On the 1st July 2018 a new contract to provide employment services to people with disability took effect and as a result a large number of new employment service providers opened their doors.
Maybe, although if you are interested in more than short term, minimum hour work, past experience suggests that your choice of provider will make real difference in the quality of outcomes achieved and that many providers of disability employment services will continue to struggle to deliver more that minimum hour, casual positions.
How can you find a good employment service provider?
The ball is your court, Disability Employment Services (DES) are evaluated under the Commonwealths Star Rating system, but for the present contract there will be no published data until the middle of August 2019 and even then, with so many new entrants into the market, reliable results will take even longer still.
So right now, finding suitable employment assistance for yourself or someone close to is down to you.
The rules of marketing being what they are, every employment support program provider will put on a ‘best face’ when describing their worthiness. Let’s face it, no-one will tell you, ‘we’re new and we haven’t done this before’ or admit that they struggle with specific disabilities.
The answer is to ask questions – and lots of them – before signing up.
What do you need to know? Here are some pointers
Question 1. “Tell me about your track record in supporting job seekers that are on the Autism Spectrum”
With a follow-up question asking if it’s possible to speak with other DES candidates with similar barriers? While services delivered by a DES provider will be at no cost, you are going to bring a bag of taxpayer’s money with you, and you should be keen to see value for your money.
Question 2. “Tell me about the vocational assessment tools you use (if any) and are they designed to highlight my strengths or possible gaps in my ability”
A good answer is either ‘asset based assessments’ or ‘no vocational assessment’ – handing a list of things that may be seen as presenting barriers can create a negative view of your capabilities and result in you being placed on the end of the list.
Question 3. “Will I get consistent help”?
Staff turnover in Disability Services of any kind is high. The last thing you need to be doing is repeating your life story to a different staff member each day and it is not unreasonable to ask about staff turnover. After all, you are interviewing the service. The very best employment outcomes are achieved when the number of staff hand-overs are at a minimum and the person you see every time you attend is the same person that canvasses employers, negotiates work and provides post placement follow-up.
Question 4. “How many other people will the staff person assigned to me be helping?
You should be interested in workers caseload size. Some agencies expect their workers to support 200+ jobseekers each to enable a good level of individualised help – a good answer is 30 or less.
Are you starting to feel that you are in charge? Remember to write down the answers you receive so you can compare promises.
Question 5. “How many jobs (as a percentage) are full time, how many part time and how many 8hours a week* (*The minimum hours required for work found for those on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to be counted toward the service providers results).
Most people are interested in achieving as many hours employment, for as much wages as possible, in a position that lasts beyond 6 months. Many providers have different goals. In this case past performance is the best indicator of future achievements, and it is fair to ask for specific outcomes so you can exercise informed choice and control when making comparisons over which program is right for you.
Question 6. “How often do you use subsidies to gain employment?”
Discounting may increase sales, however, reducing the cost of anything can also devalue that product in the eyes of purchasers.
There is no doubt that some employers expect a subsidy for any employee, regardless of a disability or not. However, when employers are the purchasers and the product is you, you should at least be aware that a subsidy is being used to get you work.
And a whole bunch of other possible questions around the experience and qualifications of staff, type and amount of post placement assistance, links to additional services for support and similar.
The point is that as far as employment goes you can be in the driver’s seat, exercising informed choice and control and raising the chances of landing work that’s tied into your aspirations and abilities – you just have to ask the right questions.
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