Following extensive research, discussions, and consultations, the Australian Government has committed to establishing a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence. The goal is to increase the employment outcomes of people with disability while also improving the capacity of employment service providers and employers to better meet the needs of this diverse group. A total of $1.1 million has been allocated to develop the Centre, with the goal of making it operational by July 2024. 

This week, the Government released an Options Paper on a proposed model for the Centre. While the Options Paper was generally well received by the sector, it hasn’t been without criticism. Some have expressed concerns that a Centre might be perceived as ‘window dressing’, re-researching an already well-established issue. Disability advocates are pushing for the establishment of clear targets and comprehensive disability inclusion plans, with governments taking the lead in setting an example. 

In this article, we provide an overview of the Options Paper and offer our preliminary response to the key topics it addresses. The key themes highlighted in the Options Paper include: 

  • Creating a ‘one stop shop’ to streamline access to disability employment services for individuals, families, employers, and service providers. 
  • Focusing on evidence-based practices, including high-quality research and translating findings into practical guides to continually improve disability employment. 
  • Building the capacity of the employment services sector with tools, support, and training, with a focus on addressing capacity issues in underserved regions. 
  • Ensuring a key quality control function to oversee compliance, monitor interactions with government programs, and set benchmarks for excellence in disability employment. 
  • Consolidating and analysing data, encouraging collaboration among DES providers and promoting data-driven improvements. 
  • Bringing together accessible information and resources about what works to support people with an intellectual disability and ensuring accessible formats. 
  • Driving collaborative competition, fostering cooperation, information sharing, and inclusivity through the coordination of a Community of Practice within the sector. 

The Centre aims to engage several key stakeholder groups, including people with disability and their families, employment service providers, employers, supported employment services, and disability advocates. It also provides several potential models for delivery including: 

  • Research centre model: A structured unit, collaborating with universities, research organisations, governments, and businesses to advance disability employment research. 
  • Clearinghouse model: A central repository that collects and disseminates research with a focus on organising and translating research into action, primarily through a website.  
  • Evidence-informed training hub: A training hub that conducts evidence-based training, working with employers and service providers. 
  • Statutory agency: An agency that conducts research, regulatory functions, and reporting on disability employment service delivery, potentially enforcing decisions and elevating the importance of disability employment.  

Feedback and input from a wide range of stakeholders will be crucial in ensuring the success of the proposed Centre for Excellence in Disability Employment. You can make a submission here. 

Prospert is actively working on our submission and is encouraged by the focus on training and skills development in the Options Paper. Our submission will emphasise the importance of building the skills of employment consultants and their leaders, supporting career growth, and addressing the demand and supply sides of employment services. 

At the same time, we recognise that employers need better support to understand barriers faced by people with disability and to build their capacity to make adjustments that enable people to participate in meaningful work. We believe employment services have a key role to play in advocating and educating employers. 

Prospert supports the call for increased collaboration across the sector. Driving cooperative competition or “co-opetition” through a Community of Practice will encourage shared learning and resources across the sector. Read our previous blog on ‘Co-opetition’ to learn from international case studies. 

We propose a larger focus on measuring employer satisfaction and engagement as part of evaluating the performance of the employment services sector. We are calling for better use of data to establish regional/national/international benchmarks and gather constructive feedback that providers can act on to enhance their services. 

The unemployment rate for people with disability has not shifted in 30 years. It’s clear that Australia needs to work harder to remove barriers to employment. Prospert remains committed to contributing our insights and expertise to these important consultations. We’re committed to continuously improving our work with providers and look forward to the positive impact this work can have on the disability employment landscape.