Q1-All people with disability should have equal access to work and its economic and social benefits. Opportunities available to DES participants should be consistent with NESM and CDP, inc access to support programs such as CTA and Employability Skills. Flexible eligibility mitigates the challenges of initial entry to the labour market, career advancement, and re-entry or re-skilling for people with disabilities.
CoAct takes a work-first approach, supported by coaching and access to allied services. We recognise that each participant has unique needs and requires a tailored vocational pathway. The Dept could consider alternative methods for defining successful attachment to the labour market (as per the TtW model) inc progress in multiple roles, increased hours worked and repeat payments from the same employer. We support recognition of a broad range of placements including casual, p/t, gig economy, volunteering & work experience.
In our experience, DES participants benefit from an omnichannel approach to engaging with our service, and similar flexibility in providing evidence around eligibility, access and reporting. We believe that all jobseekers should have streamlined access to immediate basic support, regardless of specific eligibility criteria. Early intervention, before a job is in jeopardy, can prevent loss of existing employment from a degenerative disability.
Q2-CoAct’s assessment processes take a strengths-based approach to overcoming barriers. Our staff build rapport through frequent contact and strong relationships: knowledge of the individual is key. We find assessments that are flexible and measure psychosocial circumstances, as well as medical condition, are most appropriate.
We support our participants into a career, not just a job. A plan is codesigned with the participant and assumes that goals and needs will change over time. We recommend that the assessment process consider the uneven nature of career progression, including the impact of episodic illness on sustained employment.
In addition, we note that access to medical specialists for assessment reports is limited in regional (and even metro) locations. The Department might consider:
*allowing participants to engage in the program for an initial 12 week onboarding period while supporting medical evidence is obtained, with a similarly flexible timeframe for re-assessment
*accepting reports from a wider range of professionals including GPs, social workers and other Allied Health.
Q3-CoAct listens closely to the voices of DES participants. We concur with the recent IDES report that a welcoming approach, recognition of strengths, and demonstrated experience with their kind of disability are highly valued. In CoAct’s experience, providing rapid access to targeted supports with dedicated follow-up coaching delivers strong outcomes. We recommend DES retain a focus on personalised & collaborative service.
DES participants have a wide range of needs, aspirations and personal circumstances. Our participants value access to different modes of support (phone, online, F2F, regular, intermittent), type of placement (learning, WEX, casual, p/t, f/t) and specialist medical interventions.
Networking of services adds to the sustainability of outcomes for DES participants. Our service partners co-locate with allied health, education, housing, & other social service providers, to reduce barriers to participation and enable a smooth transition into study and work. This tailored non-prescriptive approach reduces wait times, building trust & continuity.
To ensure a customer-focused program, we recommend streamlining evidentiary requirements by making use of whole-of-government reporting. Increased behind-the-scenes data collection allows a higher level of discretion for participants who choose not to disclose their condition to their employer and frees up capacity for providers to focus on service delivery and outcomes.
Q4-The intent and structure of the NDIS SLES program is effective and could be scaled up through DES – assisting Year 10s to stay in school or employment related activity through work experience/tasters, without the need to choose apprenticeship or traineeship to achieve an outcome.
Greater recognition of education and vocational pathways for young DES participants is critical. Many have had their schooling disrupted and need further training prior to work placement.
Young people with disability should also be eligible for employer incentives available through jobactive and TtW, such as the Youth Bonus wage subsidy.
Q5-We have found that employers readily overcome perceived barriers when they have a positive experience of hiring a person with disability. CoAct drives partner employer engagement through education and practical support. Many have become ‘diversity champions’ and seek our support to place more DES participants.
Successful employer engagement requires:
*building awareness about diversity
*dispelling myths about employing people with disability
*effective coordination of workplace modifications & wage subsidies
*in-work training for employers and staff, particularly around specific conditions
*long-term IWS for participant & employer
Additional support for these measures, such as a national campaign to highlight the value of Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, would incentivise employers. The Dept could consider streamlining wage subsidies (eg. through ATOs Single-Touch Payroll system) and trial an internship program (like PaTH) to further reduce barriers and increase focus on outcomes.
Q6-Flexible, clear mutual obligations can motivate and support DES participants. We believe that voluntary work is a valuable source of work experience and social connection. CoAct sequences activities that contribute to the participant’s skills, experience, networks and commitment to a sustainable career. We recommend that the Dept recognise a broad range of capacity-building pathway activities as meeting participants’ mutual obligations e.g. NWEP and supports recommended in the participant’s ESAt.
Q7-In our experience, the current funding model aligns well with the phases of the participant journey, from work readiness to post-placement. With the introduction of NESM, we anticipate that jobseekers with low-level requirements (including some people with disability) will be adequately supported online or through Enhanced Services, while DES providers will service a cohort with increasingly complex needs. CoAct’s experienced staff are well placed to offer and source a range of professional services to address vocational and non-vocational barriers. We recommend that the future funding model reflect the expertise and timeframe required to provide this intensive support. For example, in-work support is a highly variable cost to the provider but leads to significant outcomes for the participant. We ask that the Dept consider commensurate funding to assist participants with particularly complex needs.
With increased casualisation of the workforce, we suggest that funding arrangements be altered to allow DES participants to pause and restart their engagement with the program. This is especially important for participants with episodic conditions as they are often forced to take significant unplanned breaks. Accumulation of short-term activities and placements (even if achieved intermittently) is a valid and valuable pathway. We recommend funding cumulative service over a longer period to incentivise providers to maintain continuity and convert partial to full outcomes.
Q8-Current market regulation permits a variety of organisations to compete within the sector. We believe that these regulatory arrangements are fit for purpose, and that flexible implementation of their conditions will continue to develop capacity in areas of growing need, such as intellectual disability and autism.
CoAct’s model of networked generalist and specialist providers illustrates that staff with unique skills and small caseloads can offer high quality, personalised support. We observe that specialist roles grow capacity across our network and build a broader pool of talent in the sector. This diversity of providers, staff and competencies is an effective mechanism for reaching participants with a range of mental and physical health conditions. Despite this multiplicity, we recommend a consistent, easy-to-understand performance assessment framework.
When we reduce the administrative burden on our network partners, they have greater capacity to innovate and evolve their practices to suit changing labour conditions. We recommend that the Department align the frequency of reporting with performance e.g. significant reporting from strong performers every 3 years; average 2 years; underperforming 1 year. This provides certainty and allows high performing providers to invest in growing markets.
Q9-In CoAct’s experience, successful measures of participant outcomes and provider performance are multidimensional. CoAct’s current DES model takes a work-first approach, coupled with a commitment to preparing participants with in-demand skills for emerging labour market roles. Within this process, we build participants’ relationships with employers, health, education and community partners. Success looks different for each participant and each region.
We recognise that current metrics prioritise point-in-time outcomes. To build flexibility in the monitoring system, we propose that future measures include:
*Participants’ self-assessment of distance travelled in terms of broadly defined wellbeing (which encompasses mitigation as well as forward progress)
*Steps that contribute to career goals over longer periods of service
*Engagement with employers and education providers, and the uptake of allied health and other non-vocational support services
*Utilisation of whole-of-government data sources for greater efficiency