“Inclusive. Accessible. Diverse” is the title of the Australian Government’s consultation report on the new Disability Employment Services model and a bold goal for employment in this country.

The report’s release coincides with the much-anticipated Jobs and Skills Summit, where reducing barriers to employment will be a crucial topic. In addition, Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, will host a roundtable on disability employment later this month.

At time of writing, the current Disability Employment Services (DES) program ends on 30 June 2023. The new model will prioritise choice and control for people with disability and support for employers.

Women in wheelchair using computerImproving the employment experience

Most stakeholders agreed that employers need two key supports from employment service providers to employ a person with disability successfully.

First, at a minimum, employers must undertake broad disability awareness training and specific training related to the disability type of their employee/s. It was also positive to see that disability organisations recommended that people with disability co-design and deliver this training.

Second, the new model should deliver ongoing supports to employers during the first 12 months. This support is essential to the placement’s success and assists with adjustments and career progression.

Opportunities for employment service providers

One of the key issues highlighted in the report is the need to improve engagement with employers.

Interestingly, stakeholders recommended that disability employment services providers require more training on how to engage employers on the benefits of hiring a person with disability while also addressing any work health and safety concerns. In addition, supporting employers through job carving or negotiation activities was considered important.

Again, stakeholders recommended that training be designed and delivered by people with disability. In addition, providers should focus on employing a diverse range of people to better reflect and connect with their clients.

Key priorities highlighted in the report

Some of the other common priorities highlighted in the report include:

  • Reducing barriers for people with disability to allow better access to employment services
  • Providing better wrap-around supports and clearer information for people with disability participating in employment services
  • Offering greater flexibility and focus on a person’s ‘right to choose’
  • Streamlining program administration to reduce the burden on all parties

The public consultation is a key step in the process of designing the new model. More than 150 organisations provided submissions in addition to workshops and focus groups.

The tide is turning for disability employment

With COVID19 substantially impacting the employment services market, there hasn’t been sufficient time to effectively measure and evaluate the 2018 reforms. However, from our experience, many disability employment service providers are starting to realise positive outcomes from their efforts to educate employers about inclusive employment practices.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that the Government take a continuous improvement approach to maximise the program’s current strengths while enabling providers to trial new innovations. A consistent framework and application of trusted tools and techniques will make a difference in winning employer trust and gaining referrals to their business peers.

Indeed, in our experience, many of the best practitioners of the art of employer engagement are in the Disability Employment Services program. Displaying empathy for employers whilst confidently overcoming objections to hiring people with disability has set these individuals apart.

Prospert has long advocated that more can and must be done to meet employer needs and convert them to become champions for employing people with disability. Our current labour market means that we must tap into the skills and talents of everyone.

For more information, about our Effective Employer Engagement training visit Learn@Prospert.