To support employment for people with high support needs, the government is delivering $14.9 million in projects to 32 organisations in the first round of the Structural Adjustment Fund with grants to be allocated over two rounds. 

Under the first round $9.8 million will deliver the Disability Employment Advocacy and Information Program and $1.4 million has been allocated for Disability Employment Expos.

One of the recipients of the grant is Ability Works, which began the customised employment project in July last year and is currently working with 40 participants.

“It is an evidence-based person-focused approach that has been successful in the US and commenced relatively recently in Australia.” Ability Works CEO Sue Boyce told F2L.

“It starts with a Customised Employment specialist councilor, working with a person with a disability wanting to work in mainstream employment and understanding where their employment aspirations, abilities and skills lie.” Once this is established the next step is to find an appropriate workplace where these can be applied. “They attend the workplace with the councilor where they may have the opportunity to get voluntary or work experience or may choose not to do either.”

Boyce said there are several upfront costs involved that includes two councilors, one registered and a job developer who work with the person with disability every step of the way.

“What they have found in the US is that small to medium organisation placements work better. What we also find is often the organisations that work well may be those within the network of the person, their family or neighbourhood.”

In terms of the programs efficacy she said: “we will gauge our success by adhering to the model with fidelity to ensure its effectiveness.”

Inclusion Australia and the Disability Advocacy Network Australia have been chosen to work in partnership to deliver the Disability Employment Advocacy and Information program. The Impact Institute will deliver the Disability Employment Expos pilot, which will allow people with high support needs to learn about person‑centred employment pathways and connect to potential new employers.

The Fund is intended to boost training and skills for participants, create and expand pathways to open employment and broaden social enterprise offerings. It builds on the work already underway to lift the quality of Disability Employment Services ahead of introducing a reformed employment service for people with disability from July 1, 2025. There are around 16,000 Australians with disability currently in supported employment.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said people with intellectual disability and other high support needs face barriers to employment and the programs will work together to increase the number and range of employment pathways. “They will also support people with disability and their families to better understand and exercise their rights at work,” the minister said. 

The second round of the Structural Adjustment Fund will open in the second half of 2024.