Here’s a key question to consider: how useful are disability employment services? One disturbing answer is ‘Sometimes not at all’. Fortunately another answer is ‘They can be your best resource’.

When it comes to employment, it’s important to know that making an informed choice of service provider makes a big difference. Not just in getting a job, but in keeping it too.

One of the most appealing features of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is the freedom to choose your own services, and the ways in which they will support you. This includes choosing an Employment Support Service, should you wish to find a job. (And remember, here at NOVA we have a ‘zero exclusion’ policy when matching people with jobs; we encourage everybody to find out what’s possible.)

The trouble with choice though – and we’ve all experienced this at some time – is that it can stop us in our tracks, overwhelm us with uncertainty and anxiety.

There have probably been few people more openly critical of the Disability Employment Service (DES) Star Ratings than I.

Ranging from 1 to 5, the stars are supposed to give insight into the quality of service from each DES. But the measures are blunt. The rating is influenced by placement and milestones in employment at 13, 26 and 52 weeks, and stops measuring after that. Not coincidentally, the nation-wide retention drops when the job subsidy ends.

The stars have also created a climate that encourages bad practices, like gaming (exploiting unintended loopholes to improve performance outcomes on paper) and creaming (excluding the most disadvantaged job seekers in order to gain better results faster).

To their credit the Department of Social Services (DSS) has recently introduced greater emphasis on keeping a job, but we still have a way to go.

As of 23/5/16, for the first time NOVA Employment has achieved a perfect 5-star rating across all of our sites. This result comes despite my tasking the NOVA team to ignore the star ratings. I’ll explain why.

NOVA Employment’s Focus on Ability Short Film Festival 2017 is almost upon us. It’s been called ‘the most inclusive film festival in the world’ and we love it.

Inclusive because of its theme, because it’s open to everybody, and because there are no entry fees. Plus there are so many ways you can participate: by making films, watching them online (and voting for your favourites), or organising a festival event or screening in your community.

So here’s a timely reminder: entries close on 30 June. Your film must be no longer than five minutes (not including credits) and must be about the ability of people with a disability. We’ll upload all eligible entries to the website on 25 July, and voting will then be open until 7 August.

Each year I look forward to seeing what the festival will bring.