New Disability Employment Support Model

The Need for a New Model

People with disability and employers need a system that meets their needs and provides the appropriate supports to find and keep a job. The Australian Government recognises some people with disability can face specific barriers to employment, preventing their full social and economic participation, including career progression.

There has been significant investment by the Government to address these barriers and, while supports are working for some, more could be done to improve employment outcomes for people with disability. That is why the Department of Social Services is designing a new disability employment support model for commencement from July 2023, following the conclusion of the current Disability Employment Services (DES) program on 30 June 2023.

Designing a New Model

The department is working with people with disability, employers and providers on the design and implementation of a new disability employment support model to ensure it supports both people with disability to find and maintain employment, and businesses who employ people with disability to ensure their employment is successful. The new disability employment support program will be developed to ensure there is:

  • A sustainable and cost effective investment in employment services for people with disability
  • Alignment with the New Employment Services Model and, where appropriate, other Commonwealth funded employment services programs
  • Reduced duplication and overlap with other Government investment in disability and related services, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Delivery on the Government’s priorities for people with disability, including the Australian Disability Strategy and the new National Disability Employment Strategy
  • More genuine choice and control for participants around the employment services they receive
  • A tailored set of quality services and supports that meet the needs of participants and employers
  • Participant-centric design and delivery.

The Bigger Picture

Reforming disability employment is one piece of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to improving outcomes for people with disability. The new disability employment support model will be informed by the cumulative knowledge gained through engagement sought in concurrent bodies of work including:

  • the Australian Disability Strategy
  • the Disability Employment Strategy
  • the Disability Royal Commission
  • the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The design of a new disability employment support model is also part of broader reforms of Government funded employment services including the New Employment Services Model (NESM) being developed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and the New Remote Engagement Program being developed by the National Indigenous Australians Agency to replace the Community Development Program.

The Consultation Process

It is crucial that we learn from the experiences of people with disability and their carers to inform the design process. The department is already engaging with a range of organisations as part of the work to reform disability employment support. This includes people with disability, employers, employment service providers, and academics.

Reference Group

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett, chairs the Disability Employment Services (DES) Reference Group. Membership includes disability representative organisations, employer and employment service peak bodies, and academics. It was established to provide advice and guidance to the department.

Summary of recent meetings

14 September 2021

Key points:

  • Working group chairs provided updates that independent chairs and co-chairs were appointed, inaugural meetings held and membership confirmed for the six working groups.
  • The Terms of Reference were confirmed by members.
  • The department presented the first draft of the consultation paper for feedback. The department noted that it will also publish an Auslan translation and Easy Read guide to ensure accessibility.

Working Groups

Six working groups comprising members of the DES Reference Group and subject matter experts are considering disability employment reforms through a focus on specific topics. Working groups will develop recommendations for consideration by the DES Reference Group.

Each working group focuses on a particular subject matter or cohort, including:

  • Young people
  • Intellectual disability, autism and psychosocial disability
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse people and First Nations Peoples
  • Mature age
  • Employment support providers, employers and recruiters
  • System design, research and evaluation. 

Workshops, Interviews and Surveys  

The department is being supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to run a consultation process consisting of 20 workshops with people with disability and their carers across Australia, in-depth interviews with employers and employment service providers, and employer surveys that will directly inform the design process.

Public Consultation

The department developed a consultation paper to seek feedback on ways to improve how disability employment support is delivered. Public input will help ensure the new model focuses on the issues that matter most, and is designed to achieve meaningful employment outcomes for people with disability.

The consultation paper covers topics that people with disability, employers and other stakeholders have said are important to consider in reforming disability employment, including:

  • Accessibility and entry
  • Support for employers
  • How to tailor support for people with disability
  • Incentivising positive work outcomes
  • How we measure success.

To view the New Disability Employment Support Model Consultation paper, visit An Auslan translation and an Easy Read guide are also on DSS Engage.

Submissions to the public consultation closed on 1 February 2022.

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