Apples with Apples
As a person with interest in the employment of people with disability I take an active part in comparing expectation and performance of my organisation against other programs within Australia and against programs around the world.
I have come to the conclusion that I should stop.
Over the holiday period, having free time on my hands I have reviewed the duty statements for staff in competing programs (I have spoken here at some length about ‘competition’ and will not bore with repetition; only state I do not believe that we ‘compete’).
There is a wildly varying range of expectation.
The problem is that it is impossible to accurately measure ‘apples with apples’. Possibly the only relevant measure comes with measurement within my own program.
Let me provide an example: NOVA’s expectation is that our Employment Consultant will complete a working year with 10 people in work and we set 80% retention at 6 months as a supporting key performance measure. This means that my staff need to put someone into employment each month. Other programs may expect more than 3 times this level of productivity.
The young men and women that we work with have significant support needs and present a challenge to the skill, dedication and commitment of their case managers (Employment Consultants). I have 23 years experience in working with people who have disability I can categorically state that there is little room for improvement in my staff's performance given the level of disability we expect them to support. The only way to bring placement numbers up is to reduce the level of disability assisted or reduce the quality of employment (level of support, hours worked and wages paid) achieved by participants.
The Federal Government (Gawd bless ‘em!) have introduced changes to the Disability Employment Network (DEN) that are exciting, innovative and timely. The removal of the cap on the number of persons that can access help (March 1st 2010) is the best news since Christmas 0001! Simultaneously under development is a new system for performance measurement that will replace the present ‘Stars’, a hopelessly flawed rating system that attempts to compare the results of employment services.
The changes and their implications emphasise the importance of understanding that in disability employment it is pretty near impossible to measure ‘apples with apples’.
Each person who enters a DEN is surely entitled to receipt of a personally tailored employment solution. Creating an environment in which the number of placements made by a program is a Key Performance Indicator creates pressure to fall into a race to the ‘top’ with ‘top’ being those persons with the least barriers to employment while maintaining eligibility for the program (and I will leave the accurate measurement of this criterion for another time).
Surely Australians want a disability employment network that will be prepared to reach out to every person who has a disability regardless of the level of that disability with program providers assured they are not subject to penalty for taking on the tougher challenges?
Measure performance against previous achievements and develop an environment that financially rewards a minimum level of achievement and let the market place sort itself out – create an environment in which charities can maintain a charitable focus and continue to take the tougher challenges while for profits assist as many people as possible.
This will also create stability and reduce lost opportunity costs.
It isn’t difficult, it just needs commitment and determination and an understanding of the real and full needs of people who have disability.
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