instead of receiving a guaranteed share of referrals from Centrelink and more of the funding offered to DES providers will be tied to supporting people into lasting employment,” the departmental spokesperson says.
“It is anticipated this new competition between providers will drive improvements in the quality of services offered to people with disability.”
The reform will also mean the number of providers across Australia will increase from 117 to 137, with provider sites across Australia to increase from roughly 2,000 to about 5,000.
According to the Government, the DES program has helped 400,000 people with disability find work placements between March 2010 to March 2018.
However, Therese Sands, Co-Chief Executive Officer of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) says more needs to be done to ensure the success of the DES program.
“This is only an interim measure over two years, and won’t address concerns that the DES system has largely not succeeded in supporting people with disability to gain and maintain employment,” she says.
“This measure also doesn’t provide the supports people with disability will need to make informed choices about DES providers in the reformed system.”
Ms Sands implores the government to establish a more successful national strategy to help people with disability find meaningful, paid employment.
“Often people with disability are locked out of paid work which entrenches structural inequality. We want the government to develop and implement a National Employment Strategy or Jobs Plan for people with disability.”
For more information on the program or to find a DES provider, visit the JobAccess website