Access to sustainable work is still out of reach for nearly half of all Australians with a disability. The effects of this include lower community participation, poorer mental health and well-being outcomes, and lower economic participation – all needed for a successful economy.

National Disability Employment Framework

In June 2015, AFDO prepared a comprehensive report for the Department of Social Services Employment Framework. The report recommended moving to a market-driven approach based on the NDIS, as well as practical measures and reform to encourage Australian businesses to employ people with disability.

AFDO’s submission outlined a series of recommendations, including five areas where we believe reform would be most beneficial.

  1. Set up a market-driven approach modelled on the NDIS, with a funding package allocated to jobseekers with disability to buy a wider variety of employment-related supports.
  2. Support businesses of all sizes to become more confident employing people with disability (with modelling underway of the Diversity Field Officer concept).
  3. Greater leadership by Federal, State, and Territory governments to increase the proportion of people with disability employed in the public sector.
  4. Develop clear benchmarks, goals and accountabilities to close the employment gap experienced by people with disability.
  5. Address the concerns of business regarding Workplace Health and Safety, industrial relations, and disability discrimination.

A new way of thinking about employment

AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce and Dr Kevin Murfitt of Deakin University at an AFDO Diversity Field Officer Service event. AFDO believes that a new approach is needed – one that focusses on the needs of employers and the skills of people with disability. This approach needs to get more people working, meet the needs of businesses and increase productivity.

Between 2013–2014, AFDO met with a range of stakeholders, including the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council and individual Council members, to talk about ways to improve the number of people with disability in the workforce.

Then in 2015, a two-year pilot began in Geelong, Victoria, to trial the new employment model, which included two Diversity Field Officers (DFOs). These DFOs provided specialist advice and worked one-on-one with small businesses that were committed to hiring people with disability. Each DFO worked with up to 25 small-to-medium-sized businesses (50 businesses in total across two DFOs) to review their policies and procedures, and to recommend ways to support a more diverse workforce.

This project was a significant step forward for the employment of people with disability in the Barwon region. The Diversity Field Officer Service is continuing in the Barwon region, and we are currently exploring opportunities to expand the service to include other states throughout Australia.

Reforming Disability Employment Services

AFDO has been a key advocate to the Australian Government for the changes needed to best support people with disability into work, including how Disability Employment Services (DES) can be more effective.

AFDO has advocated for:

  • representation on the Australian Government’s DES Reference Group and DES Operational Working Group
  • representation to Senate committees
  • the improvement of the DES star rating system
  • performance framework changes, including a 52-week performance indicator and the public release of DES outcomes by disability to help people with disability make an informed DES choice
  • a high-quality DES program by only tendering DES’ with star ratings of three or less
  • access to employment programs, particularly for people with disability working in transition to work services.

In 2014, AFDO produced a national report from data collected by national organisations representing people with disability. The report looks at how the DES system can be made to best meet the needs of people with disability and makes recommendations informed from AFDO’s broader work.

This report was funded by the Department of Social Services DES Consumer Engagement project.

Providing respected advice

AFDO has worked with the Australian Retailers Association, Australia Post and Disability Employment Australia on the development and rollout of three National Disability Employment Initiative (NDEI) projects.

These projects were designed to explore new ways to help people with disability get jobs. They included the development of a 12-month program to support retail employers hire and keep employees with disability; career development for DES clients who are currently working; and the development of an innovative Australia Post training resource.

AFDO has also presented at a number of conferences, including the 2013 Jobs Australia Conference, the 2014 Australian Network on Disability ‘Leading the Way’ Conference and the 2014 Disability Employment Australia National Conference.