WISE Employment Ltd

WISE Employment presents the following response to the “Consultation paper for Shaping the new disability employment support program” for consideration. Our response has been formulated in discussions with roles across the organisation and based on 30 years’ experience as a disability employment services organisation. We have given consideration to how the DES program can meet the needs of people with disability as well as other stakeholders such as employers, providers and government. While we have addressed the individual questions raised in the consultation paper, we emphasise the following points.

The development of the next Disability Employment Services Model needs to keep the elements of the existing program that have worked – enabling access to more people with disability to workforce participation – while being adaptive to future employment trends.

Specifically, the model should expand its base on consumer choice – of program participation, provider choice, and activities. Acknowledging DES as a specialist program for people with a disability, the program should be open to all individuals with a disability who require support to assist them in preparing for, finding, keeping and advancing their employment.

The existing “no market share” system for providers should be maintained given its impact in attracting more people with disability to want to enter the workforce and volunteer and register for DES supports. This could be further reinforced with consideration given to abolishing existing Employment Service Area boundaries or adapting to larger Employment Regions (as exists for other Australian government employment programs).

A future DES program needs to be flexible in recognising changes in the employment market and increased flexibility of work. For example, successful employment outcomes (for job seekers and providers) should include all types of employment activity (such as required by the GIG economy, self-employment and seasonal and temporary employment) as well as non-traditional flexible work arrangements.

Support for people with disabilities, and their employers, should not cease on the achievement of a fixed week outcome. Ongoing support should be expanded to adapt to the changing needs of participants once in employment and include aspects such as career progression, advancement into better jobs (e.g., in terms of job security and higher remuneration), and continuing improvements to overall wellbeing.

A focus for all participants should be an increase in the skills base for digital literacy. This would prepare people with disability for employment opportunities in demand in the digital economy as well as help them take advantage of the flexible ways supports can be delivered and increase access to assistive technology.

A general whole of person approach in supporting people with disability needs to be taken across all aspects of the program, reflecting that support and progress in domains such as personal wellbeing, housing, health, relationships contribute to building capacity for employment. This extends to encouraging community engagement activities (including through voluntary work or tailored mutual obligation options) as these activities have value in social inclusion, developing personal and communication skills and in developing resilience (necessary soft skills in developing employment readiness).

Partnerships across the sector are important to increase the quality of employment outcomes. This involves people with disability, their carers and representatives, employers, service providers and government. A future disability employment services model could emphasise the value of partnerships in achieving more successful outcomes for people with disability by encouraging and rewarding Providers to work with and develop innovative projects with stakeholders (e.g., disability peak organisations, employers) with a specific focus on cohort groups (e.g., people with mental illness, students transitioning to employment, mature aged). WISE demonstrates the success of this approach with its GradWISE program for graduates with disability and WISE Ways to Work program focusing on the needs of those with mental illness.

In evaluating the performance of a future DES program, WISE believes a broad range of factors should be taken into account beyond the number and duration of job placements. This could include the quality of jobs achieved (in terms of hours, pay), the participant and employer experience, measures on innovation and partnership, and quantitative measures on impact on the individual’s overall well-being and impact on the economy. As an organisation, WISE measures its impact through the WISE Promise Framework and believes applying such a holistic framework drives quality, sustainability and positive outcomes.

Please see our attached full submission elaborating on the points above and addressing the consultation questions.