Jane Scott

Person with disability

I am a job seeker with a disability. I have been receiving the “services” of Disability Employment Providers since about May 2013 after I was forced to give up teaching English as a Second Language due to injury related to my disability. I have a good employment history. I have been a client of three providers. I constantly find myself wondering what it means that they are “specialist Disability Employment Services”. My experience in the current system strongly suggests that the government is very keen to punish people for being un/underemployed but has little interest in providing appropriate support to identify and address the issues that keep people like me unemployed. The underlying attitude seems to be “if you’re unemployed, it’s your own fault and you (and your family) will suffer until you pull your socks up and get a job”. My husband has a full time low-wage job. The fact that I have been unable to find more employment means he has spent the last few years on a very tight budget despite having full-time employment and that doesn’t look like changing.

Since 4/7/16, I’ve applied for around 60 jobs and been interviewed for 10 of them. My qualifications include two Bachelor Degrees and a Masters. At present, I have eight hours a week work in a bookshop, as a level 1 casual. It’s not lack of effort on my part that keeps me underemployed.

Most of my consultants have sales or admin backgrounds. They are not experienced in general recruitment, let alone specialists in disability recruitment. They do not routinely work with me to identify and address the specific issues that keep me underemployed. When I attend appointments they sympathise about the difficulties of finding a job and ask me what kind of help my want. That’s not so that they can tailor their efforts to me as an individual. It’s because they don’t know how to help. All the system seems to require is that they log the fact that I attended the appointment. They are not “employment providers” they are “role markers”. I presume they are called employment providers so that the government can make it sound like they are offering a useful service but there seems to be no requirement for my “employment provider” to do anything which will increase my employability. They are often nice people but they don’t have the right skills to do the job and meeting them often costs me valuable time I could otherwise spend applying for jobs. When I was an English as a Second Language teacher, I knew what my students needed to improve their English. I was trained to provide it and I did. I didn’t ask my students to formulate the lesson plan. My “employment consultants” offer little in the way of effective strategies. They’ll give me feedback on cover letters and applications if I ask them to, though even when they do, I often have little confidence in its value. Most of them have made some adjustments to my resume (the adjustments made by one provider made it incorrect). Once they are satisfied that I can write a decent application, they seem to think their only task is to ensure that I keep doing it. One provider had an occupational therapist on their team. Several times, I asked to talk with her to discuss matching my particular limitations with the right employment opportunities and what kind of assistive technology might help, so that I could target my applications appropriately. They refused to give me an appointment with the occupational therapist. They said I would meet with her only after I got a job to discuss what help I needed in the job. Recently, I filled out a job application for Vision Australia which asked me whether I had a disability and what kind of adjustments I might need them to make if I got the job. Clearly, employers want me to be able to address that question before I am placed in the job, not after. Over two months ago, I asked my current provider to connect me with a rehabilitation counsellor. No progress. I want to work and I have a good work history. I need access to people who are genuine, trained specialists in disability recruitment so that I can get a job, get on with my life and pay taxes.

I can change providers but I have no real way of knowing which ones are better. The information available about the specifics of each service is minimal until you are signed up and every time you change, you lose a month or so of service in the transition. The most useful service I have accessed so far is https://biginterview.com/ . It’s an American website run by a recruitment specialist and has helped me learn how to write effective applications and perform well in interviews. If the government offered all job seekers a three month subscription to it, it would be money well spent.

I have not, until now, been asked by the government to evaluate and give feedback on the quality of the services provided, which seems incredible given the length of my underemployment and the amount of money the system must cost.