While the much-awaited 2023 Budget did not have any major announcements related to employment services, it did contain several initiatives aimed at better supporting disability employment and providing targeted assistance to First Nations people and remote communities.

The Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, says economic growth is expected to slow down in the short term, but unemployment is predicted to remain low. Inflation is a primary economic challenge, but real wage growth is expected in 2023-24, with inflation forecasted to decrease from mid-2024.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the key investments and initiatives and what they mean for the employment services sector.

Disability employment:

  • $41 million through 2025-26 for the supported employment sector to provide people with disabilities and high support needs access to a wider range of employment opportunities. Around 160 supported employment organisations can apply for grants to assist them in upskilling supported employees, building the capacity of their support workforce, or implementing innovative business models.
  • $11.7 million budgeted over four years to establish a disability employment advocacy and information program for supported employees, their families, and carers. This program will provide information and support to help people with disabilities navigate the employment market and find meaningful work that suits their abilities.
  • $1.1 million to undertake initial research, design and consultation work in preparation for the delivery of the Government’s election commitment to establish a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

Other initiatives:

  • The redesign of the $436.4 million Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is also a significant initiative in the budget. The program will be redesigned to allow more people over the age of 15 to access training to improve their literacy, numeracy, and digital skills. This will help increase their capacity to gain secure employment and experience career progression.
  • $15.2 million over two years to support the establishment of the Y Careers Agency by YMCA Australia to provide young people with employment opportunities in the care economy, including the early childhood education and care, disability and aged care sectors.
  • $5.7 million over two years to extend the Time to Work Employment Service for First Nations people who are incarcerated in non-remote prisons. This funding will provide more support for those leaving prison and seeking employment, connecting them with employment services and reducing the likelihood of recidivism, and improving social outcomes.
  • $54.3 million to improve completion rates for Australian apprenticeships. This funding will help ensure that more apprentices complete their training and gain the skills they need to enter the workforce.
  • $168.1 million over four years for the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme. This funding will provide more targeted support for job seekers, young people, First Nations communities, and Pacific Island workers. The scheme will also bring domestic operations in-house to enhance scheme oversight and participant welfare.
  • ParentsNext will cease from 30 June 2024 and be replaced with a new, voluntary program co-designed with parents. Mutual obligation requirements have already ceased from 5 May 2023. This will help ensure that parents have more control over their own employment pathways and are not subject to overly onerous requirements.
  • $100 million for an Outcomes Fund which will see the Federal Government partner with states, territories and social enterprises to tackle disadvantage by funding projects that deliver agreed outcomes in communities. In addition, $11.6 million will fund a Social Enterprise Development Initiative, which will support ‘for purpose’ organisations such as social enterprises and charities to build their capability to access capital and support improved social outcomes.

It’s pleasing to see the budget’s focus on improving the lives of people struggling with the cost of living. The increases in JobSeeker, Commonwealth Rent Assistance and Single Parent Payments are steps in the direction – but more is needed to support people in our community struggling to make ends meet. Our sector has a crucial role to play in understanding how the rising cost of living impacts job seekers. After all, it’s hard to search for a job when you can’t afford to put food on the table.

We hope to see more significant and positive announcements related to employment services in the 2024 Budget, and that we are on a path towards a fairer and more just society for all Australians.

In the meantime, revenue diversification opportunities arising from the Federal Budget are worthy of consideration, including:

  1. Skills for Education and Employment contracts which are due for submission later this year;
  2. Revamped ParentsNext program which, although voluntarily, still appears to have significant funding over the forward estimates;
  3. Closely engaging with Australian disability organisations to assist them in applying for grants and transitioning to their future state; and
  4. Exploring opportunities and partnerships to create social enterprises that deliver employment outcomes in local communities.

Contact our team if you are interested in exploring the feasibility of these opportunities. One of our specialties is Government bid management where we have a proven track record in service delivery design as well as winning and retaining contracts and grants.