One of the benefits of being in the same job within the disability sector for a fair while is that you get to see the intention and effect of reform.
I am of the belief that all government reform is driven by well intentioned and intelligent people. Which is what makes the parade of disaster inflicted upon disability employment services for the last 15 years so difficult to understand.
We have a budget coming up and by now the ink will be dry on government plans to reform (read 'cut') service delivery to the poorest and most disadvantaged members of Australian society.
I have no idea what this will mean for disability employment services (and they really need informed reform, which I will come back to) but I am alarmed by stuff like this:
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8237751: "Opposition assistant treasury spokesman Mathias Corman suggested a new coalition government would have been planning an even tougher budget in a repeat of 1996 when the Howard government slashed spending and programs".
The 1996 Howard government reforms to disability employment were disastrous and began a process that led Australian service provision from world's best to schmozzle. Real term funding cuts of more than 20%, blurring of eligibility, introduction of unnecessary and ideologically driven ‘competition’ reduced development, stifled innovation, began a process of ‘dumbing down’ and most importantly of all kept the most needy people from accessing employment.
Today’s DES program is filled with a mixture of people with profound barriers to work and, through a muddled referral process, many people whose level of disability includes ‘barriers’ that I am sorry to say are simply part of the human condition. Recognition through the Star ratings is rorted mercilessly by service providers driven either by the desire for access to significant profit or fear of personal loss of employment.
Here’s an factual example: During a recent employment round we interviewed a person presently working in a DES service. “tell us about your experience’ we said. “I can do the most important aspects of my job well, I am particularly good at job carving” came the reply.
Readers should understand that job carving is an important skill and allows us to take the parts of a job that a person with significant disability can do and separate these from those that they cannot.
Sadly that wasn’t what our potential recruit was talking about. What they meant was, I can take a job offer and persuade the employer to split a 38 hour a week position into 2, 3 or even 4 part time jobs.
Why would you do that?
It could be that the person simply can’t work full time as a direct effect of their disability or part time work might be the individual’s choice. In that case - great.
However, that’s not what our applicant was talking about. They were talking about an organizationally driven instruction to carve employment to ensure higher scores in the dreadfully ill considered, fatally flawed, obviously ludicrous “Star Rating’ system.
Under ‘Stars’ 1 is pretty much 1 and that 1 placement is the same (there are some loadings and the system appears to have seen some minor improvement and it’s still wrong, as I will show later) 2 beats 1, 3 dumps on 1 and 4, well that’s a whole new world of ‘performance’.
Forget the budget. DES programs can be reformed, driven back to innovation and allowed to thrive with simple reform.
Here it is: Allow DES programs to only accept DSP recipients. These folk have had their disability independently verified. Allow these people to register with as many DES providers as they feel might meet their need.
Pay DES services (well) for reduction in benefit in a sliding scale with all reduction recognized and earning sufficient to end benefits really well paid with annual bonus for folk that stay off benefit.
Confirm payment owed to DES program through Centrelink records of actual benefit reduction.
Forget all the ‘quality assurance rubbish inflicted by the funding bodies other than QA certification. Make a rule that 50% of all surpluses, including cumulative surplus, to be returned to the Commonwealth at the end of the financial year.
There would also need to be some underlying funding level sufficient to ensure doors stayed open (but that wouldn’t need to be high).
There you go – effective disability employment service reform in a 2 page document.
It won’t happen – we will have either a repeat of the draconian reform of 1996 or we’ll drop off the radar with no change at all or more paperwork and bureaucracy will be inflicted upon us.
Such is government .
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Your Comments Sarah Faith from Forster-Tuncurry wrote on 17 Apr 2011 12:11:03 PM Such an interesting article .... opened my eyes to some facts I had no idea about!
Looking forward to working with you very soon!
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