A new specialist disability employment program

From 1 July 2025 a new specialist disability employment program will help more people with disability, injury and/or a health condition to prepare for, find and maintain sustainable employment.

New program to commence 1 July 2025

As part of the 2024-25 Budget, the Australian Government has announced that a new specialist disability employment program will commence on 1 July 2025. The new program will replace the current Disability Employment Services (DES) program.

The Government is committed to ensuring that no Australian with disability is left behind, and that people with disability, injury or a health condition have equal opportunities to gain employment. The new program delivers on the Government’s vision for a stronger and more inclusive Australia for people with disability.

Supporting more people into employment

The new program will support more people with disability into employment and improve user experiences. From 1 July 2025, eligibility will be expanded to include people who have an assessed work capacity of less than 8 hours per week and those who do not receive an income support payment. In addition, there will no longer be a 2-year time limit. Current DES participants will continue to be eligible, and further information will be provided in early 2025 before the new program starts.

Recognising that everyone’s journey to finding employment is different, providers will work in partnership with each participant to develop a personal plan that is tailored to their circumstances, goals and aspirations.

Participants will receive customised and tailored support that reflect individuals’ diverse pathways to find and retain employment. This will include a range of pre-employment, job search and in-employment supports.

Those who find a job will continue to be supported while they settle into employment and longer-term supports can also be provided, if needed, to maintain a job. Providers will be able to offer a new flexible service to participants that recognises an individuals’ servicing needs and capacity to participate.

Support for employers

Employers will be able to tap into the expertise providers can offer in disability employment to receive guidance and advice on recruitment and workplace practices. Providers will work with employers to identify their business needs, help find suitable candidates, and/or help support them to retain employees with a disability within their workforce.

Providers will also offer specialised assistance for workplace adjustments, additional training, job customisation and tailoring, and other supports to help employers provide safe and productive workplaces for people with disability.

In addition, employers may be eligible for the new wage subsidy program that will provide up to $10,000 per person for eligible job seekers who are supported to achieve sustainable employment.

A diverse network of providers

The new program will be delivered by a diverse network of high-quality providers. There will be a greater focus on providers who can demonstrate that they have staff and leadership that reflects the diversity of the communities they are working with. Providers will place clients and employers at the centre of their service design and build meaningful relationships with both clients and employers.

Providers will be supported by the Disability Employment Centre of Excellence (Centre of Excellence). The Centre of Excellence will develop best practice, evidence-based information in disability employment to help providers deliver high-quality, effective employment services and supports to improve disability employment outcomes.


The Department of Social Services will hold consultations with stakeholders and the community about how the new program will work. These consultations will involve people with disability, disability peak organisations, disability service providers and employers.

On 23 May 2024, the Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP, and the Department of Social Services held a live event providing details on the Disability Employment Services Reforms announced in the 2024-25 Budget. To learn more, you can access content from this event at DSS Engage: 2024-25 Budget Disability Employment Reform event.

Details of how to contribute to ongoing consultation processes as the new program is implemented will be made available on DSS Engage. This website will be updated with consultation related content as it becomes available.

The need for a new program

The Australian Government knows that people with disability and employers should have a service that meets their needs and provides the right support.

One in six Australians, around 4.4 million people, live with disability. People with disability experience higher levels of disadvantage in comparison to job seekers without disability. Employment services have a role to play in building the skills and capacity of job seekers and to help employers tap into an underutilised workforce.

To improve systems and services for job seekers and employers, as part of the 2022-23 October Budget, the Government agreed to commence a reform process for the DES program.

There was extensive engagement and stakeholder consultation on potential changes to the current DES program and disability employment reforms. Feedback from these consultations highlighted issues with the current DES program and ways to improve the quality of services for both participants and employers. Information is available on DSS Engage on the following public consultations:

A Disability Employment Services (DES) Reference Group, chaired by the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett provided advice and guidance to the Department of Social Services on the reform of disability employment services. 
The new program takes into account findings from multiple reviews that have further highlighted the need to re-design the DES program, including:

The following papers are also part of the evidence based that informed the reform process.

Disability employment pilots

Three pilots are being undertaken to improve the employment outcomes of people with disability. Outcomes from these pilots will be used to inform improvements to the delivery of the current DES program and subsequent phases of reform to disability employment.

  • The NDIS/DES Pathways Pilot that is looking at ways to improve the pathway into DES for NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) participants without mutual obligations.
  • The Career Pathways Pilot that is a partnership between the Australian Disability Network and Business Council of Australia, and is focusing on career progression for employees with disability.
  • The Disability Employment - Tourism Local Navigator Pilot that is delivering place-based employment outcomes in the tourism sector.

Contributing to the Government’s agenda

The Australian Government has developed strategies to support all people with disability to thrive in diverse and inclusive communities. The new specialist disability employment program will be informed by, and contribute to the implementation of the following strategies:

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