Disability Employment Services Reform – Disability Employment Reference Group – First Meeting
On 16 November 2016, the Department of Social Services convened the Disability Employment Reference Group to consider policy proposals for the next Disability Employment Services (DES) contract, which commences in 2018, and the broader challenge of improving engagement of employers in employment of people with disability. The Reference Group includes representatives of people with disability, disability employment service providers, and employers.
The first meeting considered a number of proposals set out in the New Disability Employment Services from 2018 discussion paper released for public consultation on 2 November 2016. The discussion paper is available on the Department of Social Services’ Engage portal (engage.dss.gov.au).
At the meeting the Reference Group discussed and broadly supported proposals for improving engagement of employers in employment of people with disability and for creating a more open and competitive market for provision of Disability Employment Services. The proposed changes seek to improve the employment outcomes of people with disability. Discussion included how these proposals could support greater choice for people with disability accessing support to gain employment, with a greater focus by providers on attracting and supporting participants, ensuring access to information and being responsive to their needs and aspirations. Members emphasised the importance of carefully managing the transition to new contracting arrangements, to ensure that high performing DES providers are able to adjust and respond to changing market arrangements. The Reference Group called for strong employer engagement during the development of DES policy, provision of information to help DES participants understand their new choices, and retention of specialised servicing arrangements.
Further meetings of the Reference Group on 25 November and 12 December 2016 will discuss other proposals from the discussion paper, including mechanisms to create greater choice and control for people with disability in receiving the employment services they need to find a job in the open labour market.
Stakeholders have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the new DES model, by providing input through Reference Group members or by lodging a submission, through the Engage portal, by 5:00pm EDST 16 December 2016.