Measuring the Success of Disability Employment.

For many years now Disability Service providers have been awarded stars ranging from one to five to signify how successful they where at producing employment outcomes. For all intents and purposes this is the only measure that clients have to gauge the success of the provider, but is it truly a measure of the employment success?

Surely there are other factors that should be taken into account in determining the success of the outcome, factors such as the end benefit of employment. It could be argued that outside of whether they found you a job are irrelevant, however ask yourself whether you’d stay in a job if it didn’t provide other benefits beyond a wage.

Employment for employments sake lacks merit. Employment that provides tangible benefits such as career progression, inclusion, cohesion, empowerment and quality of life benefits are some of the hallmarks of quality employment. None of these factors are currently part of the measure of success in rating the providers in the DES system and why not. At a guess I’d say that it’s simply the fact whilst we might like to think that DES is different from mainstream employment services, it isn’t. It’s a job service designed to plug you into a job quickly so that government can reduce welfare outlays. Cost reduction is always the governments agenda and well rightfully so, as the capacity to pay for services isn’t infinite.

That said, there should be a better way to measure employment outcomes that also takes into account the social quality of those outcomes in terms of the impact of employment on the client long term. Employment in itself isn’t simply about an income, but about the intangible effects that employment brings to the individual and the community at large. It is this relationship with the other or environment that determines the type of society that we have.

So how do we create a better outcome measure that reflects government priorities and client ambitions?

At the Centre for Disability Employment Research and Practice (CDERP) we’re undertaking a project to develop a better outcome measure utilising social quality theory as our framework. As part of this research, we need to define what the parameters actually mean to people. These parameters are the four pillars of social quality theory, being Social Inclusion, Social Cohesion, Empowerment and Socio-Economic Security. Now it might be easy to say that we actually understand what these four factors mean, but do we? What do they mean to you, what do they mean to someone with a disability, we don’t know until we actually have that discussion with the community.

It’s a bit like work and employment, they appear to be the same, but they’re not!

Where to from here? Peter Rhodes from CDERP is currently outlining the first part of the research into defining these parameters, which will lead to a research project to development of a consensus view that we can work from and test. We expect to start this conversation in general terms at our disability employment retreat in October, 2016. From here, it will move to the broader community, before drilling down in the disability community. Join us in this exciting project!


About Peter Smith

Disability practitioner at Praxis Disability Consulting, PhD researcher - Sydney Medical School, Research affiliate - Centre for Disability Studies, Sydney. Lecturer in Counselling and Case Management - ACAP. Counsellor and Psychotherapist at Praxis Counselling and Therapy. Interests: Disability employment, person centred practice, self determination theory, existential therapy, personal counselling
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