The Government has decided that over 80% of current Employment Support Services providers within Disability Employment Services must re-tender for contracts to provide services for jobseekers and employees with disability in 2012.
We oppose this move.
Here are our key messages to Government on this vital issue.
One: NO to 80% Tender
The requirement of over 80% of the market (potentially equating to over 500 contracts) to re-tender for services they already provide is unnecessary and unacceptable.
Two: YES to Quality
Current methods of contract management and tender processes fail to measure the quality of service. Star ratings are instead based on a mainstream employment model of the number of outcomes. To ensure that quality is a prerequisite for disability employment service delivery, DEEWR must reward providers for both the quantity, and quality of their outcomes.
Three: YES to alignment with the Disability Services Act 1986
In contrast to mainstream employment services, Disability Employment Services were not created to divert individuals away from welfare payments and into employment. Disability Employment Services exist to promote social inclusion through employment, and should be aligned with the Disability Services Act 1986.
Four: NO to Reduced Services
Most providers will divert tax payer funds and staff time away from services for jobseekers and employees with disability, and their employers - and into the tendering process. This will risk reduced service quality, and does not aid the Federal Budget 2011’s emphasis on supporting more people with disability into employment.
Five: YES to Sector Stability
We need to promote stability. Large-scale tendering breeds instability.
Jobseekers, employers, staff and providers have gone through major change since the 1st of March 2010 with the transition to the current DES program. The administration and guidelines of the program have been progressively refined during this time - ironing out unforeseen issues.
Jobseekers require quality services and depend on ongoing relationships that foster security and familiarity from their service providers. The wider disability sector is changeable enough without adding to instability in employment services.
Employers already perceive employing a person with disability as a risk – by reducing the support of the sector due to the distraction of tendering for existing business, the perceived risk increases. Employers need quality services from a provider that knows their organisation and with whom they have a trusting relationship.
- Disability Employment Services staff are typically hard to get, hard to keep and difficult to up skill due to the nature of the industry. Staff require stability in the sector to plan a long term career. Providers require stability in the sector to commit and invest in their staff.
Six: YES to Transparency
Government processes and objectives must be transparent, and provide answers to key questions.
We want to know what the ‘product’ is that the Government is tendering – will Disability Employment Services deliver a mainstream employment model based on number of outcomes, or will providers deliver a social inclusion model, aligned with the Disability Services Act 1986?
We want a clear definition of what the Government means by ‘test the market’
We want clear targets that outline what the Government is aiming for in terms of cost and return on investment from the tendering process
- We want a clear articulation regarding why the decision was made to require more than 80% of Employment Support Services contracts to tender – most of which currently meet or exceed contract requirements.
Seven: YES to Solutions
We believe that the Government is able to adequately achieve its objectives without the cost and the significant level of disruption to the sector, the individuals with disability, and employers, that the proposed tender in its current form will cause.
We also believe that it is both possible and essential to integrate a measure of quality into service delivery and the contract management process.
That contract rollover should be extended to include level three Employment Support Services, as well as levels four and five. Only levels one and two should re-tender for contracts
That the Government integrate quality as a requirement for service delivery, that is equal to the emphasis on quantity of services outcomes within the star rating system
That the Government should hold DEEWR accountable for contract management, and addressing issues of underperformance in a timely manner through a fair and due process to exit consistently poor performing providers from the market.
- That the Government acknowledge the specialised nature of Disability Employment Services, and ensures that any procurement process in the future is congruent with the long-term relationship-based nature of these services. In addition, that that procurement processes take into account the way in which services are imbedded in local communities and the support they provide to people with disability as well as their employers.