“Changes outlined in the DES General Deed Variation 4 took effect from 1 July 2012. This means that from 1 July 2012 DES Employment Outcomes can no longer be claimed where employment is contrived, not ongoing or not in open employment”. – DEEWR circular October 2012
But for the period of the contract just passed this was most certainly not the case – in fact these practices informed the ‘Star Ratings’ and, to the very best of my knowledge, while clearly DEEWR acknowledge the fact that DES has been riddled with deceit, no attempt has been made to remove the impact of flagrant abuse on the outcome of the purchasing bid.
Stuff that’s happened in this contract:
1. DES providers have worked to abuse the system by making placements into other related entities – this is the ‘not in open employment’ bit - frequently these placements have been made into ‘social enterprises’ (there have always been ‘related entity rules but they have been easily sorted to avoid DEEWR’s half-hearted attempts to prevent misuse).
Works like this: DES provider either gets roughly $7,500 or $15,000 during a 26 week outcome, depending upon the perceived level of disability/barriers – it’s a bit more but my math is poor – this amount covers registration and outcomes fees from placement through to 6 months working.
Each job seeker has a set benchmark for the number of hours they must work in order for the service to claim an outcome – that benchmark is automatically 8hrs for anyone on the Disability Support Pension.
Here’s a subsidy sum: 8hrs X $20 X 26wks = $4160
So, at least $3340 net to the service provider.
Then of course there is the value of that persons labour and output to their employer
2. The real misuse and abuse of the past/present process occurs when DSP recipients have work offered that is of very small hours – 8 will earn the provider a ‘result’- and that work is either completely or heavily subsidised. At 26 weeks (important for unfair dismissal and also as a milestone in the Disability Employment Service program) employment is terminated
3. Education is a directly linked to employment prospects and wages earned. Quite rightly, the funding body (DEEWR) made a provision for educational outcomes to count towards programs ‘Star Ratings’ the recognition system that purports to inform job seekers how good the program they are considering is.
How could you possibly cheat with this measure?
Works like this: DES provider attends local High School and spends time with a candidate who is registered, receives ‘counselling’ and offered suggestions for adjustments in the way in which they study.
They are then returned to their classroom.
Notch up an ‘educational outcome’.
To DEEWR’s credit this rort was ended on the 12th of October 2012. Nevertheless, such behaviour fed directly into ‘Star Rating’ results.
4. Job Splitting. For the funding body (and I suspect their political masters) ‘a job is a job is a job’ In other words, full employment and escape from welfare dependency is good, but so is an 8 hour a week job.
There is no doubt that for some persons 8 hours a week would a capacity contribution – such a person might lack the health or physical capacity to do more. These individuals are in a very small minority.
When I challenged the then Minister for disability Employment (2005) on the suggested model for what are now DES programs, suggesting it would encourage service providers to job split in order to maximise financial returns (the Government were about to open up business to ‘for profit’ programs), and achieve higher ‘Star’ ratings, I was told, ‘I think we can rely on the integrity of service providers’!
Well Australia and people with disability can’t, and both should never should have been made to – it’s a simple fact that the casualization of our work force has been spurred on by policy decision that reward providers for part time participation.
5. Creaming. The Disability Services Act was written (I believe) to support the folk with the highest level of disability to achieve the highest level of participation. Modern interpretation is that it was designed to help the highest number of people achieve participation.
If numerical results are good for profit, they are also good for statistics – ‘’500 people participated’ beats out ‘250 people escaped welfare’. The emphasis on numerical results with little real interest on the level of disability experienced by those people entering the program has seen a strong move toward service for people with lower barriers to entering employment.
The ‘Star Ratings’ are supposed to adjust for level of disability but the simple truth is that they do not, never have and actually never could do better than an ‘average’ result.
The pressure for numerical outcomes (remember job splitting is rife) pushes programs toward those with the least impairment resulting in those with higher levels of disability going to the back of the queue (especially so in for profit operations).
These are the practices that informed the Star Ratings and upon which business has been handed out for 2013- 2018.
The purpose of the Disability Services Act (1986) was to assist the most disadvantaged Australian to fully participate in the life defining experience of employment. Results were judged by the degree of participation achieved by each person – Hours worked X dollars earned X length of tenure was the measure of ‘success’.
The ultimate goal of each person’s program was to empower the person with a disability to achieve the greatest possible level of independence they could reach and preferably an end to government benefits.
Australian Disability Services thrived and were recognised internationally as first class.
That’s no longer the case. In fact, Australia has slipped to ‘motherless last’ in international measures of participation and employment for our most disadvantaged citizens.
It didn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t need to remain so.
The solution does not lie with government imposed quotas for business not legislatively imposed direction to employ a diverse workforce. The answer lies in beliefs and either ensuring that only ‘true believers’, organisations with a demonstrated interest in social justice and inclusion get a contract or (and I prefer this option) linking funding to reduction in welfare dependency.
If that happened you could forget tenders, bids and associated rubbish (and that’s all they are) and having licenced employment services, allow these to operate in a market designed to reward meaningful results.
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Your Comments John from Parramatta wrote on 29 Oct 2012 12:40:02 PM I was given an 8 hour job and pretty much forced to take it - then, after I had been there for a short time I found out all my wages were being paid by ***** (removed-editor). The other workers all knew and they made me feel worthless. After 6 months my job was apparently no longer needed but I found out another person replaced me almost straight away.
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