There is a stench of corruption hanging over Australia’s employment services and that smell taints disability employment programs too.
That’s a shame because our Disability Employment Services used to be first class; world leaders in innovation, our dedicated workers looked for new and better ways to help some of our most disadvantaged citizens find meaningful work.
Along the development pathway we learned that there were certain things (a dozen or so) essential for success and that for long term employment the majority weren’t optional.
For many years DES programs have been under the worst of pressures a tight employment environment, a funding body that has not been committed to much more than ensuring it’s own tail was covered in the prevention of possible fraud.
Added to the mix was a group of ‘for-profit’ providers touted as the answer to the easy going NFP sector that had dominated service delivery.
Any fool could see that a for-profit mentality would put the acquisition of profit before service users – any fool!
However, that wasn’t noticed, instead ‘for profits’ were touted as the salvation of the industry, the bright way forward for people with disability and the old programs were either closed or relegated to ‘boutique’ status.
The core elements for success were forgotten on a road to ‘higher performing’ service provision.
This has been a sham and a nonsense.
Now that’s all come undone with both non and for profit providers clearly shown as thieves – exploiting misery for personal wealth and diddling taxpayers out of millions of dollars while they destroyed hope for thousands of Australians.
Complicit in their actions have been the funding bodies who rewarded the actions of cheats with better ‘Star Ratings’ and more business, in so doing driving decent skilled programs and individuals from the industry and thereby compounding the loss of opportunity for people with disability.
I am happy to share my repeated warnings with anyone who wants to see them, these span more than a decade and predict with sad accuracy the present morass.
What to do?
Immediate action is vital – don’t waste time in admitting the error (once done we can all move on) and creating an environment that recognises there are certain things that must be delivered if long term meaningful employment is the goal.
You can sanction programs that don’t provide post placement support. You must separate training providers from programs that deliver employment outcomes, the funding model needs to free people from becoming the property of a sole provider.
It takes about $14,000 (on average) to properly place a person with disability into a full time job – stop penalising providers that take this option – hold them up as heroes instead (in the present environment they are just that).
Try to entice back the disillusioned but so important ‘true believers’ and don’t allow untrained and unskilled staff to further damage members of a marginalised and vulnerable group.
And so I can go on….
It’s time for us to get our government to listen, to acknowledge the lost direction, take the time to listen to what’s needed and then move back to person centred service delivery that actually puts the interests of people with disability first.
Four Corners has correctly shown the state of play – well done and now let’s act to regain trust and credibility.
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