Want to improve the DES sector? Encourage not-for-profit organisations

I don’t doubt the sincerity and commitment of many disability employment services (DES) staff working in for-profit companies. I have met some talented, experienced and passionate people from within.

However, the for-profit model does not serve people with disability.


Three reasons:

1.    For-profit companies must, by definition and mandate, serve their shareholders first

2.    The persistent need to generate profit always results in sacrificing quality of service

3.    The wrong type of ‘efficiencies’ mean that people with disability are rushed through a process that often should not and cannot be rushed.

I should probably back up the above claims.

Shareholders first:

1.    Because DES for-profits’ first commitment is to shareholders, people with disability are never the main mission of the business. They should be. We cannot afford – literally* – for people with disability to be relegated to second in this most important sector: employment. People with disability have been marginalised and overlooked for too long. In my 30-year experience, this costs them their chance for the independent life many are capable of.

Sacrifices quality:

2.    The profit mandate sacrifices service quality because, when the money goes to shareholders, staff training is not a priority nor is taking one’s time with a job seeker to get to know the type of work that would really suit them. The result? A poor job match that won’t last and a job seeker who blames themselves for ‘failing’, when it has nowt to do with their skills or abilities.

Wrong type of efficiency:

3.    A skewed view of efficiency by both for-profits and, unfortunately, government funding-bodies results in an informal system called ‘creaming’. Creaming is where the most challenging job seekers are relegated to last in the job-seeking queue, even by the DES organisation. They are placed into a holding pattern of excuses, irrelevant training and, if they’re lucky, meaningless short-term work. (Read about the opposite of creaming here.)

In this work focus and responsibility has to be the job seekers, not shareholders.


- Martin Wren


* The cost to maintain one person on DSP in Australia is $540/second.