For thousands of job seekers and their support staff, this week has been no holiday.
The single most dislocating event in the history of Australian disability employment services is in progress. Last Friday, 34,000 people with a disability lost the Disability Employment Service (DES) that they chose to join.
Most of the traditional services were local, personal and effective, ensuring that people with high-support needs participated in work. Their clients often have an intellectual disability or a psychiatric illness that intrudes upon their capacity to stay focused. Regular contact with someone they trust is vital to their employment success.
But this week the new service providers may not offer this post-placement support. In any case, and through no fault of the service, they will not know their clients, nor will their clients know them. An effective transition that takes into account the needs of the worker has not been considered. Employers were not consulted.
Last year our major funding body, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) decided that 85% of all DES business should be put up for tender. Their rationale was that these operators were under-performing. But it appears to me that after DEEWR shed 600 internal staff, they needed to reduce the number of providers that they dealt with to reduce their own administrative burden. Today there are sixty fewer employment services than there were on Friday.
The closures needn’t be happening at all – DEEWR are using flawed methodology to measure performance. They don’t understand that while one service might find work for someone with a psychotic illness another places a person with a limp. Clearly, these people have very different employment issues so require different levels of support to stay in work.
But for DEEWR, one equals one. This is why across Australia the number of centres specialising in autism has been cut from 11 to three. In Sydney, people with profound psychiatric illness will no longer benefit from specialised organisation 121 Employment. DEEWR say the system is adjusted to measure barriers such as where you live, the availability of work, your choices, family support, interests, abilities and disabilities, but this is not the case.
As the leader of a respected DES, I want our performance to be measured through our effect on the reduction in welfare payments. In essence, what we save the Commonwealth through sound job training and coaching, effective job matching and genuine post-placement support.
Workers with a disability thrive in the right role when their skills and interests align with their job. Because this sector of the workforce endures significant barriers to employment, in the past our government has deemed it fair to fund their transition from jobseeker to employee.
And funding the transition works – last year my organisation Nova Employment placed over 1000 people into work, 99% of whom are working for award wages. Our research shows that more than half of these people will be in work a year later. If the person placed into employment loses their job, we find them another. These people are our clients until they and their employer decide they can work independently.
Nova’s approach works so well that, in some cases, we outperform our mainstream competitors. Our Katoomba branch is the town’s choice for job placements. Despite competing against four providers, two of which only work with able-bodied clients, Nova Katoomba consistently impresses employers with their willing, hard working and dedicated jobseekers.
DEEWR disregarded its own five-star rating system to decide which Disability Employment Service was in and which was out. You’d think the highest rated would’ve have taken the lion’s share of the new work, but no. The majority made small or no gains. Many long established providers are simply gone. I’ve been forced to close 10 branches. I’ve lost approximately 45 highly valued and experienced staff who have contributed years of excellent work.
Take Paule Jarvis, for example. She came to us as a jobseeker but we found her work on staff. For eight years she’s been a powerful advocate for people with a disability and passionately working in her community on severe drug and alcohol issues. Paule is on the Police Disability Advisory Council. When her branch closed yesterday, her expertise was lost to us and the broader industry. She now plans to work in a shop selling sorbet.
Yet again, people with disabilities have been completely ignored by the decision-making process. This government’s own Senate Inquiry into Disability Employment Services received around 80 submissions, the vast majority of which were universally critical of the government’s intentions.
Minister Ellis has failed to understand the benefits (to us all) of person-centred employment services finding and keeping good jobs for people with profound obstacles to work. Government cost cutting saves a little money that, if well directed, could be used to support vulnerable citizens into independent work. These people could have been happy, engaged and productive taxpayers, not dependent on welfare.
This week, spare a thought for the enthusiastic jobseekers and dedicated staff who have unnecessarily lost their jobs. Monday was indeed stormy, but the rest of the week, and the many weeks to come, will be just as bad.
Martin Wren, CEO Nova Employment
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Your Comments Marg Smith from SOUTH COAST wrote on 15 Mar 2013 12:29:55 AM KNOWING AND WORKING FOR MARTIN WREN FOR TEN YEARS WITH NOVA EMPLOYMENT AND SEEING THIS MAN STRIVE AND WORK SO HARD FOR THE GOOD OF HIS CLIENTS , I AM IN TEARS AND IN SHOCK THAT THIS COULD BE HAPPENING WITHIN THE DISABILITY SECTOR.ITS BEEN A FEW YEARS SINCE I HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED WITH NOVA, BUT AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED IN THE GOVERNMENT IN CHANGING A WAY THAT WORKED FOR THE CLIENTS AND EMPLOYERS. MARTIN AM IN TOTAL EMPATHY FOR YOU AND ALL YOUR CLIENTS AND STAFF.YOU ARE A MAN I HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR, REGARDS MARG SMITH
I'm giving fair warning of my intention to expose examples of the current DES-ESS contract's exploitation.
I have written to the Commonwealth expressing my concerns about clear manipulation of the present contract....
The new contract for Disability Employment Services (DES) will not bring performance improvement.
Government will scratch it's head, blame the economy, blame people with disability, talk about educating employers and spend money on consultations before coming to the conclusion that people with disability must meet more stringent 'mutual obligations'....
Each year, around about the International Day of People with a Disability (IDPwD) NOVA Employment holds a formal graduation for students that have participated in our pre-employment programs....
Profiting from poverty
Profiting from Poverty
I am genuinely horrified by this disaster: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/02/the-demerit-system-is-ruthless-social-policy-designed-to-keep-the-poor-powerless
I believe that we presently represent the job hopes of around 1500 people, in various stages of their progression to independent employment....
New Contract but no change!
New Contract but no change!
Today marks the first day of a new Disability Employment Service (DES) contract.
There are new players and new rules....
'It's nice to be busy' and 'busy is better than idle' and all of my mum's other sayings about work being good for you, and all of them said; we're drowning!
The administrative burden of a new Disability Employment Service contract (starts July 1st) and the mountains of paperwork required for an NDIS dollar (approximately 10X that of the former TTW program) has seen us add 3 extra staff to the admin team and we are still receiving a large volume of enquiries that are causing us some time delay in getting back to folk....
Podcasts I've been learning all about Podcasts (I suspect that this may be a long road!)
However, getting paid to be inspired is not the worst way to spend a Monday afternoon and that is just how my day has gone....
I am truly fortunate to work with the very best people in this great nation and we are truly lucky to be part of the best short film festival this side of anywhere!
"Focusonability" voting starts today and there is an even larger number of films (287) than last year....
On the money Sometime over the next week a new Disability Employment Service contract will be announced.
We are moving into a new world of greater consumer choice and greater mobility of job seekers....
Making a tough job tougher!
Making a tough job tougher
It isnt easy to get a decent job and its harder to do so if you have a disability.
NOVA employs around 190 people, an effective and experienced team who are able to draw upon a staff of highly skilled trainers and a support program honed over almost 30 years and tens of thousands of participants....
Your Work There was never any doubt in my mind that I would work. My dad told me I would work and there wasn't ever a suggestion that my future held an alternative option....
Not so bad! Taken from: Today's Guardian at 4.09pm Tuesday 7th November 2017:
In a world full of discouragement there’s always a space for good news....
The NDIS mantra is 'choice and control'
To be valuable, choice needs to be informed.
Average Sydney Disability Employment Services placement rates are 34....
It's voting time at "Focusonability" - with a record number of films entered, a tremendous effort by more than 100 High Schools and 19 countries competing in the International section it was always going to be a hard job to pick a winner....
Choice & Control
The NDIS slogans around choice and control demonstrate the importance of consumer involvement in both the choice and control of supports they need.
However, in order to be valuable, choice needs to be informed by accurate data such is this: http://www....
Last week (14-16) it was my privilege to attend the 1st World Supported Employment Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"Employment for All - A Global Perspective" brought workers from around the globe (primarily Europe) to discuss best practice in supported employment....
Quality and the Stars Quality and the Stars
There have probably been few people more openly critical of the Disability Employment Service (DES) Star Ratings than me.
The Stars, ranging from 1 to 5 are supposed to give some insight into whether a service is a poor or high performing program....
Attended the Disability Employment Australia (DEA) forum in Canberra. THis is a regular get together that offers disability employment services tha chance to be kept up to date from our funding body and also listed to expert speakers on topics associated with the goal of seeing as many people as possible find and keep suitable employment....
NOVAs greatest asset is its staff. I suspect you would struggle to find the CEO of any organisation state their staff are not vital and at the core of business reputation and results....
A corner turned?
We are presently holding events to promote employment for people with disability - nor surprise there, that's our job.
What has been a surprise is the willingness of employers to come along and listen and more importantly, to consider adopting inclusive employment practices across their organisations....