Minister Rishworth press conference at Community Bridging Services’ Noarlunga Office in Adelaide


Topics: Disability Employment Services Quality Framework

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Nice to be here at Community Bridging Service which is a Disability Employment Service provider. What is really special about this DES provider is that they really work alongside participants ensuring that they have connection to meaningful long-term employment. But what is also really important is they embed the perspective of the participant in the heart of this service, looking at best practice and how to continually innovate. This unfortunately is not the case for all Disability Employment Service providers across the country. So our announcement today is about how we drive better quality in our DES system right across the country. What I was surprised to find out when I became the Minister is that the participants experience in a Disability Employment Service is not actually captured, assessed and reported on publicly, despite it being a KPI of Disability Employment Services. This is not measured. And so the framework we're announcing today will look at what Disability Service Providers have to strive for, to improve poor quality and also importantly, how that will be assessed and reported on, and so this is really important because the quality of the service, putting the participant at the centre is critical to getting good long term outcomes. I look forward to continuing to work with DES providers to not just do the bare minimum, but actually strive for excellence, like they do here at CBS.

JOURNALIST: For those that don't know what a DES is, could you be a bit more specific about what the framework is and how it is played out in practice?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: So a Disability Employment Service is about connecting employers and people with disability, into work. We know that the unemployment rate for people living with disability has remained stubbornly high and so the Disability Employment Service is about making that connection. Of course, what we've seen is a particular focus on a very narrow public assessment. So it's been really quite narrow and has not taken in the experience of the participant in that test of the program. So what this framework will do is make sure that services are ensuring participant rights are understood, that participants understand what their rights are, is really important. That there is a striving for incorporating innovation and best practice into your Disability Employment Service. It's also about ensuring that Disability Employment Services actually respond to feedback and complaints. This is all about how we drive quality. And importantly, that Disability Employment Services are meeting the support needs of both the participant and the employer to make sure that there is a really good connection. We've got a lot to do to turn around that stubbornly high rate of unemployment for people living with disabilities. And part of that work is also about changing community attitudes and promoting more inclusive workplaces and that is work we will continue to do. But Disability Employment Services have such a critical role in that and we want everyone striving to be the best, like they do here at CBS. I think one of the critical ingredients in the work done here at CBS is that lived experience is just part of the workplace. There are people on the board with lived experience. There are people in the workplace with lived experience, and of course, working with participants, that provides for a better service and better outcomes.

JOURNALIST: And how exactly will you measure the success of it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of this framework? We'll be working with DES providers on what those indicators will be. It will be things like observation, by independent observers, it will be things like participant feedback. We will be publishing those outcomes early next year so that the wider community can judge how DES providers are going.

JOURNALIST: There have been a lot of strategies and policies launched to try and find people with disability work. Why would we believe that this one will be more successful than the rest?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, this is only one part of our broader initiatives to actually address this issue. One of the areas is about employer confidence and encouraging employers to provide a workplace that is more inclusive and so some of the work we're doing, whether that is in the tourism sector, whether that is our work with the BCA, is about building employer confidence, and promoting more inclusive workplaces. A lot of people only need a minor adjustment at work or indeed, no adjustment at all, to be really successful in a workplace. It's about having employers look at their attitudes and look at their inclusive practices to make sure people are given an opportunity. DES providers such as CBS play such a critical role in that on the ground. And that work is so important.

JOURNALIST: And what is the situation for disability employment at the moment, can you give us the picture?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well disability employment is more than double the national rate of unemployment. It's remained stubbornly high for a long period of time. And not everyone with a disability can work or wants to work, but there is a lot of people that tell me they do want that opportunity, for dignity that comes along with work. They want to be given that opportunity. So we do need to shift the dial. But it's not just good for people living with disability. It is good for the economy when employers are screaming out for employees. It's time that we take this opportunity to look outside of the box and look at people and the strengths that people with disability can bring to a workplace.

JOURNALIST: Definitely and like you said, the figures of disability employment, they haven't changed for more than two decades. How will this change it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is only one part. If we had high performing high quality, Disability Employment Service providers across the board like we have here at CBS, then we are likely to get more people with disability into work because the relationship between people with disability, their work and employers is strengthened and that there are people alongside assisting with that. So Disability Employment Services play a critical role, as the work with employers is critical to shifting that dial. So it has to be multi-pronged and we need to keep working at it but I'm determined to do that.

JOURNALIST: The framework seems to have key issues at its heart like including lived experience and providing high quality service. Are you saying these key things haven't been included in services until now?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: They have been a KPI but they haven't actually been measured, and so in terms of the star ratings that were previously published, they didn't include assessments of this type of quality. What was being published didn't give a full picture of the type of service and particularly the participants experience, so we want to make sure that assessments are transparent and they take into account a much wider range of what makes a good service. And so that's what this is all about.

JOURNALIST: What is it that you're hoping overall to achieve?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What I want to see is every service that provides Disability Employment Services striving for excellence. I want to see participants regularly getting a great experience, not playing the roulette wheel of whether they get a good provider or a poor provider. That's what I really want to see - every Disability Employment Service high performing, innovating, but most importantly, putting the voices of participants at the centre.

JOURNALIST: Could you talk a little bit about your experience with the DES?

STEFAN NOTO: So having a disability, I've been on DES pretty much all my life. I always knew that I wanted to have open employment. I knew right at the beginning, a lot of companies when you're looking at people with disabilities, they try and put you in shelters. I knew I didn't want to go down that path. So when I was out of school, I ended up making the move to looking for a provider. And the provider I ended up finding was CBS. CBS is very innovative in coming up with ideas for their clients. And that's why I stuck with CBS for so long. I've been with CBS since 2012. I have tried other providers, but I always come back to CBS because of the culture that they've got for their participants and the skill set. I haven't seen any other provider in SA that can provide the same.

JOURNALIST: And so with these new government schemes coming in now, how would that impact you?

STEFAN NOTO: It's fantastic. Fantastic to see that taking place, where people with lived experience like myself, don't get pushed into a position where they didn't want to go. Luckily, I could stand up for myself prior to this Framework, having the framework means someone that doesn't have the capabilities to do that has got the opportunity to go in open employment if that's what they want to go for.

JOURNALIST: And knowing that this kind of scheme and process now incorporates lived experiences of people. How important is that?

STEFAN NOTO: Hugely important because in the way they were rating them before, it doesn't take into account a person's …where they're coming from in that situation because with everyone that has a disability, every situation is different. Having this type of framework gives the opportunity to capture a lot more of the information, where before the information was only one part and didn't capture the whole person. It actually makes you feel more as a person now using this framework, rather than just a number.

JOURNALIST: Can you talk a little bit about how this new scheme will impact you?

TIFFANWY KLIPPEL-COOPER: In the past, my experience of most providers and most workplaces has been that we have been spoken for, but not listened to. And I believe that the changing policy will mean that moving forward we'll be working hand in hand. We will actually be listened to and our needs and rights will be integral to the process moving forward and hopefully we will see a greater evolution in the services and innovations as we progress.

JOURNALIST: And, again, the fact that lived experience will be incorporated in these assessments. What do you think about it?

TIFFANWY KLIPPEL-COOPER: I believe that lived experience is vitally important to understanding the needs of the disabled when it comes to providing services for us. You can't anticipate what someone requires without asking. And until now we have not been asked, we’ve been told.

JOURNALIST: And we were saying earlier about how having more people with disabilities in the workforce benefits society and everybody. Can you talk a little bit about that?

TIFFANWY KLIPPEL-COOPER: Of course, people with disabilities tend to have very broad rich experiences in life. We have had to have very divergent pathways because we have been limited in some ways, so we've had to find different ways of doing things. And because of that, when we go into workplaces, we take those experiences with us. And we say to our employers, well, I know you've been doing this for five years, but I know that it can also be done this way and maybe that might be a bit better. I've experienced that multiple times myself. I'm very interested to see where this progresses from here and how we will change the landscape for employment for the future.

JOURNALIST: What kind of results will you be looking out for?

TIFFANY KLIPPEL-COOPER: I would be looking to see employers be more willing to take on individuals with more complex disabilities like my own. To be more willing to be open and flexible about the ways in which they arrange the workplace and what work starts to look like from this point forward.

FREDDIE BRINCAT: I’m the founder and executive director of Community Bridging services.

JOURNALIST: What do you think a scheme like this will bring for people with disabilities?

FREDDIE BRINCAT: I think one of the keys around improving employment for people with disabilities is the concept of sustainable employment. I think the previous star rating created too much emphasis around short-term employment. It encouraged a focus on six-month outcomes or 12 month outcomes. Here at CBS we also measure ongoing employment. This is really important and I think the new framework will encourage more sustainable employment where people with a disability, if a group are in long term jobs where they're happy, they're more likely to get on the job training, promotion, increase pay, pay more taxes and have superannuation. Superannuation is crucial for all of us, but it's often forgotten for people with a disability. So if we have this base of people happy at work, looking to progress in organisations, as Tiffanwy said, there's so much talent out there that's being overlooked. I have no doubt that we will increase the number of people with disability in employment in this country, and that people that have been overlooked with so much talent, businesses will go - why didn't we do this before? What's wrong with us? And in our organisation, we embrace this with 23% of our workforce having a declared disability. And I think we've heard today it helps us listen and learn from people with a disability. But we want jobs, we want to work with employers, and we want better outcomes for people with a disability because they deserve it.

JOURNALIST: And what kind of outcomes will you be looking for to see if this new program is successful?

FREDDIE BRINCAT: We measure the number of our clients with a disability and sustainable employment and the number of jobs we get each month. So there are some of our secrets. What we want to see is more people in sustainable long-term employment, not six months, not a year, but two years, three years, four years. Gaining more hours if they want them and higher pay. At the same time we'll be measuring the number of new jobs we get because at the end of the day, it's jobs for all of us and jobs that we enjoy that give us a brighter future, to meet people and be good, productive Australian citizens. People with a disability just like me want that too. So that's what we'll be measuring.

JOURNALIST: And can you talk as well to the point that how having more people with disabilities in the workforce is better for society, the economy?

FREDDIE BRINCAT: Well, I firstly I'd give a selfish answer without people with a disability in our workforce and on our Board, like Stefan just mentioned, we wouldn't be as good an organisation as we are and we still need to do better. So by embracing people with a disability in the workforce, I'm getting a better workforce. I'm getting a more comprehensive workforce. I'm getting a very loyal workforce, and people that want to learn. I think the same benefits we've had would be the same for any other employer if they really looked at the potential of people with a disability and put away this glass barrier. I say this quite honestly because I think it still exists in our society. But I think if we embrace people with a disability, there's an enormous talent available there that we have utilised. I can't see why everybody else doesn't do it too. People with degrees like Tyfannwy, people who were school leavers, all sorts of different people who have talents and we're focusing on the negatives, we're not focusing on the positives.