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ACE National Industry Leaders Forum speech by the Hon Brendan O'Connor

Fri, 22 May 2009, 01:05 PM

The Hon Brendan O'Connor
Minister for Employment Participation

20 May, 2009

Speech ACE National Industry Leaders' Forum

ACE National Industry Leaders' Forum Melbourne Wednesday 20 May 2009

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you at your forum.

I'm especially pleased to be with you today as I can announce the release of the draft purchasing arrangements for the new Disability Employment Services and Employer Incentives Scheme and I know many of you have been waiting in anticipation for this announcement.

My commitment however, has been to focus on getting the framework for the next stage right rather than early.

In April I announced the government's model for the new Disability Employment Services which will significantly improve services for people with disability, their families and carers, and, importantly, employers.

I'd like to acknowledge the major contribution you and your organisations have made to the development of the new model.

The feedback that's been received during the consultation process has been invaluable to me and the government in developing the model.

Last year at your national conference in Canberra, I shared with you our plans for the review of disability employment services and since that time I have taken many opportunities to meet with disability employment service providers, peak organisations, people with disability and in some cases their families.

These many discussions have enriched the understanding we all brought to the reform task.

Our reforms are all about ensuring more effective disability employment services for those who need them.

To that end, it was critical that I take the time to talk with people with first hand experience of working with job seekers with disability to get their thoughts on the new services.

And I have certainly been talking to many people - especially following release of the two discussion papers, and as part of the consultations on the National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy.

The feedback we received during the consultation process was very informative and helped us find practical solutions to the problems that disability employment services has been facing.

I also look forward to receiving your feedback on the exposure Draft. The process is coming to a close, but has not ended yet.

The new Disability Employment Services are a significant improvement in services for job seekers with disability.

* Uncapping of services. This is crucial as it will guarantee all eligible job seekers with disability the help they need to find a job. * Providing the right assistance as early as possible, including ensuring school leavers have a successful transition to work. * A stronger emphasis on skills development and training. This emphasis will equip job seekers to find work in areas of skills shortages. * A stronger focus on achievement of outcomes for job seekers.

And the new model is good news for providers. The model will provide:

* A simplified fee structure that targets resources to those with the most need. * Simpler eligibility criteria, with less complex assessment and referral processes. * Increased resources for remote job seekers. * More flexibility so that providers can be responsive to the needs of local employers. * Greater rewards for the efforts of providers who get outcomes for job seekers. * Reduced administrative burden for providers, so that they can help people, not do paper work.

As I said earlier, I'm very grateful to all of those who took the time to make submissions to the Review, and participate in the consultation sessions.

As a result of this valuable feedback several changes have been made to the model proposed in the December 2008 discussion paper.

The first change relates to whether an Employment Outcome can be achieved with more than one employer.

The discussion paper proposed that an Employment Outcome be achieved through continuous employment with the same employer.

Following feedback, the definition of Employment Outcome has been changed to include continuous employment with multiple employers over a 26 week period.

This approach is consistent with the arrangements in the new Job Services Australia.

Submissions to the review convinced me that in many circumstances a "one employer" definition would be detrimental.

Feedback included examples of how the first job can provide such a boost to an individual's confidence, it is not long before a second, better job becomes a real option.

This is a fantastic outcome for a job seeker and it was important that the outcome definitions did not create pressures to ignore other opportunities.

The revised definition also recognises the efforts of providers who quickly place participants in alternative employment if a placement falls over due to circumstances beyond the participant's or provider's control.

The second change relates to payment of job placement fees.

The discussion paper sought views on the number of job placement fees that should be available for each job seeker.

Based on the responses received, we have increased the number of job placement fees.

Four job placement fees will be available for each job seeker over the course of their program, instead of two.

This change recognises the importance of matching job seekers with disability to suitable work, and that a job with a good 'fit' is not always found on the first attempt.

The third change is about school to work transitions for school leavers.

A number of stakeholders advised that ensuring a smooth transition from school to work is essential for the new model to respond effectively to school leavers with disability.

The model exempts eligible school leavers from the JCA process if they register directly with a disability employment service provider.

In my travels around the country, people have raised the issue of unnecessary assessments, and it made no sense to have an extra hoop for people to go through

Eligible school leavers will automatically start in Program B, funding level 2. This will help them to make a smooth school to work transition. It provides certainty for parents and carers and allows employment service providers to make solid commitments to early intervention partnerships with schools.

You can see from these changes that organisations such as ACE and their members have been very effective advocates on behalf of the provider network and on behalf of people with disability. I commend the significant effort and commitment the ACE leadership have made to the process.

Now to the implementation.

There are two main elements: the first is an 'Invitation to Treat' for high-performing DEN providers-or ITT (even though we abhor acronyms)-and the second is an open tender process, I'm not going to call that an OTP.

The decision to include an Invitation to Treat was a direct response to feedback from industry and consumer advocates who argued convincingly that providers, participants and employers with established relationships that will continue in to the future need stability.

It's recognition that clients serviced by DENs are more vulnerable than others in our community who are seeking work and they we therefore need to minimise disruption for participants and employers receiving assistance from high-performing providers.

Later today, I will also release a separate consultation paper on the proposed method for the ITT and I look forward to receiving your views. So again it's a proposal for consultation, so we get the process right.

I do want to emphasise that the process must meet the following objectives:

* value for money * equity-that is to say the methods used should neither benefit nor disadvantage particular providers * fairness-as part of a broader purchasing process, it is intended that the ITT be consistent with the broader tendering process * transparency-in this case the methods used to measure performance should be expressed clearly and made available to all stakeholders.

The second element of the purchasing process is an open tender process.

The tender process is intended to ensure that the best possible services are available for people with disability and their employers.

The Exposure Draft of the Request for Tender gives you an opportunity to comment on all aspects of the tender and you can be confident that these will be taken into consideration as we finalise the Request for Tender.

The ITT and tender are important elements of implementation, but not the only ones.

Key parts of the implementation I will be counting on your continued involvement in include-

* The development of the funding level assessment tool * Development of the new IT system, and * Transition arrangements. And that's in keeping with the way we approached reform to Job Network

There will be some aspects that providers or potential tenderers cannot be involved in, however, industry and consumer peak organisations will ably represent your interests.

Once again I'd like to thank you for your invaluable contribution to the Exposure Draft through the consultation process.

Once the draft has been released, at 3pm today the next phase of getting the new Disability Employment Services in place will begin.

Members of the community and industry can now review the new services and the purchasing process. They can contribute to consultations and provide feedback to help us begin the implementation phase.

Information on consultation sessions which will be around Australia can be found on the Department's website.

So I hope you will encourage your members to once again participate in this consultation stage so we can receive your feedback and ideas, which will hopefully result in new programs that deliver more effective services to job seekers with disability.

Thank you.


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