Trial to shed light on inefficient Disability Employment Services

Posted 1 year ago by Bianca Iovino
Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, at Australia’s Disability Strategy National Forum on Wednesday. [Source: Twitter]
Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, at Australia’s Disability Strategy National Forum on Wednesday. [Source: Twitter]

A new Government trial will connect job-seeking National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants with a Disability Employment Services (DES) provider, but industry stakeholders have begun sharing their concerns about the pilot scheme.

Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, announced a pilot scheme will be established to help lift the employment rates among people with disability at Australia’s Disability Strategy National Forum on Wednesday.

Ms Rishworth hopes the pilot will “contribute to a stronger understanding of ‘what works’ in the context of DES”.

“The unemployment rate for people with disability is more than double that of working age people without disability,” she says.

“The rates of disability employment have remained largely unchanged for almost 20 years. Of course, not everyone wants to work, but it is vital we ensure the choice is there.”

The pilot, which will be trialled in five locations, is expected to begin in early 2023 for people who don’t have mutual obligations, meaning they will not face penalties while participating in the DES program.

Currently, NDIS participants can choose to engage with a DES provider and the pilot aims to better connect people with disability with a provider.

The pilot announcement follows the recent Government decision to delay the DES reform for two years in order to undertake further consultation, saying the reform process was not sufficiently progressed under the former Government.

Disability advocacy group, JFA Purple Orange, shares the concerns of many other advocates about DES in Australia.

“We are pleased that the Government is looking at new approaches and ways to better understand interactions that people have with DES providers, however, we share the concerns of many other stakeholders about the current DES system,” says Mr Robbi Williams, Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

“If this trial helps to uncover better information about what is and isn’t working with DES, that is a good thing.”

Despite the positives that could come from this trial, Mr Williams questions how insightful the trial will be and whether it will improve the number of NDIS participants getting back into the workforce.

“Nevertheless, we would temper expectations about the extent to which this trial can produce better employment outcomes for NDIS participants without more fundamental changes to the current DES model, something that the ongoing review process will hopefully address soon,” he explains.

“More broadly, we believe that there is a real opportunity to create and pilot more innovative solutions that involve stronger links with industry.”

Upon hearing of the pilot, the Antipoverty Centre criticised the Government for failing to listen to criticism of the DES scheme from within the disability community.

Spokesperson, Kristin O’Connell, told The Guardian, “The NDIS is far from perfect but increasing the involvement of Disability Employment Services providers can only make things worse.

“DES has been failing disabled people for as long as it’s existed.”

In Australia, almost 2.1 million people with disability are of working age but about 93 per cent of unemployed people aged 15 to 64 with disability have faced difficulty finding employment.

About 37 percent of working-age NDIS participants – or about 108,000 people – had an employment goal in their NDIS plan.

Do you access Disability Employment Services? What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below.