Disability Employment Services: Activating Hope through Excellence

Written by Kelly Mason
General Manager

Maria presented at the Disability Employment Australia National Leaders Forum in Adelaide towards the end of last year and was inspired by positive energy around the future of the DES sector.

The Australian Government’s recent Options Paper for the new proposed Disability Employment Centre of Excellence is another example of the changing landscape of employment services.

The proposed model for the Centre comes from extensive research and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, with the goal of increasing the employment outcomes for people with a disability and bolstering the capacity and capability of employment service providers and employers so they are better equipped to meet the needs of their clients.

With one in six Australians, or around 4.4 million people living with a disability, this is a much-needed resource. The Government has allocated 1.1 million dollars to develop the Centre and aims to have it operating by July 2024.

There are several key themes outlined in the Options Paper designed to generate discussion around how the proposed Centre could operate and what role it would take.

We’re most encouraged by the focus on building the capacity of employment service providers.

The Options Paper proposes the Centre could:

  • Build the capacity of the whole DES sector, provide tools, advice, and support to employment service providers, and participate in quality assurance training.
  • Address the capacity issues of employment providers for people with disability (including those with intellectual disability and high support needs) in regional, rural, and remote areas.
  • Develop training and professional development materials for employment service providers.

What could this look like?

At Bounce, we’re committed to developing the capacity and capability of the employment services sector workforce – from frontline workers to leaders.

Professional development and coaching skills for frontline staff and leadership training for managers and team leaders will be critical to the success of the Centre.

One of the suggestions in the Options Paper is to create an Evidence–Informed Training Hub and deliver training and support to build the capacity of employment service providers. As we have outlined in our recently released whitepaper “Activating Hope in Employment Services,” the evidence is clear around the need to provide frontline workers and managers in employment services with the right skills to support their clients. This is equally as important in disability employment services – service that focuses on person-centred care and support will provide improved outcomes for the most vulnerable cohorts.

DES Providers should be thinking about their role from the perspective of transformation, not transaction. Relationships between frontline workers – or job coaches, as we call them, and their clients must be built on a foundation of connection and trust. When strong relationships exist, job coaches can support their clients to explore meaningful and sustainable employment options.

The Centre needs to adopt a ‘wellbeing approach’ and focus on helping clients, frontline workers, and leadership teams develop positive wellbeing. Providers need to encourage a culture of positive wellbeing.

Before individuals can be placed into employment, their psychological work readiness skills need to be increased. This includes boosting their confidence, resilience, autonomy, and self-efficacy. Bounce supports the call for the Centre to use evidence-informed best-practice tools and resources, particularly where a focus can be made on understanding and overcoming the barriers to employment for people with a disability.

Bounce takes a wrap-around approach to its training by providing holistic support to frontline staff, managers, and leaders through its certified programs – Job Coach Certification and Coaching Skills for Leaders.

For clients – The Bounce Program™ is an ideal short course for individuals to complete to increase their psychological work-readiness skills. Our framework, “Wellbeing-to-Work” is ideal to incorporate into the Centre model.

It’s clear that we need to do more to support people with a disability to find secure, stable, and meaningful employment. With unemployment rates three times higher than the rate for people without a disability, the barriers need to be removed so that individuals with a disability can feel valued and supported in work.

Bounce Global is committed to sharing our knowledge and expertise to help shape the future of the sector and supporting providers to reframe and reshape how they work with their clients.

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