Somewhere between 4 and 5 years ago I attended a then Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR now DEEWR) seminar on what was to the proposed measurement system for Disability Employment Services.
What was eventually created came to be called "star ratings' a sliding scale from 1 (poor perfromance) to 5 (good performance).
Disability Employment Services should be performance measured and the results should be publicly available.
However, there was an obvious and howling error in their proposed measurement plan. Every job counted as '1'. In other words an 8 hour a week job counted and was remunerated exactly the same as a full time position.
I pointed out that this was likely to encourage (under pressure) services to take short cuts and seek part time work/job carving - that's where you take a full time job and break it into several smaller part time roles.
DEWR were adamant that this wouldn't happen.
For two reasons:
1: 'Service providers wouldn't do that' &
2: DEWR would 'put systems into place that would prevent abuse' (I wrote that down very carefully).
Well guess what?
Both sides came to be under pressure; service providers to get results and DEWR to have a program that generated outcomes. This was, and is, a recipe for disaster - not for either of the above - but for the independence and opportunities available to people with a disability.
Instead of fewer full time positions you'd get lots of part time ones.
Exactly what's happened.
And, I can prove it.
There are main indicators for measuring performance under the Star Rating system: number of placements, hours worked, wages paid and jobs retained. Each are assigned a weighting. The results achieved by a program are then presented as a percentage against local and national results.
I recently met with 2 other Campbelltown (south west Sydney) service providers. We all had higher than average (by as much as 30%) hours worked and wages earned, retention was as good or better than average. However all programs 'scored' lower Star Ratings than competing programs.
You don't need to be a genius to work out why - not as many placements.
So, is this where we've failed, we simply didn't find enough opportunities?
No, what happened was the thing that DEEWR encourage service providers to do (and yes, I have heaps of witnesses who will swear under oath), jobs found have been carved up.
That's how you have higher wages and hours worked.
Here's how to rort the Star Ratings (I, and yes there is going to be II):
Encourage staff to only seek part time positions: they are easier to find and the hours required to provide post placement support shrink significantly for the same financial reward to the service provider + improved Star Ratings..
When a full time position is offered encourage the employer to split the role into 2, 3 or 4 positions, you can tell the employing company that they are doing a great thing giving more opportunities to more people.
DEEWR get better statistical numbers and are able to say X number of jobs have been found
Service providers receive additional income for extra placements
Service Star Ratings jump as more number are recorded in the highest scoring category: number of jobs found.
However, people who have a disability and want to work full time because that's what most folk want/have to do and they would like to earn as much as possible please are at a disadvantage.
You get what you measure. Measure the wrong things and you can twist 'performance in a very unhealthy direction.
What to do?
We have a new government and a new Minister. Mr O'Connor seemed a thoroughly decent man and Senator Arbib presents as a bloke who will listen.
On Friday the Minister wrote to all service providers (in part):
"I have asked the Department to establish an Industry Reference Group to contribute to the development of a new performance framework for the new programs. Membership of this group will initially include peak industry associations - ACE, NESA, NDS, Jobs Australia, the Australia Rehabilitation Providers' Association and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations".
Minister, well done. And now, recognising that the Star Ratings are/were a deeply flawed instrument to measure disability employment services performance could you please state unambiguously your intention not to use them in the awarding of future contracts?
* I said 'rort' at the start - maybe that's a tad harsh, how about 'manipulate to advantage'?
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