Customised Employment

Customised Employment
Organisation: University of Melbourne Partner: Centre for Disability Employment Research and Practice

This project developed and demonstrated a model of employment support using the evidence-based approach of customised employment.

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The Context

Australia has obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) to recognise and support the right of persons with disabilities to work. The imperatives have been recognised in the National Disability Insurance Agency Act 2013. Consistent with these obligations, the Australian Government has established a number of programs to support the labour market participation of peoples with disability – School Leaver Employment Support (SLES), Disability Employment Services (DES) and Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE). However, these programs have not been able to increase the participation rate of people with disability in employment.

The main impetus of this project was to promote discussion and collaboration, and develop practices across the disability sector that advance the awareness and application of customised employment.

The Problem

The data on the participation of people with disability in the labour force is not encouraging. In 2015, 53.4% of working age people with disability (1.1472 million) were in the labour force (52.8%, 1.1636 million in 2012), compared to 83.2% of people with no disability. The employment rate of people with disability was 48.1% in 2015 (1.034 million). The comparative figure in 2012 was 47.7% (1.0523 million).  

The proportion of people with disability who are in the labour force is associated with the severity of their limitation. In 2015, 25.0% of people (down from 29.7% in 2012) with a profound or severe limitation were in the labour force, compared with 58.9% of those with a mild limitation. In 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disability was 10.0%; higher than that for people without disability at 5.3%. (Source: 2015 SDAC).

There was an almost five percent decline in the labour force participation rate for people with severe disability over the three years from 2012 to 2015 (from 29.7% to 25%).

In order for these statistics to improve, a robust supported employment sector is needed, one that is able to assist a significantly greater number of people with disability to access a range of quality employment options.

The Solution

This project aimed to develop and test a suite of resources to support people with disability to identify, gain and sustain meaning employment using the customised employment approach, as endorsed by the United States Department of Labor and Industry. This approach was individualised and involved personal discovery, career counselling, job matching and coaching, and support to access a range of resources which will contribute to work-readiness and longer term work stamina.    

Expected Impact

A training program in customised employment for disability support professionals was prepared and piloted. It was anticipated that during the pilot, 10 disability support professionals would be trained and subsequently work with 30 people with disability, with the aim of assisting each of these individuals to attain employment.

Stage and Spread

Customised employment is an evidence-based approach, endorsed by the United States Department of Labor and Industry, as its preferred means of supporting people with disability to gain and sustain employment. It has been broadly adopted across the United States and evidence demonstrates it is the most successful approach to assisting people with significant disability to participate in labour force. Pockets of customised employment exist across Australia but it has not been widely used or tested.

The evaluation results from this project are available in the Final Report to inform Australian policy developments and the design of effective service models. The results are presented in a way to inform (and inspire) people with disability and their families about what is possible in respect to vocational opportunities, and what is needed to make those opportunities possible (e.g. what needs to be included in an NDIS plan).

Lessons and Insights

The enthusiasm of all participants has been encouraging and staff also have responded well to the customised employment training.

The project provided an invaluable opportunity to test and refine the curriculum and supporting resources. The curriculum is one output of the project at its conclusion, as well as an understanding for the resource requirements (e.g. expertise, time and money) to train staff.

Roadblocks and Risks

The US training resources have required refinement, to ensure translation to Australian circumstances and to accommodate the educational needs of the staff.

Organisations clearly require a considerable lead-time to plan their involvement, identify suitable staff and allocate staff time for the training.