Disability Employment Services Reform – Disability Employment Reference Group – Second Meeting
The Disability Employment Reference Group reconvened for its second meeting on 25 November 2016, to consider proposals for changes to Disability Employment Services (DES) for 2018 and beyond. The second meeting considered a number of possible changes focussed on providing DES participants with greater choice and control in seeking the assistance they need to find a job, as well as supports provided to some people with disability and their employers to help them maintain their employment.
The Reference Group broadly agreed with proposals that provide greater flexibility for providers and participants to negotiate the assistance required to obtain a job, and the ways in which that assistance can be delivered. There was also acknowledgement that greater flexibility needed to be balanced with approaches that ensured transparency and accountability in service delivery.
Representatives for people with disability discussed the interaction of DES with Mutual Obligation requirements; noted the importance of harnessing best practice across a program with more flexible settings; and recognised that further work was needed to support participants to take advantage of changes intended to increase participant choice and control.
Employer representatives discussed the need for a clear statement to employers of offerings and recognised the importance of support to employers, through tools and resources and through addressing misconceptions about employment of people with disability.
Reference group members also acknowledged the differences between NDIS and employment services in stepping towards individualised funding. There was general acceptance that a shift to participant-controlled funding is not yet supported by evidence of whether and how this might work in employment assistance, or clear models to ensure that participants could take advantage of such an approach. There was support for undertaking research to explore such approaches, alongside introducing arrangements from 2018 to ensure that participants have increased choice and that funding follows the participant when they choose and when they change providers.
Members also accepted the need to reform workplace supports through DES, including Ongoing Support and Jobs-in-Jeopardy (including a better name for the latter).
Further meetings of the Reference Group are currently scheduled for 12 December 2016 and 3 February 2017 to discuss the outstanding elements from the discussion paper, as well as undertaking preliminary discussions on the options for transitioning to new arrangements. Noting the Reference Group’s call for strong employer engagement during the development of DES policy, a separate forum, specifically for employers, is being held on 8 December 2016.
Stakeholders still 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 until 16 December 2016 at engage.dss.gov.au.