Inclusion Australia uses a range of words and phrases to describe good employment support for people with intellectual disability. What we mean is employment support that has hard evidence of achieving high rates of job placement and retention in the open workforce.
Hard evidence means actual numbers of people with intellectual disability placed in a job (job placement) and the actual numbers of people supported to keep a job (job retention). Other outcome information may include hours of work and wages per week.
A job placement rate is the number of people with disability placed in a job divided by the number of people who commence with a provider.
If 10 people with disability commence with Provider Y, and 4 of these people are placed in a job — Service Y has a job placement rate of 40% (i.e. 4/10).
A job retention rate is the number of people with disability placed in a job for a period of time. If 10 people with disability commence with Service Y, and 3 of these people are still in a job 26 weeks later — Service Y has a job retention rate of 30% at 26 weeks (i.e. 3/10).
In the evaluation of the Disability Employment Services program, the average job placement rate for people with intellectual disability is 54.3% and the average job retention rate for 26 weeks is 28.7%. About 1 of every 2 jobseekers with intellectual disability will get a job, and about 1 in 3 will get a job that lasts for at least 26 weeks.
For the best performing DES provider the results are considerably higher.
The best DES provider achieves a job placement rate of 92.6% and a job retention rate of 77.8% for 26 weeks. This means that about 9 in 10 will get a job, and about 8 in 10 will still be in employment at 26 weeks.
When we refer to best practice we begin by looking at transition-to-work and open employment providers who are achieving relatively high rates of job placement and job retention.
When we identify providers with high job placement and job retention rates we can take a look at what practices they are using to find jobs, and what practices are being used to ensure the job is sustainable for the long term.
The link between high employment outcome rates and provider practice is important because this can tell us what works and what doesn’t in helping people with intellectual disability get sustainable jobs.
From this information we can talk about “best practice”, “skilled support”, “best practice”, the “right support”, or simply “what works”.
“What works” makes a difference in terms of increasing employment outcomes, providing value for money, and providing savings to the Commonwealth through reduced welfare and reduced expenditure on more expensive alternative programs.
More than sixty years of research has found that initial job capacity assessments for youth with intellectual disability are almost always low, and have little to do with the level of job capacity that can be achieved after skilled support.
Labelling youth with intellectual disability as limited in capacity to work and restricting them to non-work or segregated programs before they have had the opportunity to try employment and receive support is contrary to research and demonstration.
The current system of assessment needs to be replaced with a system of investment which understands that the work potential of individuals with intellectual disability is directly linked to the availability of skilled support in job placement and training in the open labour market.
Low expectations about the work capacity of individuals with intellectual disability is a major barrier to improving employment outcomes. We cannot, however, raise expectations in the absence of skilled support as this will only set individuals up to fail.
Evidence shows that the most effective impact on changing attitudes is the demonstration of evidence based employment support together with parent-to-parent sharing of successful experiences with employment.
Expectations can be changed through the availability of skilled transition-to-work and open employment. This demonstrates to individuals, families and employers as to what is possible and encourages the choice to seek employment.
NDIS will have responsibility for transition-to-work support. This is an important pathway for many people with intellectual disability who are not ready to enter DES immediately after school.
Successful models of transition-to-work support feature work experience in real work settings with strong links to effective open employment providers.
There is, however, a limited sector of skilled transition-to-work providers across Australia. A new national employment framework must expand and replicate transition-to-work support that demonstrates positive employment outcomes.
Why is there a decrease in the number of people with intellectual disability working in the open workforce?
The number of people with intellectual disability working in the open labour market has declined from 8,595 in 2003-04 to 4,695 in 2013-14. This is a decline from 16.3% to 7.9% of adults with intellectual disability who receive support from disability support services in Australia.
If we are to improve open employment outcomes for people with intellectual disability we need to expand and replicate support that demonstrates successful rates of open employment outcomes.
The DES evaluation specifically noted the need for specialist services to help people with significant intellectual disability achieve open employment outcomes. The evaluation report noted that if expectations are raised, outcomes will follow, only if individuals are provided with the right type of support.
An increase in the open employment participate rates of people with intellectual disability can provide the Commonwealth with significant savings in welfare expenditure and from more expensive alternative adult programs (i.e. day programs and supported employment).
The traditional job application and interview process is ineffective for most people with intellectual disability looking to engage with employers. Few people with significant intellectual disability get work through an advertised vacancy approach.
The most successful employer engagement method for jobseekers with intellectual disability in Australia is job customisation. A customised job is designed to meet genuine employer need which adds value to a business. This is an employer engagement strategy conducted by a skilful provider seeking to meet business needs or solutions which also meet the strengths and interests of a job candidate.
A customised job is a set of tasks that differ from standard job descriptions and instead are based on tasks found within a workplace. A customised proposal unties the tasks that exist in a workplace and makes them available to be rearranged into a customised job description. It is a process which requires a much deeper level of interaction between providers and employers. This is employer engagement at a local, often personal, level.
Good open employment outcomes have been achieved for many people with significant intellectual disability when they can move seamlessly and concurrently from transition-to-work support to DES open employment support.
Skilful transition-to-work support can positively change the expectations and confidence of youth with intellectual disability through work experience.
Specialist providers have demonstrated that they are able to provide a pathway from transition-to-work support to DES support. This was acknowledged by the Federal Budget 2015 announcement which now funds youth to remain in transition-to-work support while at the same time registering with a DES provider.
This enables youth to maintain skill and confidence when in transition-to-work while a DES provider seeks a paid open employment job placement. This pathway is responsible for the most successful rates of open employment outcomes for people with intellectual disability in Australia.
The Productivity Commission Inquiry Report - Disability Care and Support 2011 - argued that supporting youth with disability to move from school to a job in the open labour market can provide substantial savings from more expensive day support and supported employment programs over a lifetime.
International and Australian research shows that open employment for individuals with intellectual disability results in greater benefits to taxpayers and individuals compared to alternative programs (i.e. day programs and supported employment). This is due to the higher wage outcomes achieved by open employment and less expensive ongoing support.
Skilled transition-to-work and open employment services that move people through to jobs in open employment are an important means of improving employment outcomes and minimising Commonwealth expenditure.
A choice between providers that can’t provide skilled support and achieve employment outcomes for people with intellectual disability and employers isn’t a real choice.
People with disabilities and employers need to be able to make an informed choice based on which provider is most likely to achieve an employment outcome. It is important that choice is informed by published outcome results by disability type rather than by which service has the slickest marketing.
Both DES and NSW-TTW programs currently publish provider outcome data. DES outcome data includes job placement and job retention rates by primary disability type. It is important that NDIS also publish employment outcome data for individual providers funded to assist NDIS participants in training or employment.
Individual provider employment outcome data provides informed consumer choice; improves outcomes because more people select higher outcome providers; puts pressure on poorly performing providers to improve; allows good performance to be identified, guides workforce training design based on what works; and improves economic participation and achieves substantial economic savings.
To build a new national disability employment framework for people with intellectual disability we need to ensure that people with intellectual disability have access to providers who have the skill to achieve high rates of employment outcomes.
To achieve this we propose a long term plan which aims to;
- expand the coverage of transition-to-work and open employment providers that have evidence of positive employment outcomes
- replicate evidence based practice through the provision of training and technical assistance to develop a skilled market of providers
Improved employment outcomes and value for support dollars will only be achieved if a new framework of employment is directed towards support that has evidence of achieving employment outcomes.
Many individuals with intellectual disability currently have little expectation of gaining a job in the open labour market and most do not have access to skilled transition-to-work and open employment support.
The principle of ‘choice and control’ requires a new national disability employment framework able to deliver skilled evidence based support.
In the absence of expectations and skilled support in all labour market areas of Australia, the choices of many people with intellectual disability are limited.
A long term plan is required to expand and replicate skilled support throughout all labour market regions so that individuals with intellectual disability and their families have the choice to pursue a pathway of support from school to work in the open labour market.
Critical to determining an effective funding model is to look at the activity cost of current best practice outcomes for people with intellectual disability. Jobseekers with intellectual disability typically require higher support hours to find a job and for on-the-job training after job placement. This is also a group who regularly require ongoing support to maintain their employment.
The process by which the funding is delivered is arguably less important than the adequacy and timing of funding to ensure evidence based employment support is sustainable.
Australian Disability Enterprises have a ten year plan — Inclusive Employment 2012-2022 — A vision for supported employment. The introduction states:
“While many people with disability, their families and carers, express satisfaction with the current supported employment system, this does not mean change is not desirable. While investment in supported employment has increased over time, wage outcomes have risen slowly, and hours of work for supported employees have actually decreased. In addition, people with disability are not always getting the right support at the right time. Some older workers, for example, are ‘stuck’ because of a lack of alternate supports outside their existing enterprise employment. Some people with disability have expressed boredom with their job, a desire to try something new, and to move into the open employment market.”
Inclusion Australia supports the key objectives of the plan to:
- deliver employment supports not fixed to an ADE but provide pathways to employment in environments and industries across the labour market,
- deliver improved employment outcomes including increased wage outcomes and hours of work,
- remove barriers and deliver increased employment participation,
- improve the quality of employment support.
Inclusion Australia also welcomes the funding announced in the 2015 Federal Budget to enable employees with disability to have access to open employment support while maintaining their job in an ADE.
While these reforms of supported employment are positive, it must be noted that the most effective pathway to open employment for people with intellectual disability — based on research and demonstration, including lengthy Australian demonstrations — is via transition-to-work and open employment support that offers training and support in a regular work place setting. This is achieved without having to group people with intellectual disability in a separate centre or workplace.
International and Australian evidence indicates that supported employment (segregated setting) is a less effective pathway to jobs in the open labour market. This is largely due to the fact that people with intellectual disability find it difficult to generalise training from one environment to another, but also due to the current lack of provider skill to successful place and train people with intellectual disability in the open labour market.
As stated in the “Vision for Supported Employment” - specialist supports should deliver mainstream inclusion wherever possible. On this basis, Inclusion Australia is promoting the development of a national pathway of transition-to-work and open employment support that has demonstrated what is possible.