Positive changes to DES program to take effect as of July 1, 2018
As of the 1st of July, changes to the Disability Employment Services (DES) program will take effect; this marks the beginning of a long-awaited reform, first proposed in the 2017 Federal Budget.
It is anticipated that the Australian Government will invest over $3 billion in DES and associated services over the next 4 years, in a move to transform and improve employment outcomes for those with a disability, injury or health impairment, so they can experience the social, emotional and monetary rewards that come from being in gainful employment.
The new DES program will give participants greater control, and more choice, in the type of services they can access, and how they will receive them. This will include flexibility in the way in which their services are delivered, removing the geographical batteries facing some participants who may live remotely, or have trouble with mobility. Participants will now be able to choose between a combination of face-to-face, telephone and video chat meetings, following their initial on-site interview, and will also be able to switch providers more easily if they are unhappy with the level of service they are receiving. At present, participants have little say as to which provider they attend to, and must meet certain conditions if they wish to switch providers.
These changes are a good thing for those accessing disability employment services, as it means they can take a more proactive approach to their health, and will have access to a higher calibre of service providers, as poorer performing providers, or those found to be non-compliant, will have their contracts cancelled.
DES Providers will be facing a tougher and more competitive landscape, requiring them to behave differently (and more innovatively) than ever before. Rather than depending upon referrals from Centrelink, which up until now have been, to some extent, guaranteed, they will be required to sign-up new participants through marketing strategies and promotional activities. In order to maintain market share and attract and retain customers, service providers will have to endorse their services, create brand awareness, and promote their capacity for providing exceptional employment opportunities and specialist services for their clients.
While operating in a far more regulated market, with a strong emphasis on compliance and Government reporting, service providers will also be rewarded for these efforts with better incentives, and different funding arrangements. New funding arrangements will see a greater balance achieved in the funding model, with a 50:50 split between services fees and outcome fees, rather than the current rate of 60:40 for service and outcome fees, respectively. Providers will now be rewarded for maximising employment outcomes for participants who, for various reasons, may be more difficult to place in work than others. This means they will obtain a higher outcome payment if a participant has a low likelihood of achieving an employment outcome, and, alternatively, a lower outcome payment if a participant has a high probability of achieving an employment outcome. This is likely to motivate DES providers to provide a higher quality of service to their clients, and be more active in their approach at helping them secure employment (ie. funding a training course so they can develop their skills, or purchase of tools to improve their capacity to work).
While investment in multi-channel marketing activities is necessary for the growth of DES providers, these efforts will fail miserably if the organisations are not supported by competent, customer-centric staff who are proactive in their approach to customer engagement and retention.
The use of reliable and efficient DES software will allow organisations to manage their case load and be more responsive to new participants. iCase, a product of SoNET Systems, offers a range of work-flow functions that help organisations cut back on administration costs and time. iCase’s unparalleled flexibility allows integration to all employment services, and has successfully assisted the ongoing operations of many DES providers.