Monday, 16 December 2013

How does Employment Services work?

I received a lovely email from a person who does not wish to be identified.  In the email they discussed that they have seen that I work in the Employment Services industry, and asked if I could explain how that industry works.

Sure, I'll try to answer that question for you; as an Employment Consultant all too often clients didn't understand what was going on behind the scenes, or what basic procedures entailed and became hostile because when they didn't agree with something out of the Employment Service provider and consultants scope.

A simplified overview
There are three key 'agencies' involved in the Employment Services industry: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR, pronounced 'Dee-wah'), Centrelink and the Employment Service provider (ESPs).

DEEWR is the government department that oversees both Centrelink and Employment Service providers. Essentially, they create and monitor the rules for Centrelink and ESPs.

Centrelink is, of course, the government agency that handles the financial assistance side of things for people requiring government funded assistance. There are many different payment types, and each come with different sets of criteria to determine eligibility, requirements and level of assistance.

Employment Service providers are agencies contracted by a service deed to deliver employment service outcomes for DEEWR.

The programs
There are two programs:
* Job Services Australia (JSA), and
* Disability Employment Services (DES).

When a person applies for Centrelink payments, as part of the application process, the person's capacity to work is assessed using an instrument called a JSCI (Job Seeker Classification Instrument).  This is a set of questions, which assigns points values depending upon the person's answers and is used to determine whether the client is eligible for the JSA program or the DES program (IF the person has what is called a Participation Requirement).

JSA levels of servicing
For clients assigned to the JSA (mainstream) program, there are four levels of government support.  These are called Streams.

Stream 1 is where most new clients are placed. Stream 1 is support at the lowest level - Centrelink payment plus Job Readiness.

Streams 2, 3 and 4 are progressively higher levels of support based on the person's individual circumstances.  Over time, a client with a participation requirement reaches timeline 'milestones' and naturally progress to higher levels of support. But the Employment Service provider has tools such as the JSCI to review clients level of servicing if a Change of Circumstances is detected, and or can refer the client for a Job Capacity Assessment (JCA, now called an ESAT, which is an Employment Service Assessment) - Centrelink payment, plus Job Readiness, plus higher assistance including additional qualifying financial assistance.

DES levels of servicing
For clients referred to the DES program, there are two levels of government support:
* Disability Management Service (DMS) for health conditions, injuries and disabilities that can be controlled within a 2 year timeframe, and
* Employment Support Services (ESS) for health conditions, injuries and disabilities that are more permanent and or uncontrollable within a 2 year period. Further to this, the ESS program has two-levels of funding.

The DES program participants generally have reduced capacity to mainstream, so because the client is already receiving increased financial support from Centrelink, financial assistance is not as available as they gain an increase in servicing.

Participation requirements
All Centrelink recipients are determined to either have a participation requirement (to look for work), or can do so on a voluntary basis. Centrelink also assesses and provides a Job Seeker Identification Number to clients registering to look for work who are not in receipt of or eligible for Centrelink payments, but these clients are not being covered in this article.

DEEWR and Centrelink determine the clients level of participation - how many jobs the person is required to look for each week, the frequency of engagement required with an Employment Services provider, the level of assistance.

Each of the different programs comes with its own set of rules and requirements.

ESPs service delivery
DEEWR only allows a set number of Employment Service providers to exist at any one time within each designated Employment Service area.  When a business tenders for a contract, they have to submit details such as how the business proposes delivering employment services to clients and how they will gain employment results.  Only those businesses with approved delivery models can be awarded contracts, so each of the different providers deliver the exact same service in their own, approved way.

For some, the delivery model might include job seekers having to attend jobsearch sessions, for others it might mean set number of review appointments - the difference in how the job seeker participates can vary significantly between same programs and service levels, as well as between the different programs.

A common misconception is that Employment Service providers 1. Have to find a client a job for the client, and 2. Have to pay to help a client get skilled and job ready.

Find Clients a Job
Employment Services providers (ESPs) are contracted to monitor clients are job seeking as per their requirement (so Centrelink can concentrate of the financial side of things), not find work for them. Employment Service providers assist clients achieve this by providing advice and direct assistance during contact appointments and job search sessions. But, I do not know of ANY provider who does not have a marketing team working tirelessly to try and find or create vacancies to help every level of client, every client gain work! ESPs know that they will only deliver results to DEEWR if they put every effort into helping clients, so they offer training, resources and the like - often behind the scenes - to help clients find 'suitable and sustainable employment'.

Pay for Clients to get skilled and job ready
ESPs do have access to a pool of funds provided by DEEWR to assist clients; however, there are very strict rules about when and where, how and why those funds can be used. Much of it depends on the program you are assigned to, and the stream or funding level.

For instance, one jobseeker it may be allowable for the ESP to pay for a course so the client can gain employable skills, but for another, that financial assistance isn't allowed.  But before anyone starts complaining about the 'unfairness' of this, consider that our government
1. only budgets a certain amount each year,
2. restricts its additional financial support to those most in need, and
3. is already paying the client payments for them to live on, and
4. already subsides training etc in other ways so does not support a person 'upskilling' just for the sake of it (via this avenue).

The main role of an Employment Services provider is to report upon compulsorily job seeker complying with participation and job search requirements to Centrelink and DEEWR; its secondary role is to assist job seekers with gaining employment. And not just a clients dream job, but any job for which they are both capable and suitable from a public opinion.

I hope this clarifies things for you, emailer.



I received the follow on question by another reader asking: 'How does the ESP earn money?" Great question, which I probably should have addressed in the original article!

ESPs earn money directly from DEEWR for achieving Outcomes.  What this means is that DEEWR have service expectations and when these are achieved, the ESP receives income.

For example, the ESP receives a small set amount for every client commenced into servicing with that provider.  From that moment on, the service clock starts ticking, for the job seeker and the ESP.

ESPs also earn income each quarter just for providing a job seeker with service - if all conditions have been met e.g. if the client is required to attend five appointments over a certain period of time, and the client has attended each of those appointments, then the ESP can claim a small fee for having achieved this Participation Outcome. (But they may be entitled to still claim the fee, if the ESP has correctly reported non-compliance by the job seeker - after all, the ESP can't physically force people to attend).

When the client obtains a job that meets minimum requirements of being at or above award rate conditions and is suitable and sustainable and expected to achieve a six month outcome, then the ESP earns another small fee for having assisted the client gain employment - whether the client or the agency finds the job (one very strong area of contention by many jobseekers is that when they find the job themselves they don't believe the agency has done anything - but this isn't true, the agency has still reviewed their circumstances and provided assistance to help that job seeker gain that work).

But the real money earner for ESPs is achieving employment outcomes.  This means that the client reaches six months of 'continuous sustainable' employment, which is measured at 3 months and 6 months. For this reason, every ESP provides what is called Post Placement Support (PPS) to every client who gains work regardless of who found the job for them.  PPS is crucial in assisting clients remain employed - DEEWR recognise that the rate of falling out of employment is highest for people in their first six month period - where probationary periods haven't been passed, where it can all become so overwhelming and difficult and where the highest number of problems become evident for both the employer and the employee.  (NB, a client is still a job seeker until they successfully complete this six month period).

DEEWR can make ESPs return payments received - which no business ever wants to do - if DEEWR believes the ESP is not entitled; so contrary to many job seekers belief, an ESP only submits a claim for payment when they are absolutely certain they have met all conditions to receive the payment, and when in doubt, won't claim a fee that they are probably entitled to because it is better practice not to claim than to have to return payments - which are spent on business overheads and wages and resources etc.

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