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Complete Guide to Disability Employment Services (DES)


20 minute read

Table of Contents

Disability Employment Services help Australian job seekers and employers to find one another. This article explores DES, its history and services, careers for care professionals, advice for employers seeking people with a disability and more.

DES - General Education

The Australian Government created Disability Employment Services (DES) to assist people with a disability, injury or illness to prepare for, find and hold a job. Support varies widely and may include:

  • Identifying strengths and skills

  • Managing health issues that interfere with finding work

  • Developing workplace proficiency

  • Finding success in ongoing employment.

A mix of small, medium and large not-for-profit and for-profit organisations deliver DES to people seeking work. DES providers also work with employers to support the employee after placement and develop processes and practices that help them succeed in their job. 

People with disability may qualify for one of two different DES programs:

  • Disability Management Service (DES-DMS) provides job seekers with disability, injury or health assistance as they search for work. It also gives some support in the workplace after a suitable job has been obtained.
  • Employment Support Service (DES-ESS) offers help to job seekers with a permanent disability to find a position. Additionally, ESS provides regular, ongoing support in the workplace.

Eligibility for Disability Employment Services

Who is eligible for Disability Employment Services (DES)? Generally speaking, people qualify if they meet the following requirements:

  • Have a disability, health condition or injury
  • Are between the ages of 14 and the Age Pension qualifying age
  • Are old enough to work in their state or territory legally
  • Are an Australian resident or eligible Visa holder
  • Are not a full-time student (although there's an exception to this rule)
  • Have a valid Employment Services Assessment (ESAt) or Job Capacity Assessment (JCA) that recommends DES with a Future Work Capacity of at least eight hours per week and are not working at or above their assessed work capacity.

DES has set particular eligibility criteria for specific job seekers, which allow access to DES without an ESAt:

  • Eligible School Leavers: full-time, final-year secondary school students with significant disability or youths transitioning from an eligible transition-to-work program or School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES).

  • Special Class Clients (DES-DMS only): Special classes include people who acquired a disability, injury, or illness due to specific events such as the Bali or London bomb attacks.

  • Work Assist - Workers may qualify for Work Assist if they're struggling to fulfil their role's essential functions due to their disability, health condition or injury and seek help from a DES provider.

People with disability can access DES in two different ways:

  • Through referral by the Department of Human Services (DHS)
  • By registering directly with a DES provider, like Asuria.

Those who receive Centrelink payments typically use the referral method because they have Mutual Obligation or Compulsory Participation Requirements to follow. 

Most job seekers will need to complete an ESAt (those who qualify for the special eligibility criteria above may be exempt). DHS conducts ESAts to determine the most suitable employment service for a jobseeker with a disability. The ESAt also assesses a jobseeker's current and future work capacity with intervention.

What Types of Disabilities Can Benefit From Disability Employment Services?

The word "disability" is often used more narrowly than DES defines it. Let's look at several types of disabilities that DES can assist.

Anxiety & Depression

Depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common illnesses in the general population. And these two conditions often manifest themselves together. The Medical Journal of Australia reports that "comorbid depression and anxiety disorders occur in up to 25% of general practice patients."

Discriminating between anxiety and depression can be difficult, and they both frequently interfere with the ability to find and keep a job. With Disability Employment Services, however, people can access support in these areas.

Personal Injury

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that injury is one of the most common hospitalisation causes. A significant injury can lead to substantial life changes, including the types of jobs a person can manage.

Many Australians find themselves dealing with the aftermath of an injury each year. In 2017-2018, there were 532,562 hospitalisations due to injury. Some people will need assistance to search for new jobs or return to their existing employment after recovery.

Chronic Unemployment

Chronic unemployment affects tens of thousands of Australians each year. Once a person has been without work for some time, it's increasingly difficult to return to the job force.

These problems have increased in the past year, with many people losing their jobs due to COVID-19. People in the middle-age bracket are the most likely to suffer from chronic unemployment because they're transitioning careers, experiencing ageism or are unable to find suitable work.


Some people are born with disabilities, and others acquire them because of illness or injury. The Department of Social Services reports that 18 per cent of Australia's population has one or more disabilities.

The definition of disability is broad. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, "It includes physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological and learning disabilities. It also includes physical disfigurement and the presence in the body of disease-causing organisms, such as the HIV virus."

What Jobs Can a Person With a Disability Do?

The challenges faced by people with a disability run the gamut, and therefore, so do the jobs. Some people will require simple workplace modifications to perform to the best of their abilities; others will need flexibility in their schedules or ongoing mentoring.

In short, people with disabilities work in every industry and many roles. With proper support and guidance, job seekers can find and keep a job where they can develop their talents.

Learning More about Disability Employment Services

To learn more about Disability Employment Services, talk to us at Asuria. You can also find a wealth of information on the Department of Social Services website. 

When you understand the benefits available to you, you're more likely to access services and support to help you achieve your goals.

Do I Have to Disclose a Disability When Applying for a Job?

You're under no legal obligation to disclose a disability when you apply for jobs. In fact, it's against the law for employers to discriminate against applicants due to their disabilities. 

You also don't have a legal obligation to tell an employer about your disability. However, in some situations, it's practical and helpful to let them know. For instance, a few simple modifications might help you work safely and productively, and working in an open and inclusive environment improves the atmosphere for everyone.

Can You Earn Extra Money While on DSP?

Working brings a slew of benefits: improved skills, social connectedness, better income, higher living standards and even improved health and well-being. People receiving Disability Support Pension (DSP) can work up to 30 hours a week without losing their payments. If a DSP recipient starts working more than 30 hours, their DSP will stop, but it may be held open for up to two years. By holding DSP open, they can resume services when necessary.



DES - Australian Government

How did the Australian Government develop services for people with disabilities?.

  • History of DES

  • Funding for DES

  • Employer Incentives for Hiring People with a Disability

  • Government Assistance Programs

History of DES

In the mid-1980s, the Australian Government reviewed its battery of funded programs for people with disability, and the review resulted in the 1986 Disability Services Act (DSA). The DSA promoted mainstream employment of people with disability.

In 1992 the Parliament of Australia passed the Disability Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several ways: accommodation, employment, education, public premises, provision of goods and services, and clubs and associations. The act defined "discrimination" as failing to make reasonable modifications for the person.

The Government created JobAccess in 2006. The program serves as the national hub for employment information to assist people with disability, employers and service providers. In addition to the JobAccess website and hotlines, JobAccess administers Disability Employment Services (DES).

Funding for DES

DES providers receive payments for helping jobseekers find and maintain employment. The program has structured payments so providers earn additional funding when they place more people into stable jobs. DES payments fall into three main categories:

  • Service fees (paid every 13 weeks in advance to assist participants in securing employment)
  • Outcome fees (paid when participants have maintained successful employment for a set period)
  • Ongoing support fees (paid if participants require further assistance after the 26-week outcome).

Providers receive variable amounts of funding for participants due to individual characteristics such as the barriers they face and which program they use (Disability Management Service or Employment Support Service).

If job seekers change their provider, their service fee will move with them. For example, if the participant chooses another provider eight weeks into their 13-week service fee period, the Department will reclaim the funding for the remaining five weeks from the abdicating provider. This furnishes an incentive for providers to meet their job seekers' needs by encouraging the participant to stay with them.

Employer Incentives for Hiring People with a Disability

To encourage employers to hire people with disabilities, the Australian Government provides several incentives:

  • Expenses of modifications to the physical work environment
  • Alterations to work vehicles
  • Adaptive workplace equipment
  • Information and communication devices
  • Auslan interpreting (Australian sign language)
  • Specialist services for workers with specific learning disorders and mental health conditions
  • Disability awareness training
  • Deafness awareness training
  • Mental health awareness training.

Government Assistance Programs

Other government assistance programs work to provide specific help to people seeking to find and maintain employment:

  • ParentsNext
  • Transition to Work
  • Career Transition Assistance
  • Youth Jobs PaTH
  • Justice, Skills for Education & Employment.



People Placing Themselves into DES

To access DES services, job seekers need to find a provider. These organisations connect people with disability to potential employers and help job seekers to become 'job ready'. Providers don't just source eligible candidates for positions, but they also provide guidance on promoting job opportunities, shortlisting candidates and interviewing candidates with disabilities.

DES providers' services extend to the workplace as well. They can offer advice about disability awareness in the workplace, financial support for workers with disability, flexible work arrangements and more.

  • How to Choose the Right DES Service
  • Your Interests, Skills, Preferences, Goals
  • What Will the Service Provide?
  • I Now Have a Job. What's Next?
  • Dealing with Struggles and Failure

How to Choose the Right DES Service

As you search for a DES provider, investigate the following:

  • Application and interview process
  • Proving work experience and trails
  • Job coaching
  • Services offered by the provider.

If you've worked with a DES provider in the past but feel it wasn't a good fit for you, it's possible (and preferable) to switch. When you find a job coach who meets your needs, you're much more likely to experience success.

Your Interests, Skills, Preferences, Goals

It's your future, so you need to think carefully about your interests, skills, preferences and goals. Where do you want to be in five years? How do you like to spend your time? What skills have you cultivated in the past that would be useful to employers? By thinking through these questions, you can help your job coach understand what you're seeking and what you have to offer.

What Will the Service Provide? 

You should expect your DES provider to assist you with these items:

  • Resume and cover letter template
  • Interview preparation

  • Job search training
  • Travel planning
  • Work-related equipment
  • Work clothing
  • Licences
  • Upskilling and certification
  • Ongoing job support
  • Access to health and well-being professionals.

I Now Have a Job. What's Next?

Once you've found a position, it's time to focus on growing in your role and setting new goals. Your DES provider can help with ongoing support, upskilling and training.

Dealing with Struggles and Failure

Dealing with pressure, doubt and stress can be challenging during a job search and even after finding a position. Working with your JobCoach to improve your mental health can help you remain positive.des2


Parents Placing Their Children in DES

Raising a child with a disability has its challenges and its rewards. All parents want to see their children succeed and become as self-sufficient as possible. This section will look at how parents can help a child with a disability get enrolled into DES.

Enrolling Your Child in DES

By contacting a DES provider and setting up a consultation, you can determine which services are available for your child. From training programs to JobCoaching, there are programs designed to help your child progress through essential milestones. You may also qualify for programs that allow you to develop your parenting skills and support you in your role as a carer.

For instance, if you have children under six and receive Parenting Payment, you may qualify for ParentsNext. 

Parents are the main drivers of their children's success. As you track your child's success and celebrate each achievement, you'll get closer to sending your child off into the world.

Care Professionals Trying to Find Work in DES

Helping people gain confidence and reach their potential is incredibly satisfying, and that's why care professionals enjoy working in DES. What type of work is available, and how can you find work in the industry?

  • Types of Disability Care Professionals
  • Training to Become a Care Professional
  • Benefits of Working in DES

Types of Disability Care Professionals

DES needs professionals with many different skill sets, including:

  • Health Worker
  • Job Coach
  • Mentor
  • Psychologist.

Training to Become a Care Professional

One of the first questions you probably have is, "What kind of training do I need to become a care professional?"

Some university degrees will prepare you for work in DES, and TAFE courses can be a great way to add to your credentials.

If you know what kind of work you'd like to do, read care professional job descriptions. They will tell you what employers are seeking, and you can tailor your education and training around their requirements.

Asuria looks for care professionals who will enhance our culture of innovation, excitement and passion. We seek people who drive new ideas and approaches and are resourceful, adaptable to change and willing to strive for continuous improvement.

Benefits of Working in DES

As mentioned previously, helping people achieve their goals is incredibly satisfying. People who want to make a difference often find a home working for DES. If this sounds like a good fit for you, contact us.



Employers Hiring Someone With a Disability

Many employers want to hire someone with a disability, but they might have some worries if they've never done it before. Let's take a look at some common questions from employers.

  • What is Legally Required When You Interview or Hire Someone With a Disability?
  • How Can I Manage the Logistics of Hiring a Person With a Disability?
  • How Does an Employer Benefit from Hiring a Person With a Disability?
  • How Do I Get My Business Ready?

What is Legally Required When You Interview or Hire Someone With a Disability?

Many employers may not need to change their standard interviewing practices. Sometimes, applicants disclose their disabilities in the application to avoid possible discrimination. For this reason, it's recommended that you ask all applicants (not just those who mention a disability) whether or not they need any adjustments or assistance to take part in the interview.

In some cases, an interview may not be the most optimal way to demonstrate their skills, especially if they've been without work for a long time. A person with a disability might have excellent skills for the job but not interview well. In this case, you might consider offering work for a trial period or using an alternative method of assessment.

The only questions you can legally ask about a person's disability relate to:

  • Adjustments required to ensure an equitable interview and selection process
  • How the applicant will perform the critical requirements of a job
  • Any adjustments that may be needed to fulfil the inherent requirements of the position

How Can I Manage the Logistics of Hiring a Person With a Disability?

DES Providers provide a range of free services to employers who hire people with disabilities, including:

  • Recruitment advice and job matching
  • Assistance with job design for employees with disability
  • On-the-job or off-site support to help new employees with disability settle into their role
  • Ongoing support (for employers and employees) for as long as necessary
  • Training information and awareness activities for employers and staff.

How Does an Employer Benefit from Hiring a Person With a Disability?

Wise employers take advantage of Australia's untapped workforce to meet the needs of the business. Employees with disabilities take fewer days off, are productive and have fewer compensation incidents and accidents. They're also great for business. Customers love to see a diverse workforce, and people with disability boost staff morale and loyalty.

How Do I Get My Business Ready?

A DES Provider can help you with modifications to your workplace if such changes are necessary. And you might also want to hold a training or awareness session for your employees. You can also ask a DES Provider about special certifications you can earn to prepare your business for employees with disabilities.



Future of DES

Workplaces have undergone significant changes in the past year, and DES moves right along with those changes. Let's take a look at how DES will continue to serve workers and employers in the future.

  • The Influence of Technology
  • Future Case Study

The Influence of Technology

In February 2021, the Australian Government launched a new communication toolkit to promote disability employment to small- to medium-sized businesses. The Intermediary Toolkit provides resources for organisations and groups that work with SMEs to encourage the employment of people with disability. Tools include social media posts, links to resources, infographics and case studies.

Future Case Study

When asked to envision the future, many people think of robots. At a pop-up cafe in Tokyo, the future is now.

Ory Laboratory designed a full-body robot named OriHime-D with the capability of serving food. They arranged a pop-up cafe in the Nippon Foundation Building and set the robots to work. Who was controlling the robots? They were controlled by people with ALS (also known as motor neuron or Lou Gehrig's disease). The event demonstrated that people with mobility issues can integrate into society. One participant controlled her robot from 700km away. 

Technology will continue to advance, making it possible for people with disability to participate in the workplace as never before.




There's never been a better time for people with disability to find meaningful employment. When the placement is correct, employers benefit from excellent, productive work, and employees build their skills and find satisfaction in their jobs.

The key to a suitable placement is Asuria's discovery process. Our customised employment approach uses the most innovative and cutting-edge human resource practices. Discovery identifies the candidate's strengths, conditions, and interests and builds a relationship between the employer and employee. 

It's a non-traditional approach, and it works wonders for jobseekers and employers alike. To start the process yourself, whether you're looking for work or seeking excellent candidates, book a DES discovery call with us at Asuria. We look forward to helping you reach your goals!


DES - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Disability Employment Services (DES) program?

Disability Employment Services (DES) is an Australian Government initiative to help people with a disability, injury or health condition prepare for, find, and keep a job.

How can I register for the DES program?

At Asuria, our team can help you to register for the DES program if you are not already registered with Services Australia. For more information please call us on 1800 773 338 or email contactus@asuria.com.au     

You may also fill in your details via the following link https://www.asuria.com.au/speak-to-a-asuria-job-coach and a Job Coach will be in touch with you.

I don't have a disability, however, I do have other health conditions. Am I still eligible for DES?

Apart from supporting people with disabilities, the DES program also supports people who are suffering from short & long term illnesses or injuries and this may include some other health conditions. Services Australia assesses your application to advise your eligibility for the DES program.

Who is eligible for DES?

You may be eligible for Disability Employment Services if you:                                                                  1. Have a disability, injury or health condition

2. Are aged at least 14 years but have not yet attained the Age Pension qualifying age

3. Are at or above the minimum legal working age in their state or territory 

4. Have a future work capacity with the intervention of at least eight hours per week

5. Are an Australian resident. The only exception to this requirement is where a job seeker is either a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) holder or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holder. Australian Resident includes Australian Citizen, holder of a permanent resident visa, a Special Category Visa Holder who is a protected SCV holder

6. Are not studying full time (unless the job seeker is an ESL or School Leaver Trial Participant)

7. Are not working at or above your Employment Benchmark hours (not applicable for Work Assist Participants and people who receive National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) 

8. Funding for supported employment, and/or Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) participants).     



Author: James Smith

6th January 2021

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