Disability Groups Slam Changes to DES Program
19 July 2018 at 4:24 pm
It is feared the Commonwealth’s new $800 million disability employment program, being described as a “deep disappointment”, will only make it harder for people with disability to find work, national disability groups say.
The Disability Employment Services (DES) program changed on 1 July after extensive community consultation, but national disability organisations gathered on Thursday to express “grave concerns”.
Suzanne Colbert AM, CEO of Australian Network on Disability (AND), said the reforms did not deliver on the promise of providing informed choice for people with disability seeking employment.
“Sadly, the views of people with disability and employers have been overlooked in these reforms and we fear the new system will make it harder for employers to recruit people with disability,” Colbert said.
Colbert welcomed some reforms, including continued funding of workplace adjustments through the Employment Assistance Fund and support for employees to retain their employment through the Work Assist program.
Disability advocates criticised DES changes which meant participants could no longer access past provider performance data to help inform their decision when choosing a provider.
DES is a key national program designed to help people with disability find work, but so far only around one in ten DES participants have managed to secure employment for more than 12 months in a job.
The program’s changes included a focus on creating competition and contestability in service delivery, improving incentives for providers to place job seekers in employment and a trial of expanded DES eligibility for final-year school students.
Therese Sands, co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, said the federal government was simply spending $800 million a year to prop up a failed system.
“Nationally only 53 per cent of people with disability of working age are in paid work, compared to 83 per cent of their non-disabled peers. This huge employment gap has not changed over the last 20 years,” Sands said.
“Throughout the reform process, we stressed the need for people with disability to be able to make informed choices and decisions about their employment support, and that this support should provide the individualised assistance required by people with disability.
“These reforms don’t offer people with disability the choice they were promised, or the individual assistance for their particular disability.”
Sands said that despite advocates’ “deep disappointment”, they would continue working with government to improve disability employment outcomes.
“We note government commitments to ongoing review of the reforms, including how the DES funding model is working and assessment of outcomes data,” Sands said.
“We will be continuing to monitor the evidence of whether the DES reforms are making a real difference for people with disability and their engagement in long-term and ongoing employment.”