Finding a job is an important step towards self-empowerment and independence for people with a disability. Employment doesn’t just provide much needed extra income; it also gives us a sense of purpose, identity and connection with our community. People with a disability may face extra barriers when looking for work. Disability Employment Services (DES) help people overcome these barriers. They are an Australian-wide network of commercial and not-for-profit organisations similar to recruitment agencies. They help people with a disability find and apply for jobs that match their skills and abilities.
Job capacity assessments
Before you start looking for a job you will need to meet a qualified Centrelink officer or DES consultant for a job capacity assessment. A job capacity assessment is an evaluation of how a disability affects a person’s ability to work. The assessor will consider past work history and what kind of work you are able to undertake at present.
If after the assessment the assessor thinks you’re able to work, they will devise an employment pathway plan. This plan outlines how they can best help you prepare for and find work. The assessor can also identify what types of workplace support are available. If the assessor is a Centrelink officer they can refer you to a DES that suits your needs.
DES can provide coaching that improves your skills to search and apply for jobs. They offer practical assistance like helping to prepare resumes and write cover letters, as well as tips on how to succeed at job interviews. Because many jobs are not advertised a DES can also cold canvass businesses to find potential employment opportunities.
Working with employers
DES can help businesses access wage subsidies provided by the government to encourage employing workers with a disability. Other ways DES help include conducting workplace assessments to ensure staff with a disability can work confidently and safely. They can also assist businesses to make workplace modifications like installing assistive technology or tactile devices that allow workers to do their job.
Skills and qualifications
To help people with a disability boost their skills DES provide access to employment training programs. Some DES run their own education courses while others can refer students to suitable registered training organisations. There are many different types of training available.
Job seekers can take numeracy, reading and writing courses to improve their basic literacy and arithmetic. These courses can prepare students for more advanced studies or give them confidence to apply for a job.
Users of DES also frequently undertake accredited certificate courses as a more advanced form of training. Certificate courses give students specific workplace skills and knowledge in their chosen field. They cover a wide range of occupations in health, retail, hospitality, technology and office work. Training is delivered through TAFEs, community education centres and registered training organisations.
Wise employment and Mission Australia are established not-for-profit DES that offer assistance to job seekers with a disability. Wise Employment operates branches across Melbourne while Mission Australia has offices in Melbourne and south east Victoria. They are both nationally recognised registered training organisations that run a range of certificate training courses. Mission Australia conducts their own Skills for Education and Employment Program (SEE) that teaches students literacy and numeracy skills.
Finding a DES and complaints
Most DES services, including training, are free of charge. If you are unhappy with services or the treatment you have received you can lodge a complaint. All DES and registered training organisations are required to have a complaints process. If your complaint is still unresolved you can contact the Complaints Resolution and Referral Service (CRRS) for help.
The easiest way to register with a DES is through the Australian government’s Centrelink program. You can contact Centrelink on 13 28 50 or visit your nearest Centrelink customer service centre. Depending on your circumstances you may be able to register directly with a DES.
For more information on DES or employment related matters visit the Australian government website JobAccess. To find a local DES check out Jobactive or Disability Employment Australia’s website.
Complaints Resolution and Referral Service: Telephone: 1800 880 052; TTY (text phone) 1800 301 130; the National Relay Service 1800 555 677