I have already expressed my appreciation for the Sydney Morning Herald's Linton Bessar (more!). The following is pinched from his recent article: http://www.smh.com.au/national/minister-acts-over-claims-of-fraud-by-employment-agencies-20111221-1p5on.html#ixzz1hTuy9WIn
While the story relates to general employment programs for unemployed Australians – Job Services Australia – the general thrust of this and the other recent articles identifying widespread abuse could equally be written about Disability Employment Services:
“The federal government will investigate abuse of the multibillion-dollar Job Services Australia program and enforce ''more stringent evidentiary requirements'' on thousands of employment agencies claiming fees under the scheme.
The Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, will announce today that Robert Butterworth, a former Commonwealth official, has been hired to examine agencies claiming a disproportionate number of fees from the program.
The inquiry has been prompted by a Herald investigation which found rorting of the welfare-to-work program was rampant.
Government sources have confirmed the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has known for more than a decade about the problems.
Under the scheme, which was started by the Howard government, employment agencies are paid to assist the unemployed to find work and reduce their reliance on Centrelink payments.
Agencies which find or ''broker'' more jobs for welfare-recipients win higher fees and higher star ratings, which in turn improves their chances of getting government contracts worth potentially millions of dollars”.
Absolutely the expected and the incorrect response.
Expected because this and every government seek to ensure no mud sticks to them – so the ‘problem’ will be either the programs themselves or there will be an attempt to stick failure to the department that funds them (DEEWR).
Neither response is correct and that's why this is the incorrect response. This failure is a failure of policy and lies with the desire to achieve greater numerical outcomes at the expense of the people the system is supposed to serve and that’s where it is so particularly tragic that people who have a disability have been similarly played (Incidentally the peak bodies that represent general and disability employment services should also be ashamed for never having the intestinal fortitude to stand up to government).
For 7 years I have spoken publicly against this system and I have been ignored, mocked or told to shut up.
This blog contains any number of rants and specific examples of the sort of conduct that improves ‘Star’ ratings.
The improvement occurs at the expense of people that have a disability and at the expense and careers of genuinely committed and dedicated staff that are judged by tehir failure to also have services with higher Star Ratings.
Again: Higher ‘Stars’ can easily be achieved by splitting work – breaking a full time job into 2 or more part time and/or casual positions. In 2005 when I first raised the obvious outcome of this insanity I was told that ‘we (the government department that is now DEEWR) can rely on the integrity of service providers’. So any comment I then made at that meeting was dismissed as a slur on the integrity of other providers.
My comments were no such thing. They were simply the informed opinion of someone that had seen what had happened (first hand) in general employment programs.
These have been failures of policy – policy failures that have led to the casualisation of the Australian workforce. “Work Choices” wasn’t the problem, “Fair Work” is not the solution. The issue lays at the silly central thrust of present policy: more numbers=good, less numbers=bad.
What is truly terrifying in the reported comment of the present Minister, Kate Elllis that are noted above is that the official answer is to, “enforce ''more stringent evidentiary requirements''.
There could not be more stringent evidentiary requirements – we are drowning in a sea of meaningless paperwork that has done nothing to prevent the abuses that have occurred.
Here’s the simple answer (again, noted in this blog for years) – reward reduction in pension benefits where these have been caused by the actions of the agency. License employment services so they can operate where there is need and allow job seekers to register with as many programs as they like.
Clean, easy, elegant – so we’ll never see it.
And finally Minister, before you finally destroy what little exists of Australia’s formally vibrant and effective disability employment services – forget the present ridiculous, corrupt and uninformative Star Rating system, remove the profit ‘incentive’ that has seen us slip from 4th to 21st in world rankings and restore rewards for real results.
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