A lot of Participants, families, providers (and probably some governments) are confused about the role the NDIS will play in improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Particularly, how the Scheme will relate to and work with existing employment services.
The NDIS describes its responsibilities as part of a broader government strategy to address the low rates of employment for people with disability. The Scheme, employers, and mainstream employment assistance services all have a role to play in achieving this goal.
The below flowchart is our attempt to describe the employment supports available to job seekers with disability:
Disability Employment Services
The 2017 budget identified $3 billion over four years to be invested in Disability Employment Services (DES) and associated services to help people with disabilities find jobs with mainstream employers.
Funded by the Department of Social Services (DSS), DES aim to ensure people with disabilities who can participate in the open labour market have the support to develop their skills, confidence, and find and keep a job. By doing so, they enable people with disabilities to actively participate in Australian society.
The recent DES grant opportunity highlights some critical changes to how DES providers will be funded. These appear to reflect the aspirations of the NDIS. Essentially, they improve choice and control for Participants and encourage greater competition between providers.
NDIS Employment Supports
The NDIS has said they will fund:
- Supports to assist Participants with employment where it beyond the requirements of employment services and employers; and
- Supports the Participant would require regardless of the activity they are undertaking (personal care, assistance with transport, assistive technology).
Moreover, the NDIS has identified that they will be responsible (through Partners in Community, in particular, the Local Area Coordinators) for building relationships with mainstream providers and the local community to improve their understanding of employment needs of people with disabilities.
Participants who identify employment as a goal, will not necessarily receive 'Finding and Keeping a Job' funds in their plan. Instead, they may be referred to mainstream supports and be assessed for their eligibility to meet DES or Job Seekers Australia (JSA) access criteria. The exception will be people in transitioning Australian Disability Enterprises.
The NDIS has positioned itself to respond to Participant employment needs not currently met by other systems. They have made it explicitly clear that they will not fill the gaps that exist within current DSS and employer systems.
Undoubtedly, employment supports under the NDIS remains a very complex area. Participants, families and organisations will need greater clarity before they can navigate the two systems and understand where their support needs fit.