For the record, we don’t need to include Disability Employment Services (DES) in the Royal Commission. All we need to do is look at the top five services in New South Wales to see what works. Then replicate.

It frustrates me no end that successive governments haven’t made an effort to find out what works. You’d think they’d care about their investment. Our investment. 

At present, many disability employment service contracts seem to be allocated willy-nilly. Sometimes operators are awarded contracts with no runs on the board over years and years. At other times, similarly small operators are punished for their lack of success. But at no time are those under-achieving operators taught how to become over achievers!

Why?

Because:

  1. The industry has become competitive. In this environment, any sharing of information could risk competitors winning the tender.
  2. Apparently the funding bodies ‘can’t show favouritism’. But of course, they do all the time, and should.

Here are some recent numbers that support my thesis that the least successful DES would do well to learn from the most successful. 

Pick any disability and the results are largely the same … For the sake of argument, I’m randomly choosing psychiatric illness in New South Wales. In 2017, 34 organisations found jobs that lasted for 26 weeks (or more) for 9690 people with psychiatric illness in NSW.

NOVA topped these results with 953 jobs out of the 9690. This represents 10% of the total. The next best service, Key Employment Association, found 841 jobs and ORS found 832. Together with Castle Personnel Services (805 jobs), in a reasonably typical year, these four providers found around a third of the employment for people with psychiatric illness in NSW during 2017.

Some organisations at the bottom of the pool only worked with 20 people over a contract of four years! And this is not because they were based in a small, remote town.

Government must decide: do you want employment full employment for people with disability who are willing and able to work? If so, reduce the competitiveness, increase the cooperativeness and pay attention to what works.

It’s well known that I’m against quotas. They’re discriminatory, paternalistic and humiliating. And they don’t work! Quite simply, quotas don’t change the number of ‘minority’ people participating in the workforce. Read here to learn more about this seemingly radical view.

But if you’re against quotas, you’ve got to be in favour of something else. So, what does work?

Support middle management to understand, implement and assess progress

So now you’ve:

·       Devised a well-documented plan

·       Incorporated inclusion principles across all of the business

·       Created opportunities for cross-functional interaction among the team

·       Regularly invested in staff training.

Well done! You’ve created the framework for an inclusive workplace. Now you must support middle management to understand, implement and assess progress. Don’t miss this step. It’s vital.