Understanding SLES

What is SLES?

We get asked this question a lot!

SLES stands for School Leaver Employment Supports. It is available to Year 12 school leavers who are eligible for the NDIS.  SLES helps young people prepare for and take part in work. Through SLES, school leavers will receive supports for up to two years that are focused on improving employment opportunities by getting them work-ready. The supports provided are tailored to meet individual employment goals. They can include things like work experience and skills development in areas such as time management, travelling, money handling, and taking instructions and understanding expectations. Young people will also be linked to further ongoing supports through a Disability Employment Service (DES) provider. As with the other supports in their NDIS plan, participants have choice and control in how they use their SLES supports, and who provides them.

SLES is just one of a number of options, or pathways, to employment for school leavers.  Other options include:

  • Going straight to open employment through a DES service;
  • Going to supported employment through an Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE);
  • Undertaking further education through a TAFE or university; or
  • Volunteering.



SLES was introduced by the NDIS to address what has been described as a “culture of low expectations” of people with disabilities among participants, families, planners and the community. Early NDIS plans have shown little emphasis on employment, with only about 6% of plans including employment support.

The school to work transition is a major life change for young people. SLES is seen as a “proactive approach to change the trajectory”. It aims to improve expectations by providing meaningful work experiences for young people and building the confidence of participants - and their families - to aim for work.

SLES was modeled on the NSW Transition to Work (TTW) program. TTW is a two-year program established in NSW that helps young people with a disability gain employment after leaving school (participants in the TTW Program are currently in the process of transitioning to SLES).

However, unlike TTW, SLES is not a program.  Programs consist of a unified collection of activities, undertaken to achieve a set of specific shared outcomes for a cohort of people - SLES on the other hand is an individualised strategy for employment supports, negotiated between a person and a provider, included alongside other ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports in the person’s plan.


What does Sles Look Like in a plan? 

As an employment line item, SLES sits in the NDIS Support Category 10, Finding and Keeping a Job (10_021_0102_5_3).  SLES, however, operates on an annualised funding model rather than an hourly rate. The current annual budget for SLES is $22,750.

SLES will appear in a participant’s plan as follows:

SLES in a Plan

In general, participants will receive SLES support for about 3 days per week for 48 to 52  weeks of the year. The actual days and hours of support received will however vary, and will be agreed between the participant and their provider.

What is the Interface Between SLES and DES?

For a young person wanting to get into open employment but lacking a bit of confidence and the necessary workplace skills, SLES provides the bridge.  SLES supports are designed to build the young person’s capacity to meet the access criteria and transition to a DES. Young people in their last year of school who are work-ready for open employment may be able to go straight to the DES ESL [Eligible School Leaver] program.

There is a “concurrency” arrangement in place that allows SLES supports to overlap with DES supports for up to six months to ensure a smooth transition.  It is also likely that many DES providers will register to become SLES providers. (This goes to a larger discussion about enhancing the future delivery of disability employment supports where “best practice” would surely see the different employment pathways for people integrated within or between providers.)


When will SLES be available?

SLES is currently available statewide in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and in parts of NSW, Victoria and Queensland. It is being rolled out progressively across all regions around Australia, as per the NDIS phasing schedule.


What is the Assessment Process?

In addition to establishing general eligibility for the NDIS, SLES eligibility is established via the NDIA’s Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA) that is undertaken in schools.  However, where students may have missed the school assessment, suitability for SLES may be established through other information including any Centrelink Job Capacity Assessment, (JCA) or Employment Services Assessment (ESAt).


What is the Review Process?

SLES is still new. Having been trialed in the ACT and Tasmania in 2015, it is being continuously (and currently!) reviewed and improved through an action research process. However, the early signs are encouraging.  An individualised, genuinely person-centred approach to developing skills and confidence in a young person - and with them in the driver’s seat - provides real opportunities for better outcomes.