After having experience on both sides of the Disability Employment Services system I can provide a few insights into the culture and capitalist nature of the contracted businesses working in the space.
As an Employment consultant the business comes first regardless of the needs of the participant unless addressing the participants needs will protect the business from having a complaint lodged with the Department.
Employment Consultants are not provided with any training or support to support and engage with the extensive range of disabilities they are faced with. From manic depression, personality disorders, PTSD, Delusions to Domestic Violence and sexual abuse. Even as a facilitator to engage with support services you need the skills to effectively engage with the multifaceted range of conditions you are faced with.
Data integrity. In my time working in DES I saw and was pressured to change notes, create false notes and appointments, change dates on documentation (including employment dates) I also saw instances of falsified signatures on department documentation. It is common practice to make as many appointments face to face even though many of the appointments are via phone or never even occurred.
Culture in the industry is not supportive of staff and I have experienced as did many of the people i work with bullying, intimidation, manipulation to the point where you either had a mental break down or left the business. This is a large part of the reason for high turn over in the industry.
From a participant side of things they have untrained staff, limited funding support especially in areas desperately needed and most find themselves with a new employment consultant every few months.
The goal of DES is to support participants to reach the point where they can safely and confidently engage in employment. The star ratings system pushes DES providers to “motivate” their staff in any way possible to force participants into work so they get the income and star ratings from the placements. In many cases the participant falls out of employment and it set back further than they were when they started the service.
Funding is utilised ineffectively and very little focus is placed on managing the impacts the disability has on the participants ability to work. In many cases with training, funding, the right support and time many participants have the ability to enter employment and maintain their employment. Unfortunately, placements for DES providers is the focus regardless of the participants ability to work.
Referring to DES. Centrelink’s referral system is shocking very few attempts are made to engage with participants when assessing the impacts of their conditions on working ability and the need to gain evidence is most difficult for those most in need. the system is biased to people with the means and ability to access medical services and gain evidence. Participants with limited English, and social skills etc., end up in Job Active or have an unreasonable benchmark of hours due to limited supporting evidence. This is a huge area of concern.
DMS and ESS the number of people referred to DMS with long term/ongoing medical conditions that have little to no improvement potential are regularly referred to DMS services. i can only assume that Centerlink assessors have a quota to meet otherwise many of these same participants would have been referred to ESS.
Lastly I want to provide some ways forward. Remove ESS and DMS the separation is a waste of time and it only adds complexity to the system. Have a more individualized approach to DES where the funding and benchmark is reflective of the participants needs rather than a blanket funding arrangement. DES providers and participants should have the capacity to request funding to achieve training and/or employment goals. This should also include funding focused on medical appointments and evidence gathering for those most disadvantaged and in need of support to gain a realistic assessment of their conditions and working capacity.