Disability Employment Services and TAFE – Q & A forum.
In September this year (2019) I was invited and attended an ‘Employing Your Ability’ forum at GOTAFE in Shepparton. Primarily the session was there for TAFE students (or any other interested party) wishing to find out a bit more about how the Disability Employment Services (DES) providers help jobseekers find and keep a job. The primary feature of the session was the question and answer panel of which I was a representative. As a follow this article captures the questions asked through the evening and I have answered them as best I can in my role as the NDCO.
What is a disability (covering medical, physical, mental health etc) how many people are affected?
A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. The Disability Services Act (1993) defines ‘disability’ as meaning a disability:
- which is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments
- which is permanent or likely to be permanent
- which may or may not be of a chronic or episodic nature
- which results in substantially reduced capacity of the person for communication, social interaction, learning or mobility and a need for continuing support services
Over 4 million people in Australia have some form of disability. That’s 1 in 5 people. The likelihood of living with disability increases with age with 2 in 5 people with disability are 65 years or older. 45% of Australians aged 16–85 years, experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. People aged between 15 and 64 years with disability have both lower participation (53%) and higher unemployment rates (9.4%) than people without disability (83% and 4.9% respectively). (As via the Australian Network on Disability – statistics.)
What is the eligibility criteria to connect to a Disability Employment Service provider?
Jobseekers are generally eligible for Disability Employment Services (DES) if they:
- have a disability, injury or health condition
- are aged at least 14 but have not yet attained the Age Pension qualifying age
- are at or above the minimum legal working age in their state or territory
- are an Australian resident or eligible Visa holder
- are not studying full time * ; and
- have a valid Employment Services Assessment (ESAt) or Job Capacity Assessment (JCA) recommending DES with a Future Work Capacity of eight or more hours per week; and
- are not working at or above their assessed work capacity (not applicable for Work Assist Participants and people who receive National Disability Insurance Scheme funding for supported employment, and/or Australian Disability Enterprise participants).
* NOTE there are some exceptions – to see more visit the JobAccess eligibility web page
Do you have a choice which Disability Employment Service provider you use?
Participants can choose their preferred provider when they first enter the program. At their initial Centrelink appointment, DES participants will have an opportunity to review providers in their area, and can choose the provider they feel best meets their needs. Participants are encouraged to review providers in their area on the JobAccess site, ahead of their Centrelink appointment. Participants can change their provider five times, no questions asked, during their time in the program. After these transfers, the participant can still request a transfer but that request will be subject to an assessment. https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/people-with-disability/des-participant-choice
What employment support is available through a Disability Employment Service Provider?
There are three main areas of support –
- Preparing for work (Employment Assistance) Providers can help a participant get ready for work with resumes, interview skills, career advice, refer to training, work experience and can make direct contact with employers about suitable jobs.
- Settling in to work (Post Placement Support). When a participant gets a job, the provider will offer support to the participant and their employer (with the participant’s consent) for the first year in employment.
- Continued assistance (Ongoing Support). Participants can also receive extra support after 26 weeks in a job, where required. This Ongoing Support can continue beyond the first 52 weeks of the placement, for as long as needed.
Refer to https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/people-with-disability/des-services for more information.
Do all Disability Employment Service providers do the same thing and do you work together?
All DES providers are funded from the Australian Federal Government with the same funding guidelines. However, each organisation will have varying strategies and engagement practises in delivering these services on behalf of the government. Previously DES contractors were restricted to certain regions for delivery purposes but that no longer exists. As part of the DES funding model the government uses star ratings to help guide users in making a suitable choice when it comes to ‘who’ to connect with. https://www.employment.gov.au/disability-employment-services-star-ratings. Note that it makes good sense to make local inquiries to see what each organisation delivers – via direct networks or via on-line and printed marketing materials.
Should I disclose my disability?
You have no legal obligation to disclose your disability to your employer, although disclosure may be practical in certain situations. Example: to access support, receive reasonable adjustments or enter targeted programs including workplace modifications as an example from an employer point of view or accessing a DES from an employee point of view.
From the ‘Willing to Work’ report page 192: “The decision to disclose a disability — including when to disclose and to whom, is a deeply personal decision. Individuals reported to the Inquiry feeling fearful of disclosure as this could expose them to stigma, assumptions and discrimination either when looking for work or when in employment. The fear of discrimination, including fear of being dismissed contributes to people being very hesitant to disclose. The decision not to disclose can contribute to negative employment outcomes if it means a person with disability does not access workplace adjustments”.
Another thing to consider – the method or time of disclosure and some disability types are more evident than others. A good article to read from ‘Eureka Street’ is ‘Deciding to disclose an invisible disability’, published 27 November by Fiona Murphy.
The NDCO program also has a resource available via Western Sydney University – “Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision” that provides substantial information about options and pathways that people with disabilities can use in disclosing their disability in post-secondary education and employment environments. https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/choosingyourpath
Who are Rights Information and Advocacy Centre (RIAC) and what do they do?
Most regions will have a disability information and or advocacy service. In terms of RIAC…is a not-for-profit organisation that builds the capacity and wellbeing of individuals, families, carers and communities through advocacy and support services. In my area the local information and advocacy services is RDAS. But I note that there are a myriad of support and or advocacy services available through the state (and further afield). Some may be demographically or disability type specific. I recommend viewing the list of Victorian advocacy organisations provided via the VALiD website to find your most relevant organisation. Accessing these services is usually free and they offer independent advocacy and information to anyone with a disability, to ensure equality of rights and increased integration into the community.
What service does the Disability Liaison Officer provide to students at GOTAFE – mentoring support?
The Disability Liaison Officer is available to discuss with you the range of strategies or services that are available for students with disability. The Disability Liaison Officer will also work with your teachers/lecturers to support them to implement ‘reasonable adjustments’ that are designed to facilitate your active participation in the course of your choice. The DLO can provide teaching staff with advice on:
* How disability affects study*Alternate formats for reference and study material* Adapting assessments to accommodate students’ specific abilities* Alternate / inclusive teaching strategies* Resources and technologies that are available to assist the teaching and learning process.
Further reading – checkout the Victorian NDCO TAFE and University Support guide. http://www.ndcovictoria.net.au/tafe-and-university-support
What is a DAAWS Apprenticeship? Firstly note that to be eligible for DAAWS you need to be in an apprenticeship and you need to have a recognised disability.
DAAWS = Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support…and are payments made to employers who:
- employ an eligible Australian apprentice with a disability who finds it difficult to get an approved apprenticeship because of his or her disability,
- currently employ an Australian apprentice who has acquired a disability during his or her apprenticeship and needs help as a result.
Tutorial, interpreter and mentor services are available to eligible Australian Apprentices who require additional assistance with their off-the-job training.
For all things DAAWS visit the Australian Apprenticeships web site under the employer incentives heading; https://www.australianapprenticeships.gov.au/aus-employer-incentives.
The following questions came directly from the audience…
What is the age gap/range of people you do support? Do you only support young adults aged 15 years up? Or adults too up to what age?
Jobseekers are generally eligible for Disability Employment Services (DES) if they:
- Are aged at least 14 but have not yet attained 65 years of age.
- Are at or above the minimum legal working age in their state or territory.
Also note the reference to – Eligible School Leavers: full time, final year secondary school students with significant disability or young people transitioning from an eligible state or territory transition to work program or School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES)
Do you provide funding to get experience in a chosen field? E.g Training to drive heavy vehicles.
You should discuss with your DES provider about what funding is available for formal training, licenses or job interview attire. The availability of these investments may depend on what job opportunities are available to you, the specific financial circumstances of your provider, and any funding offered through your state government. Alternatively call the JobAccess line on 1800 464 800 and one of the JobAccess Advisors can look for assistance in your state.
People don’t like to be labelled with disability so how would you support & advocate on their behalf to seek additional help? What kind of support GOTAFE offer?
Most TAFE’s have a range of support staff including a disability liaison officer (DLO). Depending on the type of issue being faced this may determine who is best placed to help resolve the problem. If, after you access support through your Institute of TAFE, you still feel that the matter has not been adequately resolved, you have the right to contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission for advice. Please refer to the above section re advocacy.
Can employers get incentives for putting on someone with a disability?
The Australian Government strongly encourages all employers to consider employing people with disability. There are several programs which may assist employers with any financial cost associated with employing people with disability. Some of the most common areas include;
- Employment Assistance Fund – provides financial assistance to purchase a range of work related modifications and services for employees with disability.
- Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support – as referenced above.
- Payroll Tax Exemptions (NSW only)
- Wage Subsidies – are paid to the employer to assist with covering the cost of paying wages in the first few months of employment of a person with disability.
- Supported Wage System – Some people with disability are not able to fulfil usual workplace productivity requirements, due to the nature of their disability. The Supported Wage System allows employers to pay less than award wage by matching a person’s productivity with a fair wage.
Is there an eligibility requirement to access disability support at TAFE?
Disclosure does need to occur at some point. For a majority of students this will occur at enrolment. Once identified that student will be contacted by the DLO as to whether they require assistance. If the answer is yes than most TAFE’s will ask for some evidence to support the claim to disability. This is usually not onerous, example, written confirmation from a local GP (Doctor) will suffice.
Do DES provides do any advocacy to break down stigma?
As part of the DES role in building meaningful relationships with employers there is on-going disability awareness and advocacy happening as a natural consequence of this interaction. A majority of DES providers operate as non-for profit organisations and they may well run additional programs or projects that address stigma and promote disability employment outside of the DES/Government funding arrangement. These will be individualised or special products offered only by certain providers. There are many other organisations operating in this space including government agencies and peak body organisations.
Is there any online information I can access to gain further information around supports.
The Job Access webpage is one of the most comprehensive portals for sourcing information. There are three main information access areas; (1) the person with disability / (2) access for employers / (3) access for service providers. https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/home
Can DES providers do training with organisation/employer to make sure the environment is safe and accessible?
Yes. Again the level and quality of this type of service will vary from individual agencies. Under the Job Access portal there is an ‘Employer Toolkit’ to help guide employers (or potential employers) through the process. There is also a series of links to assist employers to understand their obligations including ‘health and safety’ via https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/employers/your-rights-and-responsibilities.
Can the Skills and Jobs Centre assist as a first point of call into training and employment if I’m not sure where to start?
Yes. The Skills and Job centres operate from all TAFE’s and are marketed as a ‘One stop shop for anyone seeking to explore tertiary studies, training, and job and career options.’ For detailed or further information visit the Victorian government webpage – http://skillsandjobs.com.au/index.html
What incentives are available for over 30s who have been made redundant and may have disorders that need monitoring by a medical specialist?
There is nothing specific for over 30’s BUT there are specific aged or demographic related incentives in existence designed for employers. For example as listed on the JobSearch webpage: Your business may be able to get up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) when you hire an eligible new employee who is either:
- 15 – 24 years of age
- an Indigenous Australian
- 50 years of age and over
Your business may be able to get up to $6,500 (GST inclusive) when you hire an eligible new employee who is either:
- 25 – 29 years of age
- a principal carer parent
- a person registered with an employment services provider for 12 months or more
Does the DES provider support end after you get a job? Or how long after the job do you stop working with your DES provider?
The answer here is maybe. Services within DES are tailored to the individual needs and circumstances of each participant. As part of the guidelines provided by the department of social services I note the following points regarding provider requirements they should;
- Provide Post Placement Support while a participant is progressing towards a 26 week, or a 52 week.
- Once a participant has achieved a 26-week Employment Outcome, initially determine if Post Placement Support is appropriate or if the participant needs Flexible, Moderate or High Ongoing Support, provide services as required and refer the participant to an OSA as soon as possible to verify the participant’s ongoing support needs Employment Outcome.
- Assess whether the participant is able to be exited as an independent worker once a participant has achieved a 52-week Employment Outcome.
How would someone with a disability get into employment in the disability employment sector?
There are several agencies dedicated to attracting people to work in this industry. I recommend the following:
What linkages exist between the NDIS and DES to encourage and support employment for those living with disability?
There are two main issues that I am prompted to consider in answering this question.
- There are clearly defined guidelines separating the two programs and what they are allowed to offer in terms of support. Whilst the NDIS provides multiple types of support, DES is specific to finding employment. With the creation of the NDIS there was a deliberate intention to qualify the ‘what and who’ of funding which is best contained in the ‘Principles to Determine the Responsibilities of the NDS and Other Service Systems’
- However there is one clear link between NDIS and that is in the form of School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) and DES. In short – in NDIS there are specific areas of support best described as ‘Find and Keep a Job’. These can be accessed by young people with disability transitioning out of school. SLES is there to prepare people with disability to access the DES system. For a better understanding of SLES please refer to the NDIA SLES web information. Also not that I have recently written a discussion paper re SLES which you can access here; https://ndcoacrossthedesk.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/understanding-sles-unfrequently-asked-questions/
How do I access RIAC advocacy support services as a carer?
As mentioned there will be a number of options in regards which disability information and advocacy service may be available in your area. But given the specific mention of ‘carer’ in this question I make direct reference to ‘Carers Australia’, the national peak body representing Australia’s unpaid carers, advocating on their behalf to influence policies and services at a national level. It works collaboratively with partners and its member organisations, the Network of state and territory Carers Associations, to deliver a range of essential national carer services.
Is there financial assistance for those wishing to relocate and live in capital cities?
Not that I am aware of that is specific to people with disability or via any DES type program although, in the past, I am aware that some agencies in the ‘Job Active’ system may have afforded some financial assistance to individuals to move if it allows for the take-up of meaningful employment.
As part of the forum attendees heard from both an employer and an employee and their DES experience. In that light –
There are plenty of case studies out there reflecting the role the DES providers do in a person journey to secure employment – I note a small collection via the Disability employment Australia ‘Employment Stories’ webpage: https://disabilityemployment.org.au/for-people-with-a-disability/stories/ .
I encourage you to also check out the NDCO ‘Create Your Future’ series of videos: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/getreadyforstudyandwork/resources/ndco_create_your_future_series2 .
Job Access features “Real Life Stories” as part of their webpage has a comprehensive list of videos via https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/stories .
To further read or investigate DES services, obligations and eligibility details please refer to the following document dated July 2018 noting that this program is often amended and all questions answered in this document have been attempted under the current program guidelines which are always subject to change – https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/06_2018/des_user_guide.pdf
Big thanks to Narelle Lowe from GOTAFE (Shepparton) in bringing everyone together for this forum. I very much appreciate the opportunity to contribute and collaborate with my fellow regional services in helping our local communities. Other contibutors to the event include the following service agencies: MEGT, Vecci, CVGT Australia, OCTEC, RIAC, The Personnel Group, Workways, Sureway employment, APM, WDEAworks, atWork Australia and all the team at GOTAFE. A quick reminder that the NDCO has produced a local service map available here – http://www.ndcovictoria.net.au/region-15#directories
NDCO region 15 Northern Victoria
8 October 2019