Teenager with autism smiling in a classroom
7 Aug

Leaving school? Make sure you have choice and control

The NDIS School Leaver Employment Support (SLES) will soon be available to eligible school leavers across Australia – eligibility has been determined by assessment while in last year of school and my understanding is the NDIA will maintain this pathway. Talk to your teachers at the start of your son or daughters final year about when that will happen.

The NDIS guidelines say: “The SLES is a new, reasonable and necessary support for Year 12 school leavers to assist them transition from school and into employment. Supports may include work experience, generally in open employment, job site training, travel training and activities that contribute to achieving an employment outcome and linkages to ongoing employment support”.

Participants can have SLES and other reasonable and necessary supports in their NDIS plan, and SLES will become available as per the NDIS roll out schedule

SLES is modelled on NSW’s highly successful ‘Transition to Work’ (TTW program) and I am very proud to say my organisation has a terrific record in delivering effective, high quality outcomes for graduates. Not all States have benefitted from an effective TTW process and SLES offers significant improvement for many to-be school leavers.

From what I have seen so far it’s ‘Caveat Emptor’ (buyer beware) and you might think that this would be an excellent opportunity to exercise choice and control.

It is and all you have to do is find a provider that can deliver the best vocational outcomes.

But how do you know who to pick? – every provider will tell you that they are each, ‘the best’, ‘the most experienced’, ‘the biggest’ and I’m sure they all are.

Here’s the unseen problem; you only get to use your funding once and while you may have ‘choice and control’, with a clock that’s running down that’s no good unless you can identify what’s best for you or for the person you are helping find work.

You could use the ‘Star Ratings’ the government’s measure of high quality. The problem is the ‘Stars’ don’t tell you much about an agency’s ability to support people with specific needs (about the only exception in Sydney is JobSupport who do an excellent job and work exclusively with people with a <60 IQ).

Asking the right questions can help.

If you get stuck, try these*:

  1. Could you show me some examples of people with similar barriers to mine for whom you have found long term employment?
  2. How do you match my needs with the needs of an employer?
  3. If you are the person who’s helping me, how many other people on your caseload?
  4. For the jobs you find for people with similar barriers to mine, on average how many hours work per week?
  5. How do you keep job seekers motivated?
  6. For the jobs you find, what’s the average stay in employment?
  7. Tell me about your staff training program
  8. What other support assistance is available?
  9. How do you provide post placement support?

The answers you receive should help you identify a provider that’s right for you. ‘

Don’t know’ isn’t a reassuring response!

It’s your money that’s buying the service so you have a right to ask – take notes, interview more than 1 provider and remember, past performance is the best indicator of future success, so look for examples that you can confirm.

In the almost 30 years I have been involved in disability employment programs in the hands of a competent and committed provider SLES is the very best opportunity for career success that’s ever been on offer but as you can see from this link there are wide variations in open employment (same conditions and wages as non-disabled peers) outcomes:

NOVA’s website for Transition participants provides more information and a large number of success stories, as does our Facebook page.

One final tip: Once you have found a provider that offers your person the best chance to start their careers allow your provider the chance to develop your son or daughters understanding of the responsibilities and obligations of employment. Many of our job seekers struggle initially to come to terms with the realities of work and sometimes that’s hard but it’s no time to quit.

*abbreviated from the book, ‘The Ten Demandments – how to improve employment services for people with disability’ – written by Martin Wren

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