Consultation period

21 August 2017 - 12:00 am To 8 September 2017 - 5:00 pm

Disability Employment Services Reform 2018 – National Panel of Assessors – Industry Information Paper – Questions and Answers

  1. What is happening with the National Panel of Assessors (NPA) contracts?

Members of the NPA support DES by providing independent assessments for the Ongoing Support element of DES, the Supported Wage System and workplace modification assessments for the Employment Assistance Fund. NPA services will remain largely unchanged and the current NPA contracts will be extended from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 to align with the end of the current DES Deed.

To streamline NPA application assessments, the purchasing process is expected to be conducted concurrently with the DES Grant Application process, and will contain two parts, one at an organisational level and the other at an ESA level.

  1. We are currently providing NPA services within the current DES contract. Do we need to complete the Registration of Interest process? Are fees for NPA services being reviewed to include travel as part of the DES Reforms?

Only providers seeking to deliver DES-DMS and/or DES-ESS will be required to register through an unrestricted Registration of Interest process, as outlined in the DES Reform 2018 Industry Information Paper.

Information about the application process and fee structure for the new National Panel of Assessors (NPA) Standing Panel will be published on the Department of Social Services DSS Engage website in the near future.

  1. Can you confirm whether the NPA Grant application process is 4 or 6 weeks?

The grant process will be conducted over 6 weeks.

  1. The new National Panel of Assessors (NPA) contract is called a Grant Application. What does this mean?

The NPA grant application process will be for membership of the DES-NPA 2018 standing panel of NPA Assessment Services. The grant application process will be administered by the Community Grants Hub on behalf of the Department of Social Services under a Whole of Australian Government initiative to streamline grant processes across agencies.

  1. The Disability Employment Services Reform 2018 Industry Information Paper (June 2017) states that: “A refresh of the National Panel of Assessors (NPA) will occur at the same time as the new DES program takes effect from 1 July 2018” and “The service will remain largely unchanged” If it is to “remain largely unchanged” what does “refresh” actually mean?… and will the ‘refresh’ include indexing the fees paid by DSS for OSAs, SWS assessments and Workplace Modification assessments. The paper confirms “indexing DES payments to maintain their real value”. Will this also be done for assessments fees paid to NPA providers, given that no fee increases have occurred since NPA began?

The Refresh refers to the creation of a new contracting period from 1 July 2018. NPA assessment services will continue to be OSA, SWS and Workplace modification assessments. All NPA Assessment fees will be indexed from 1 July 2019.

  1. The SWS has been in existence for many years and remains largely unchanged from its original model. Are there any plans for a major review, including consultation with NPA providers and their SWS assessors to address inefficiencies, performance issues, quality controls and poor knowledge of SWS amongst a significant number of DES providers?

There are no plans for a major review of SWS at this time. All DES providers will be expected to understand and use available programs and support, including SWS, to assist eligible DES participants into employment.

  1. At some stage in the future, will SWS assessors also be conducting SWS assessments for all ADE supported employees? Has a decision been made about a modified SWS assessment tool for ADEs and a requirement for all ADEs to have their workers with disability assessed by an independent SWS assessor – rather than continue using one of the many DSS approved wage assessment tools that are currently under scrutiny?

On 19 June 2017, parties engaged in a Fair Work Commission (FWC) conciliation process agreed to a proposal by the unions to amend the Supported Employment Services Award 2010 (SES Award) to include variations to the way the Supported Wage System (SWS) operates in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) which choose to use the SWS under the SES Award. The variations to the SWS seek to provide a more accurate and fair assessment of productivity using the SWS in ADE settings.

The amendments will vary the operation of the SWS under the SES Award only. The operation of the SWS will not change in open employment.

The proposal will be formally submitted by the parties for the consideration of the Full Bench of the FWC in August and September 2017. If agreed by the Full Bench, the amendments will not require ADEs to stop using other wage assessment tools. ADEs can continue to use any approved wage assessment tool under the SES Award, as long as those tools remain in the Award.

Parties in the FWC have not been able to agree on the application of the unions to remove all wage tools with competency-based components from the SES Award and have asked the FWC to arbitrate this matter.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) administers the SWS only. Other approved wage tools under the SES Award are not owned or administered by DSS. Employers make independent industrial decisions about the wage assessment tools they use.

  1. If the engagement of providers for the NPA contract is expected to be “conducted concurrently with the approach to market for the new DES program” (i.e. next month), why haven’t NPA providers been given any details of:
  • Changes to NPA program delivery requirements (e.g. possible introduction of OSAs at 26 week job seeker employment outcomes)?
  • Assessment fee increases?
  • NPA Performance expectations?
  • Any I.T.T. process, Expression of Interest and/or Grant Application procedure for continuing (or commencing) as an NPA provider post-July 2018?

Both the New Disability Employment Services from 2018 Discussion paper released in November 2016 and the Disability Employment Services Reform 2018 Industry Paper released in June 2017 are available publicly on the Department of Social Services ENGAGE website. The Department expects that all Participants the DES Provider determines as needing Ongoing Support and that have achieved a 26 week employment outcome (and are tracking towards a 52 week outcome), would be referred for an Ongoing Support Assessment.

  • Assessment fee increases? Please refer to Question .5.
  • NPA Performance expectations? Performance expectations will be included in the information provided through the application process.
  • Any I.T.T. process, Expression of Interest and/or Grant Application procedure for continuing (or commencing) as an NPA provider post-July 2018? Information about DES NPA 2018 and the application process will be made available soon on the Department of Social Services’ Community Grants Hub website.
  1. The November 2016 DES Reform Discussion Paper stated:

“there is merit in considering introducing an independent Ongoing Support Assessment at the 26-week employment milestone for those participants that cannot be exited as independent workers” and “better targeting of Ongoing Support” would result from “bringing forward the first independent Ongoing Support Assessment” Post-July 2018, will NPA providers be conducting an OSA at the job-seeker’s 26-week employment milestone? What other employment or Ongoing Support milestones will (or will no longer) trigger an OSA?

Please refer to response above (8). The Department will provide further advice if there are other changes to the way Ongoing Support Assessments will work.

  1. Is the ROI for the National Panel of Assessors also due to close on 29 August? Our organisation has submitted an ROI for the DES Registration of Interest and I am confused if we are to submit the NPA ROI as well.

There is no Registration of Interest (ROI) for NPA.

Organisations who submit an ROI for DES do not have to submit an ROI for NPA.

Information about the application process is outlined in the NPA Industry Information paper published on the website.

  1. I understand the NPA process is open for a period of six weeks from September, is that 1 September or another date in September?

As outlined in the National Panel of Assessors Industry Information Paper, the DES-NPA 2018 grant application process is expected to open for six weeks from the second week of September 2017. Please note that this is indicative only and timeframes may change. Please check with the Community Grants Hub Website for up-to-date information regarding the timeframe.

  1. I am a current NPA provider. I would like to nominate new NPA assessors – am I restricted in applying for them to only cover my current NPA ESA’s, or can I apply to have them deliver assessment services in other ESA’s or indicate that they will perform national coverage, as an indication of future intentions?

Any new assessors you wish to nominate now for Department Accreditation must be to deliver services within your existing ESA coverage. You may wish to change their service delivery location in the future if your organisation’s ESA coverage changes.

  1. It appears that the fees for the provision of the various services are based on a rate of $120 per hour. It also appears that the Department would like some Vocational Education and training providers including TAFE Institutes to deliver some of these services. Please advise if this is the case.
    If this is the case $120 per hour appears to be insufficient as a Diploma Qualified teacher will cost a TAFE more than $120 per hour. Funds will also be required to manage and administer the services. Given this, is the rate likely to change?

As per the NPA Industry Information Paper, the eligibility criterion (3.1) identifies the various entity types eligible for consideration during the grant process. The Department does not have a preference of the type of Provider to deliver the services, however it is essential that all nominated Ongoing Support Assessment, Supported Wage System and Workplace Modification Assessors have the necessary skills and qualifications to undertake assessments for the Department. This includes having an appropriate level of experience in the disability employment or disability services industry and an understanding of employment support requirements for people with disability, including workplace barriers. While the funding structure outlined in the Industry Information Paper will not be revised prior to the Grant Application, the Department, in its absolute discretion, may index the Grant Payments annually on 1 July. The first indexation point will not be before 1 July 2019.

  1. I note that the fees for the OSA, SWS and hourly rate for the WMS remain unchanged from the current fees and these have been unchanged since 2010. Is there any opportunity that these will be revised prior to the Grant Application?
    As occupational rehabilitation providers, the average hourly rate sits between $165- $200/ hour. This current suggested fee structure may mean that exceptional providers do not bid as it is not financially viable. I would appreciate feedback on how this structure was arrived at.

Thank you for your feedback about the funding structure for OSA/SWS and WMS assessments. While the funding structure outlined in the Industry Information Paper will not be revised prior to the Grant Application, the Department, in its absolute discretion, may index the Grant Payments annually on 1 July. The first indexation point will not be before 1 July 2019. The indexation value is at the Department’s absolute discretion, but will be based upon the Disability Employment Services funding envelope which is provided to the Department annually from the Department of Finance.

  1. For providers currently not delivering the National Panel of Assessors, can the following information or links to this information be provided?
    • List of current National Panel of Assessors and the Assessments they complete
    • Data on the volume of Assessments completed by Assessment Type

    This information is useful for providers as part of the approval process to submit an application.

A list of current NPA providers is attached to the Supported Wage System (SWS) Handbook, which can be found on the JobAccess website.

NPA assessments completed in 2016-17
Assessment type 2016-17
Ongoing Support Assessments 11,340
Supported Wage System Assessments 6,577
Workplace Modifications Assessments 1,178