In our third article exploring the new Disability Employment Services (DES) Quality Framework, we look at indicators and measures crucial for effective DES quality reporting. 

Within the context of DES, quality underpins the outcomes achieved for participants. The new Framework will examine how providers deliver quality employment and broader social and economic outcomes for participants. 

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is designing the measurement process against the Framework in collaboration with the sector to ensure accuracy and fairness. A Quality Framework Reference Group has been established and we’re eagerly waiting to hear more about the proposed self-assessment tool and quality assessment processes. The original timeline suggested that the updated Quality Framework with agreed indicators and measures would be published on 4 September 2023. Here’s what we know so far: 

Initial Assessment  

Each quality element will be individually measured and rated for every DES provider in the initial phase. This assessment will be conducted through existing DES provider engagement processes involving DSS Funding Agreement Managers and Relationship Managers. This process will incorporate a provider self-assessment, using a matrix to ensure consistent assessment of quality indicators. The assessment will initially use a two-point rating system – “meeting expectations” or “requiring improvement.” This assessment is being developed and is expected to be piloted during the second half of 2023 to establish a quality baseline. These ratings will eventually be incorporated into formal quality scorecards starting in the first quarter 2024. Supporting tools will be developed to guide this assessment process and strike a balance between consistency and flexibility. 

Provider Self-Assessment 

DSS is collaborating with DES providers to establish a rubric, enabling consistent self-assessment by outlining a continuum of quality for each element being assessed. The four elements include participant rights, understanding quality, provider capability and compliance. This self-assessment will also allow DES providers to share information on activities to achieve quality element outcomes and how feedback and responses contribute to achieving these outcomes and driving continuous improvement. DES providers must begin reviewing and planning how they will demonstrate their performance on the four outcomes. 

Quality Scorecards 

DES providers will receive detailed quality scorecards mapped against the quality elements to guide continuous improvement. These scorecards will be based on quality assessment ratings, self-assessment, site visits, and relevant data held by DSS. They will offer an insightful review of feedback against each quality element, analysis, and recommendations for improvements. This process will ensure DES providers actively contribute to shaping their scorecards, allowing for adjustments and additional information before finalisation. 

The Measurement Approach 

The assessment process will involve a combination of qualitative and quantitative evidence. We know that participants’ voices are a key priority in the Framework and their perspectives across all elements will be considered through “meaningful engagements”. In addition, other evidence will include employer and community service perspectives regarding the quality of services from DES providers. Other evidence will include the providers’ approach to continuous improvement, audit outcomes, site visits and complaints data. 

Collecting feedback and perspectives from participants, employers and communities is core to measuring the Framework. It is recommended that providers consider a range of ways for these stakeholders to provide their views. In the first instance, DSS will gather these perspectives through self-assessment using the DES providers’ own engagement processes. Demonstrating your employer and community engagement capabilities will be a new and important part of the Framework. 

For example, conducting service reviews with your employers and community groups will provide excellent evidence to DSS on how your teams’ services are perceived.  These reviews should focus on the past, present and future so you can demonstrate overall satisfaction levels and future intentions to continue engagement.  Such reviews are best done in person; however, undertaking online or telephone surveys is also an option. 

Whatever route is taken, providers should view this compliance task as an essential means of measuring stakeholder satisfaction which, in turn, is important for generating referrals and showcasing your impact for the forthcoming DES tender. 

Preparing for DES Quality Reporting 

With the formal quality scorecards set to be launched in the first quarter of 2024, indicators and data will play a pivotal role in DES Quality Reporting. Prospert recommends that DES providers make proactive investments in projects to improve data and business intelligence now to demonstrate performance for the new disability employment services model, which is set to commence from 1 July 2025. Providers need to review their qualitative and quantitative data channels to ensure quality information is captured and used to inform continuous improvement. If you’d like to discuss how business intelligence can drive improvements for your DES program, contact our team at Prospert today.