Opinion: Embracing change - closing the disability employment gap

by Contributor06 Jun 2018

Changes to the Disability Employment Services program will commence on 1 July - Matt Little hopes it's just the start of employers educating staff, implementing inclusive policies and building diverse workplaces

Progress is impossible without change and embracing change can be challenging but with it comes significant opportunities.

The Disability Employment Services (DES) program is set to be transformed and the reforms will impact Australian job seekers, employers and service providers across the country. Since 2010 the DES program has provided assistance to job seekers with disability, an injury or serious health condition to find and keep long-term and meaningful employment.

Following extensive consultation with local communities, employers, people with disability and service providers, changes to the DES program will commence on 1 July.

These reforms will provide job seekers greater control over the services they receive and how they receive them. Empowering people with disability to make an informed choice about who they want as their employment service provider, in some ways reflects the flexibility and freedom seen in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reform.

Now, job seekers can finally opt for a provider that delivers the service that they want - support tailored to their individual needs rather than having to accept more of a one size fits all approach.    

According to a recent report, there are over 2.1 million people of working age with a disability in Australia and just over half are unemployed or looking for work. People with disability are an underrepresented population who are willing, able and can add value to any business.  

It’s understandable that some employers may feel that there isn’t enough support available for them to ensure their workplace is suitable for a person with disability, or that they’re employing the right candidate for the role. The government recognises this and the changes to the DES program also seek to improve service for employers. Service providers such as CoAct provide businesses with advice and support to assist them to employ a person with disability; and to support employees to be productive and a valuable member of your team.

Additionally, providers are incentivised to ensure that they match the right person to the right job, supporting employers and workers to achieve mutually beneficial job placements that lead to lasting employment.

With more support available there is a huge opportunity for businesses and HR managers to play a significant role in changing perceptions and creating more avenues for people with disability to find lasting work.

Employers have the power to be agents of change by educating staff, implementing inclusive policies and building a diverse workplace.

Times are changing and while this may be considered “just another reform”, this is not a CSR exercise. These improvements represent a significant step towards closing the employment gap and provide substantial benefits for both job seekers with disability and employers.


About the author
Matt Little is the CEO of CoAct, a national network of locally-embedded, community-focused employment services providers working together to create social and economic opportunities for Australia's most disadvantaged.