Elevating Standards: Embracing the Disability Employment Services Quality Framework 2023

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In a monumental leap forward, the Albanese Labor Government has released the new Disability Employment Services (DES) Quality Framework, signaling a pivotal shift in how the performance of DES providers is measured. This innovative framework places the views and experiences of people with disabilities at its core, ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs are prioritized.

Understanding the Scale of the Challenge

Australia is home to approximately 4.4 million individuals with disabilities, with 2.1 million of them being of working age. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has remained stagnant for over two decades, consistently hovering at a rate three times higher than that of the general public. Recognizing the pressing need for change, the Albanese Labor Government has prioritized improving disability employment outcomes, as evidenced by its inclusion in the September Jobs and Skills Summit.

The Four Pillars of Quality

The newly released DES Quality Framework positions the delivery of high-quality services for people with disabilities at the forefront of the DES program. It assesses providers based on four essential quality elements, ensuring that the services delivered to individuals with disabilities and employers align with their needs and aspirations. By prioritizing participant employment outcomes, the framework aims to foster successful and sustainable employment experiences.

Participant RightsParticipants are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of their rights and obligations as DES participants. They also recognize the crucial role that DES providers play in facilitating access to available supports aimed at enhancing their employability and fostering positive employment outcomes.
DES providers possess a deep understanding of participants’ unique needs and are dedicated to empowering them to enhance their capabilities and attain their desired employment objectives.

Disability Employment Services (DES) providers possess in-depth knowledge of the local labor market and a profound understanding of employers’ needs and expectations. They collaborate closely with employers and community services to ensure effective support for participants.
Provider CapabilityDES providers foster a culture of continuous improvement by implementing effective policies, systems, and processes. They also possess the necessary staff and management capabilities to deliver high-quality services and manage potential risks.
ComplianceDES providers actively utilize established compliance and assurance processes to ensure quality service delivery and continuous improvement.
The quality elements with their outcome statements

Advancing Participant Rights and Employer Engagement

The DES Quality Framework places paramount importance on participant rights, goals, and support needs. It emphasizes the significance of a person-centered approach to service delivery, providing structured support models, customized job placements, supported work experience, and holistic assistance along the path to employment. DES providers will also work closely with employers, understanding their support needs, and providing tailored job design and ongoing support. By cultivating strong relationships between employers and employees with disabilities, the framework aims to create inclusive workplaces that foster long-term employment. By understanding and addressing barriers, DES providers can empower participants to improve their employability and achieve their employment goals.

Nurturing Community Connections and Supportive Service Culture

Community connections play a vital role in the DES Quality Framework. By establishing networks of community partners and actively participating in the community, DES providers can create an ecosystem that supports and empowers individuals with disabilities. The framework also encourages innovation and research, promoting evidence-based approaches, identifying emerging markets, and addressing areas of skills shortage to meet the evolving needs of participants. It also encourages a strengths-based approach to participant support, fostering values such as kindness, care, and honesty within standards and practices. By recruiting the right team and implementing measures to support staff retention and satisfaction, DES providers can create an environment where participants and staff can thrive.

An Evolving Framework: Ongoing Development and Implementation

The DES Quality Framework has been developed in consultation with the disability employment sector and participant representative organizations. Over 60 submissions were received in response to the DES Quality Framework Discussion Paper published in December, and targeted stakeholder engagement workshops were held in June 2023. This collaborative approach ensures that the framework reflects the expertise and perspectives of those involved in the program.

The framework will be implemented iteratively over the next six months, beginning with the publication of the framework and the development of self-assessment tools and quality assessment processes. Strategies to measure participants’ views will be finalized, and compliance processes aligned with the National Standards for Disability Services (NSDS) and Grant Agreements will be determined. These steps will culminate in formal assessments against the framework, beginning in January.

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