The following taken from both the Disability Services Act and a recent blog post:
People receiving services funded under the Act would have a level of disability that, “results in a substantially reduced capacity of the person: (A) to obtain or retain unsupported paid employment”
What is meant by unsupported?
Unsupported employment suggests that the worker concerned IS able to achieve and maintain independence in the workplace.
What is meant by supported employment?
Just that, the individuals that entered these programs would (generally) be unable to gain or keep jobs in the community without a commitment from suitable skilled staff to ensure each individuals productivity remained commercially acceptable and this support would be both regular and on-going.
Such a person might need daily assistance to remain on-task and would be unlikely to see a week pass without some level of help and also without this help they would be at risk of losing their job.
Following the passing of the Disability Services Act, Australia becomes really good at providing this sort of assistance and by 1995 about 49,000 people are receiving help as described in the Act.
Service providers begin to develop and share the art and science that is post placement support – a formula is articulated that has been tried and tested – get to know the person, identify their strengths and aspirations and match these against the local labour market to create an outcome with the greatest chance of long term success.
There are some accepted ground rules <15hrs employment each week doesn’t really count. This is because less time does not allow for social integration within the workplace (making friends), financial independence or the development of skills so that a career path can be developed.
This would mean service users could have an expectation of working at least 2 full days a week or maybe 5 part time days, they would be able to build friendships and relationships and the income received would be sufficient to make a difference in their lives and the complexity of the roles they could fulfil.
Job retention is measured after any subsidy has been exhausted and 26 weeks is taken as the first meaningful milestone.
Key Performance Indicators that put the person with a disability and their interests first.
Skip forward 27 years.
There’s a problem (actually there are multiple problems!)
For a variety of reasons the number and characteristics of people in receipt of the Disability Support Pension has changed significantly, there are many people being referred to disability employment programs that are better described as the “Worried Well’, rather than those with chronic mental illness, the population of people with physical disability has ballooned (these folk were previously the province of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service (CRS) an organisation set up for such job seekers and one not able to deliver long term on-site post placement help).
The KPI’s upon which business is allocated have also been dramatically adjusted and initially include nonsense such as ‘speed to placement’ ( a KPI that sounds smart but does not acknowledge the needs of those with higher levels of disability and immediately results in ‘creaming’ (the practice of seeking and placing the easiest rather than the most needy.
8 hrs of employment is treated as equal to 38 for the purposes of the ‘quality’ rating system (Star Ratings) and service providers that do not break up real work in meaningless packets are disadvantaged. Service providers that remain attached to genuine social inclusion are told by the funding body (and of course I can prove my quote): “If you can’t beat them, join them”.
‘Employment’ is gained by the misuse of generous subsidies. It is possible to offer employers a subsidy for 26 weeks that is equal to the total wage bill of the worker. This practice still enables the service provider to retain a substantial profit (Anyone that wants more details and specific examples is welcome to contact me).
As a result ‘participation’ increases and presently more than 150,000 people have become so engaged. However, in the past 2 years only a very small number (8000) people have actually left the DSP to enter a level of employment that takes them completely from welfare.
Can people with disability work?
Can people with disability earn sufficient to gain economic independence?
Absolutely, even those with the level of disability originally indicated in the 1986 Disability Services Act.
However, the disability employment program will not succeed again until there is a restoration of KPUI”s that are linked to program goals. KPI’s that change lives: hours of employment, wages earned and job retention AFTER government subsidy should be used to restore a quality service program.
While some say, we are doing well and should recognise the level of participation the response is simple: if we are doing so well why are we motherless last in terms of poverty amongst people with disability and 21 out of 27 when it comes to participation in employment?
Change the administrative nightmare that presently controls the program, use Centrelink records (reduction in payments) to identify success, reward ‘off benefits’ handsomely, allow people with disability to register with more than 1 provider (cut the money for registration), dump subsidies, remove the present geographic operating restrictions and licence employment service providers to work where they can make money (they will only do this by succeeding in the core goal of getting people with disability the best possible outcomes possible.
There was a giant ‘brain drain’ caused by the recent loss of 60 excellent providers (firms that provided post placement support) and those skills need to be re-acquired. Implementing the suggestions above will force providers to revisit the skills we used to take for granted and prevent my time being wasted by calls from people asking if NOVA can provide post placement support as this is something many now do not do.
More to come on why we are losing post placement support skills soon.
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