This chapter provides an overview of the key challenges raised by stakeholders in relation to employment rates for autistic Australians and explores options to improve employment outcomes.
This chapter does not address pathways from school to further education and work. These are covered in Chapter 12.
As described in Chapter 3, autistic people's employment outcomes remain far worse than those of the general population. They are also below those of people with disability more broadly. Overall, autistic people experience high rates of unemployment and underemployment—both in terms of hours worked and skills utilised. For example, Specialisterne Australia (Specialisterne) noted that autistic people are 'often over-educated and underemployed for roles, with an over-representation in casual employment'. Similarly, the Australian Autism Alliance (the Autism Alliance) reported that a third of autistic people with bachelor's degrees are unemployed. The experience of underemployment was described by one autistic individual who works as a supermarket cashier, despite having two degrees:
I have two degrees, yet I have worked in jobs (and I am still working) that do not use the fields of study in my degrees. I have had periods of unemployment, which has been very depressing. I have been, and still am, underemployed. This has been soul destroying for me.
As noted by Reframing Autism, 'the impact of unemployment and underemployment for the Autistic population is difficult to overestimate', with around 45 per cent of autistic people living in, or close to, poverty as a result of being unemployed.
Submitters also highlighted the link between unemployment and poorer mental health, with a lack of support in either area likely to exacerbate problems in the other. For example, Specialisterne reflected that isolation and long-term exclusion from the workforce leads to autistic individuals being diagnosed with secondary mental health conditions. Conversely, Reframing Autism noted that an inability to afford mental health services can limit employment opportunities. This, in turn, can lead to worse mental health outcomes and further exclusion from the workforce and the community more broadly:
Autistic Australians often cannot afford the psychological and psychiatric support they need to provide them with the confidence and scaffolding to participate in the community. Many autistic adults then have decreased feelings of self-efficacy and self-worth because of their under- or unemployment, which exacerbates their mental health complications, which in turn limits their opportunities and expectations to participate in the community.
However, the committee heard that high rates of unemployment and underemployment among autistic people do not reflect a lack of desire to work or a lack of skill and capacity. Indeed, as noted by various stakeholders, the autistic community remains a significant reserve of untapped potential for employers. For example, while noting that each autistic person is different, Services Australia asserted that many have 'exceptional skills' (over and above those of non-autistic people) which have a broad application across a range of jobs. These skills include:
being task focused and being able to work independently;
strong problem solving and critical thinking skills;
a high aptitude for analysis, in particular, pattern recognition and spatial processing;
a high tolerance for repetitive tasks;
high and sustained concentration ability; and
being honest, reliable and ethical.
This view was supported by other stakeholders, including one autistic submitter, who added that autistic employees have good attention to detail, an excellent work ethic and are loyal, resulting in low absenteeism and low staff turnover. In addition, Specialisterne observed that autistic employees have been shown to be 'more productive and more efficient than their non-autistic colleagues'.
This means that employers—and society more broadly—are currently missing out on the benefits of this underutilised talent. For example, the Autism Alliance highlighted the competitive advantages offered by a neurodiverse workforce, including 'productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities, increases in employee engagement and reputational enhancement'. Likewise, La Trobe University's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) pointed out that in addition to improving life outcomes and 'empowering autistic adults to become more engaged and active within their communities', increasing autistic employment rates would also contribute to the community and economy more broadly. In a similar vein, the Scope-University of Melbourne Partnership estimated that autistic unemployment costs the economy $381 million per annum in lost taxation revenue.
Despite the significant benefits that would accrue from improving autistic employment outcomes, significant challenges remain. These include:
inflexible recruitment processes;
a lack of adjustments and support in the workplace;
discrimination and a lack of autism understanding in the workplace; and
the need for more specialised disability employment services, as well as targeted employment programs and incentives.
Numerous stakeholders identified traditional recruitment processes as an impediment to autistic employment. For example, the Autism Alliance reported on the results of its survey which found that difficulties with job application processes and interviews were common for autistic people seeking employment.
Specialisterne expanded on this notion and explained that normal recruitment systems have an inherent bias toward 'desirable behaviours, characteristics and responses that recruiters and employers feel comfortable and familiar with'. According to Specialisterne, this works against autistic people who can have different ways of thinking and processing information, as well as non‑conventional presentation and interpersonal skills. Specific problems with traditional recruitment processes include:
the use of jargon, acronyms and vague or general terms in job advertisements and position descriptions;
a lack of clarity and clear instruction about the application process;
interview processes built around a person's ability to talk, sell themselves and build rapport quickly with strangers (as opposed to a process designed to draw out and practically assess a person's aptitude, technical skills and abilities to undertake a specific role);
interview environments that fail to consider the sensory or processing challenges that many autistic people experience; and
interviewer bias against autistic people presenting with non-conventional social and communication styles.
The experience of undertaking a traditional recruitment process was described in detail by one autistic individual (see Box 13.1), who found it 'harrowing', despite having 'three university degrees, defence security clearance and the ability to see patterns in data even computers struggle to find'.
Box 13.1: Case study – a 'harrowing' recruitment process
Well to start with there is the responses to selection criteria, as it turns out employers don't actually ask questions they want the answer to but you're expected to just know when they say 'list your hobbies' that they actually want to know how many 'teams and groups' you belong to not what your actual hobbies are.
If I make it to interview things get worse because I'm suddenly expected to talk to people I have never met before and I suffer crippling social anxiety as part of my autism. Communication in person is so very difficult for me because I can't read facial expressions, I don't hear tone change in voice which would indicate someone asked a question but said it like a statement of fact, and I answer the questions you ask me so I miss the subtext that you actually want to know something totally different to what you asked. Oh, and if you present me with questions where the answer can be yes or no then more than likely you'll get a yes or no as the answer.
Now they have me sitting in front of them and I'm probably not dressed correctly for a job interview, I'm so tense you can see it because every muscle in my body is rigid and I can't look at anyone directly without visible flinching as it makes my brain hurt.
Then they start asking questions and expect to get similar responses to what the previous 10 candidates have given and they don't… The person who doesn't ask direct questions is met with total silence and then asks 'are you going to answer my question' to be told 'you haven't asked me a question you made a statement of fact', which trust me is the wrong thing to say to the CEO or an Army General.
Harder still for the interviewers is the fact that…I do not have variation of pitch or tone in my voice and I have zero facial expressions not even micro expressions. I also don't move my hands or body when in job interviews because someone long ago told me not to fidget when talking to people as it gives a bad impression.
So the interviewers have none of the normal verbal cues unconsciously used by normal people to tell if I'm stressed, happy, sad, worried, thinking about how to respond, lying or just plain board out of my brain.
Since I lack the ability to know when to stop talking if the interviewers ask me a question I can answer in detail, they'll either have to spend 45 minutes listening to a mini lecture on the topic or tell me to stop talking, neither option goes well in an interview.
Source: Name withheld, Submission 9, pp. 8–9.
In response, submitters suggested that the use of alternative or relaxed recruitment methods should be encouraged, with some using the examples of the approaches used by the Aurora and RISE programs (see Box 13.2).
In addition, OTARC suggested that a national industrial relations guideline could be developed 'to guarantee equitable accessibility of recruitment practices for autistic people'.
Box 13.2: Alternative recruitment methods
The Aurora Program was established in 2019 by Services Australia in collaboration with Specialisterne Australia. The program aims to recruit autistic employees into non-ICT roles.
The Aurora Program uses pre-selection exercises and a four-week assessment centre to identify and match the right candidate for available roles. Each candidate is assessed and evaluated against targeted activities developed by Specialisterne and Services Australia. This allows assessors to observe individual skills in a range of scenarios.
In 2019-20, nine people were engaged in specialist fraud and compliance roles within Services Australia through the Aurora program.
The RISE program was launched by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 to create career opportunities for autistic people in records management.
Initially designed with Specialisterne, the RISE program does not involve an interview process. Instead, it allows participants to demonstrate their strengths and role-related capabilities over an extended period of time.
This involves 'discovery days' and a paid two-week internship. For those that find the work a good fit, a four-week paid assessment period follows before a formal offer of employment.
The program has recruited 20 autistic people over successive intakes.
Source: Services Australia, Submission 66, p. 4; Services Australia, Annual Report 2019–20, p. 184; Australian Autism Alliance, Submission 52, p. 39.
Adjustments and supports in the workplace
Stakeholders reported that, once employed, the unique characteristics of autism can affect an individual's success in the workplace if not supported adequately. These characteristics may include:
difficulties with social communication, including the ability to understand social norms and unspoken workplace protocols;
sensory seeking or avoidance behaviours;
organisation and executive functioning challenges;
the need for clarity around roles and expectations, as well as structure, routine, or predictability in work tasks and instructions;
difficulties matching strengths and weaknesses to job-specific tasks;
low frustration tolerance; and
interference from common comorbid medical conditions such as epilepsy.
As one autistic individual told the Autism Alliance:
All kinds of 'normal' stuff is MUCH harder when you have sensory processing issues, for me an open plan office with fluro lights is like trying to work in a disco. A desk that is also near the lunchroom has actually brought me to panicky tears just from the noise. 'Team building' activities often directly make you feel more isolated and different and are often even more anxiety producing.
Stakeholders also pointed to the tendency for employers to make use of standardised induction programs and 'on the job training that does not take into account the varied and different learning and processing styles of autistic people'.
Autistic people may also face challenges outside the work environment, such as not having a bank account or being unfamiliar with using ATMs, as well as experiencing anxiety related to leaving the house, driving or public transport.
Despite these challenges, Mr Cameron Boyd noted that autistic people are very capable of succeeding in employment when appropriate support and adjustments are provided. For example, as a result of the support and opportunities offered by his employer, Mr Boyd stated that he has been able to make significant achievements, including buying his own house. He described his success as 'an excellent example of how someone on the autism spectrum can succeed in employment given a supportive environment and a few basic accommodations'.
While population-based figures are not available, the 2020 Employment outcomes for NDIS participants report indicated that only 53.7 per cent of autistic National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants aged 25 and over and 66.2 per cent of those aged 15–24 years (working outside Australian Disability Enterprises [ADEs]) felt supported to do their jobs. For participants working in ADEs, the percentages that felt supported to do their jobs were much higher—88.3 per cent of those aged 25 and over and 90.1 per cent of those aged 15–24 years. The report noted that the support provided in ADEs 'helped participants understand their work tasks and roles and provided reassurance'.
In addition to benefits for individual employees, workplace adjustments can also have benefits for other employees and organisations as a whole. For example, Dr Bruce Baer Arnold reflected that changing an office layout can reduce distractions caused by 'noise, poor lighting, movement and interruptions' for both autistic and non-autistic employees. Similarly, Dr Arnold noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated that many organisations can 'function effectively with employees working from home' with 'no substantive loss of accountability' and reports of 'increased job satisfaction and productivity'. As JFA Purple Orange reported, working from home has proved hugely beneficial for some autistic employees:
Working from home has been great. I don't have to worry about what I look like to other people. I don't have to go through driving an hour to and from work and all the concentration that requires. It's meant I'm free to be creative and sit in solitude which I need to concentrate for long periods of time. I've been able to escape into hyper-concentration phases without being interrupted—I've at least doubled my productivity since working from home. COVID-19 has given me opportunities to participate in more things because they are being held online. I'm worried about 'returning back to normal' because this new normal has been better for me.
The benefit of workplace supports and adjustments was also illustrated in a case study provided by autistic advocate, Ms Geraldine Robertson (see Box 13.3).
This was also the experience of SunPork Farms which described the wraparound approach it takes to supporting its ten permanent autistic employees and the benefits that this beings to its business, its employees and the communities it supports (see Box 13.4).
However, the committee heard that not all workplaces make appropriate adjustments for their autistic employees. According to an Autism Alliance survey, the most common response to the question of what adjustments had been made, was 'none' (31.8 per cent). The survey also found that:
Less than one in ten reported that adjustments had been made to the sensory environment, and fewer still reported information had been provided to others in the workplace on how to support them at work. More common adjustments included flexible hours, providing a set work routine, avoiding changes and adapting communication methods to match preferences.
An unwillingness to make workplace adjustments was reflected in the experience of one autistic speech pathologist whose employer of ten years refused her request to return from maternity leave one day per week. As she reported to Yellow Ladybugs, this followed previous refusals by the employer in relation to working flexible hours:
I have also previously requested to alter the mix of my work duties—specifically to complete more non-clinical work for our team over face-to-face duties, as this may enable me to work more hours (due to less exhaustion from maintaining a client interface all day). Any variation to my work duties or role was refused. As a result, I will not be returning to the workforce for the foreseeable future. I know I have so much to offer my profession, but I just need flexibility from my workplace regarding working a reduced time fraction and structuring my days so that I see no more than 2–3 face-to-face clients a day.
Box 13.3: Case study – 'H'
H. had a Bachelor of Science but was unable to find suitable employment. He obtained a position in a plant nursery but was about to be sacked for being lazy.
Like many autistics, H. had difficulties with spatial awareness and was slow to perform the task of stacking empty flowerpots on a shelf, ordered by size. As H. was so bright, his employer thought he was being lazy and stubborn, refusing to speed up after a second demonstration of what needed to be done.
His parents asked an autistic advocate for advice. The solution was to paint the colour coded outlines of the three sizes of pots on a bench top so that H. could rapidly match the pots and place them in the appropriate colour coded site on the shelf.
His work speed improved rapidly. In addition, other tasks were customised for H. and these changes also assisted other employees. During the time saved, H. began to manage the garden centre website, which gave him great job satisfaction.
Source: Ms Geraldine Robertson, Submission 165, [p. 2].
Box 13.4: SunPork Farms
Our initiative is a world-first initiative, in collaboration with the Autism CRC, that employs autistic adults in animal care. We do this by recognising the barriers. We provide an open, flexible recruitment process and two weeks of competency-based training, and we focus on individual strengths for our new recruits. We allow people to show us what they can do rather than ask them to tell us or sell us what they can do.
Concurrently, we focus heavily on the understanding of autism within the workplace to promote acceptance and inclusion. Once in employment, we recognise the importance of tasking individuals to their strengths, of offering flexibility where they require it, providing mentors and buddies and providing support outside the workplace, including assistance for relocation, for independent living and for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Employment has been transformative for our autistic employees. It's given them independence, it's built confidence, it's supported them to establish friendships and it's provided the satisfaction and reward of meaningful work, a career path and a salary—things that most of us would take for granted. They really are a part of a team that values them for who they are.
Autism in agriculture has provided our neurotypical workforce with an opportunity to learn, to mentor, to support and to give back. To our wider business, it has demonstrated that shifting from the traditional recruitment paradigm and focusing on strengths, on inclusion and equity, and ultimately prioritising people over positions, over process and over systems, really can work.
We see the project as a tremendous investment in our business, our culture, our people, their families and the communities we support. For our employees, their families and their extended support networks, it's fair to say that their employment has been life changing.
Source: Ms Kirsty Richards, Program Lead, Autism and Agriculture, SunPork Farms, Proof Committee Hansard, 3 March 2021, p. 15.
The impact of a lack of appropriate adjustments was described by one autistic submitter who explained that the constant stress of going to work in an unsupportive environment is 'physically, mentally and emotionally draining':
As a result my cluster migraines increase, I fail to eat properly because I get so stressed about going to work I vomit up breakfast and by the end of the day I'm too exhausted to cook ... I constantly stress that due to the constant interruptions I'll have forgotten to do something correctly so I don’t sleep well. I start going in early and staying late to get my job done without interruptions. Because I'm hyper-anxious about my job performance the only thing my brain focuses on is my job. As a consequence … my domestic life falls apart as I forget to pay bills, I forget to buy groceries until I run out of toilet paper or coffee and I avoid social situations because I'm just too tired to cope with more people. … the longer I'm in that job the more stressed I get to the point I will become physically ill and unable to work.
While the reasons for the low rate of adjustments is unclear, it is likely that it is driven by a lack of understanding about autism and the needs of autistic employees. However, Krofne suggested some employers may also have fears 'both real and perceived' about additional supervision requirements and costs, as well as 'loss of productivity by incumbent staff, and the challenge of catering for the physical needs of the client employee'.
As a result, various stakeholders called for greater training and resources to help employers better understand the reasonable adjustments that can be made to support better recruitment and onboarding processes.
For example, Autism Awareness Australia suggested that the University of Sydney's 'Switched On' program—which has developed a toolkit for employers that could be scaled nationally—is 'a perfect example of what is needed'. Likewise, following a successful trial with over 100 employers, the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) has released An Integrated Employment Success Tool (IEST). The IEST is a practical manual that aims to improve employer confidence, employee productivity, job retention, and the overall success of autistic employees in the workplace.
Submitters also pointed to the annual Autism@Work employer forum as a way to increase awareness of autism employment programs and share resources and experiences about the challenges and benefits of hiring autistic employees. Building on this forum, the Autism Alliance proposed that an employment summit be held to bring together a wide range of stakeholders and deliver 'practical change and tangible models for employers to have a successful experience of hiring autistic people'.
Other stakeholders called for specific adjustments and supports, such as providing dedicated mentors and advocates within workplaces, or encouraging meaningful work from home opportunities—particularly for those who may not be able to work in a traditional workplace. In addition, recruitment company WithYouWithMe advocated for the integration of allied health professionals into organisational human resource and employee management processes to ensure a greater focus on the needs of autistic employees and facilitate their long-term success.
Autism understanding and workplace discrimination
While multiple stakeholders highlighted the importance of workplace adjustments to the success of autistic employees, some submitters noted that adjustments alone would not address the challenge of 'ingrained prejudice against difference'. A number of stakeholders reported a lack of autism understanding, as well as negative employer attitudes and experiences of discrimination in the workplace. In addition, Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) also noted that employment-related complaints 'make up a significant proportion of all disability discrimination complaints made to Australian anti-discrimination agencies'.
Poor understanding of, and responses to, autism were even reported in organisations that are otherwise proactive and supportive of diversity and other types of disability.
JFA Purple Orange conveyed one autistic individual's frustrations in relation to the level of autism education and awareness in workplaces:
You feel like you have to … prove yourself before anyone knows you have a disability so you're not automatically stereotyped. People don't know how to cope if I am having an escalation. They don't know how to support me but they don't have discussions about how to support me either. Workplaces don't have access and inclusion plans or mentors and there are few peer networks for autistics in paid employment. There's not much education for workplaces around autism. This has impacted my career aspirations.
The committee heard that negative employer perceptions also act as a roadblock to autistic people gaining employment in the first place. For example, the Autism Alliance claimed that 'persistent misbeliefs … stymie the efforts of autistic job seekers', with many employers believing autistic people are either not capable, or that they will require expensive workplace adjustments. Such misconceptions affect autistic people early in their search for employment and can have long-lasting impacts:
I am an intelligent, articulate, pedantic, passionate person. Yet, not a single employer would give me a chance. Not in my teens, not my 20s and not my 30s. I gave up. Taking a chance on any person who appears to have the drive and ability to do a job should be enough, despite their obstacles (and, if anything, the fact they are striving to overcome and deal with their obstacles and have been for decades, should demonstrate the gusto of the person, which is always overlooked).
Another submitter, aware of the poor employment rates for autistic people, tried unsuccessfully to help her autistic son secure after-school work in order to build his resume:
Two years! He applied for work for two years. Lodging online applications with fast food chains and large retail outlets. Not a single interview. He did resume drops at small local fast-food outlets. He received one trial. With no offer of work. I believe many make an immediate assumption of incompetency when faced with a person who is different or disabled.
At the other end of the scale, autistic people can also suffer from unrealistic and stereotypical views of their abilities. As one submitter explained, people can assume that autistic people 'must understand computer code, computers on a level no-one else does'.
A lack of understanding and fears about negative reactions means that autistic people are hesitant to disclose their autism to their employers or colleagues. Adult respondents to an Autism Alliance survey indicated that only 30.4 per cent had disclosed their diagnosis to their employer. For most respondents, this was due to fears of being judged negatively and/or losing their job or having their hours reduced. This fear was borne out by the experience of one young kitchenhand who told the Commissioner for Children and Young People Western Australia that they were demoted 'on the spot' after disclosing their diagnosis. Yellow Ladybugs referred to another submitter who was told that they would not be coming back to work after requesting a desk in a quiet corner, a $60 filter for the fluorescent light, and slightly adjusted working hours.
Even when a disclosure does not lead to immediate consequences, a lack of autism understanding can still lead to inappropriate treatment. For example, one autistic individual told JFA Purple Orange that instead of 'freeing' her, revealing her diagnosis has put her in the spotlight:
I get questioned a lot. If I talk about feeling anxious, that gets focused on by others. Colleagues advocate for me when I don't need it or want it. For example, they will contact my manager saying, 'we think Tina is stressed', when really they are the ones who are stressed about a situation. Revealing my autism has limited me in workplaces. I have not been given opportunities for higher roles. People treat you as though you are less capable or skilled. They won't invite you to social gatherings and it changes the way you are spoken to. I once told an interviewer about my diagnosis and you could feel the level of respect drop in the room.
In response, stakeholders called for a commitment to inclusive employment practices and better autism education for employers and neurotypical employees. One submitter indicated that this could be done in connection with autism-specific organisations, while another submitter suggested that it should include specific guidance and education about what discrimination against autistic employees looks like.
Other suggestions included:
a national advertising campaign to address discrimination and attitudes toward people with disability at work; and
expanding the Work Assist program (previously Jobs in Jeopardy) to help people who are at risk of losing their job because of their autism.
Specialised employment services, targeted programs and incentives
The Australian Government provides a variety of specialist employment services to assist people with disabilities to find employment (see Box 13.5).
In addition, the National Disability Employment Strategy, Employ My Ability, (Developed in association with Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031 [the National Disability Strategy]) aims to increase participation and improve employment outcomes by:
lifting employer engagement, capability and demand;
building employment skills, experience and confidence of young people with disability;
improving systems and services for jobseekers and employers; and
changing community attitudes.
Employ My Ability is also supported by two targeted action plans that will 'apply an intensive focus over one to three years to achieve specific deliverables'. Reporting against the Disability Employment Strategy will include an annual progress report for the Employment Targeted Action Plan, as well as reporting against outcomes as part of the broader National Disability Strategy.
Another national initiative is the National Disability Insurance Scheme's (NDIS) Participant Employment Strategy. This strategy aims to have 30 per cent of working-age participants in meaningful employment by 30 June 2023 and focuses on the following key areas:
increasing participant aspiration and employment goals in NDIS plans;
increasing participant choice and control over pathways to employment;
increasing market innovations that improve the path to paid work;
improving confidence of employers to employ NDIS participants; and
leading by example as an employer.
Box 13.5: Australian Government employment services for people with a disability
Responsibility for employment assistance programs rests with the Australian Government. In addition to general job seeker supports, the Department of Social Services, Department of Education, Skills and Employment and Department of Health (the departments), outlined the additional support available for autistic jobseekers through initiatives such as:
the Disability Employment Services (DES) program—which helps individuals with disability find and retain a job in the open market;
the Disability Employment Continuity of Support (DECoS) program—which funds employment supports for people working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) and supported under the former Disability Employment Assistance (DEA) program;
the Disability Support Pension (DSP)—which supports people unable to fully support themselves (but allows recipients to receive a part pension while engaging in less than 30 hours of paid employment per week);
the Employee Assistance Fund—which provides funding for work related modifications and services;
the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator—which works with employers to increase their knowledge of government supports, help them implement disability employment practices, and provide disability awareness training for staff; and
funding of $1.5 million to expand the Dandelion Program in partnership with DXC Technology and $500 000 for initiatives to encourage employers to become 'autism-confident'.
Despite these programs, the committee heard evidence that current employment services are not meeting the needs of autistic job seekers. Accordingly, many stakeholders advocated for:
improvements to the DES program;
more targeted employment options for autistic people—including outside information and communications technology (ICT) fields and options for those with more complex needs or concurrent intellectual disability;
more support for self-employment; and
additional government incentives and employment quotas.
Disability Employment Services program
The Disability Employment Services (DES) program supports job seekers with disability who have been assessed as needing the service. It provides support to build job seekers' confidence and capability to prepare for employment and find a job. It also provides ongoing support or services to maintain employment. Supported activities may include access to training and education at Certificate III level (and above) and developing resume writing or interview skills. It may also include working with employers to make reasonable adjustments and reduce the cost to employers. DES providers support participants in their first 52 weeks of employment and can continue to provide support if required.
According to the 2020 Employment outcomes for NDIS participants report, 44 per cent of people aged 15–24 years and 29 per cent of those aged 25 and over thought 'more support from a DES provider' would be a key factor in helping them to secure employment. This was the most frequently mentioned factor for those aged 25 and over and the second most frequently mentioned for those aged 15–24 years.
However, a number of submitters questioned the effectiveness of the assistance provided by DES providers. For example, the Autism Alliance asserted that DES providers achieve 'low rates of successful work placements for autistic job seekers'. Similarly, OTARC indicated that 'few autistic job seekers receiving DES help are placed into work' and cited 2017 data showing that while autism accounted for 16 per cent of DES providers' caseloads, on average only 25 per cent of this cohort were placed into employment. In addition, Specialisterne suggested that although 'placement rates for autistic jobseekers in the current DES system are encouraging', the last 12 months had seen a drop in placement activity and an increase in the number of job seekers who remain unplaced.
Autistic job seekers' experiences of DES providers were also mixed. For example, Mr Cameron Boyd described his choice of the Personnel Group as the 'best split-second decision' he ever made. Mr Boyd stated that Personnel Group helped him to find employment and, when that did not work out, found him a role within their finance team—a role he has been in for over three years.
However, other autistic job seekers had less positive experiences with DES providers. Specialisterne relayed the experience of an autistic job seeker who had not been referred for many jobs, despite having been with DES providers for a number of years. In addition, the jobs he was referred to tended to be low‑skilled—including one job washing caravans at minimum wage, which cost him more to attend than he was paid. Specialisterne also reported one parent's view that 'any and all employment services' had been 'useless' for their son, despite him having a bachelor's degree in IT:
He jumps through all of the hoops, has attended all of their tick-box meetings (where nothing ever gets done—it seems to be only for the benefit of the recruitment organisation—certainly not for his benefit as a job seeker) and so far has not even been offered an interview, or even a chance to get a job. His [autism] is obviously too much for them despite his qualifications. He has studied constantly since attaining his degree 18 months ago and has since learned many extra IT skills via online courses. He is an optimistic and positive young man but has become disillusioned and is less than hopeful of ever getting a job.
Specialisterne also emphasised that some autistic job seekers' experiences had been so poor they ended up leaving the DES system completely. Specialisterne summarised the issues with DES providers as follows:
a lack of specialist knowledge or qualifications among DES providers;
the limited capacity of DES providers to recognise and identify autistic people's skills, strengths and employable attributes;
a model that rewards fast placement of job seekers into employment, which incentivises job placement over job suitability;
a focus on low-skilled or entry level roles, rather than roles that fit the technical skills and attributes of individuals;
an over reliance on traditional job seeking methods, such as resume writing, which are not effective for autistic people; and
poor perceptions of the DES and DES candidates in the mainstream employment and recruitment sector.
This aligns with the findings of a mid-term review of the DES which found that despite some positive results, the program was not efficient or effective in meeting its objectives. In particular, it found that job placements for people with disability did not align with their skills or interests and offered limited career development and earning potential. In addition, both employers and job seekers found the system hard to navigate, including the process of selecting a provider.
The sense that DES providers were focused on the financial incentives for job placements, rather than the needs of clients, was emphasised by more than one submitter. For example, Autism Awareness Australia described the DES system as a 'design failure' in relation to autistic job seekers as it rewards DES providers for job placements without regard for 'the number of hours worked, the remuneration and conditions, and the longevity of the position'. Another stakeholder stated that 'they're there to tick boxes, to rake in money for providing a service that truly does nothing'. Indeed, one autistic submitter suggested that some DES providers even use 'trickery and coercion' to get job seekers to accept roles that do not suit them 'just so they can "tick off" their [key performance indicators] and get a bonus':
I have … heard alarming stories … of providers pushing clients (I have reason to suspect autistic clients included) in to apply for unsuitable jobs .... In addition, more stories have piled up … of DES providers threating to cut off client's welfare payments breaching their rights and not informing clients of their rights when dealing with a DES provider.
Concerns that the current DES funding model rewards 'speed to placement' were also raised in the Inclusive. Accessible. Diverse. Shaping your new disability employment support program consultation paper (the DES model consultation paper), which helped inform the new DES model. The paper noted that the current model can lead to unsuitable job placements, a focus on short-term placements, and poor outcomes for job seekers who are not seen as employable.
Another common theme that emerged from evidence presented to the committee was the lack of autism knowledge and expertise among DES providers. For instance, the Coalition of Autistic Women (CoAW) argued that very few DES providers 'understand or provide adequate assistance for autistic people and understanding of female presentation is rare'. The CoAW also submitted that few DES providers are proactive in engaging with potential employers about the challenges autistic people experience in traditional recruitment processes. Likewise, the Autism Alliance observed that 'DES [providers] have no requirements for training their staff in autism'.
In addition to a lack of understanding, the committee also heard that the DES system is primarily geared toward people with intellectual or physical disabilities. For example, the Tasmanian Government observed that autistic people 'often have to "make do" with services designed for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, which are often not well aligned'.
In addition, Specialisterne noted that there had been a shift away from DES providers partnering with specialist agencies to deliver targeted employment services. Instead, it argued that most DES providers operate as generalist services and expect that staff 'will be able to offer adequate and effective job search, coaching and employment support to jobseekers of all disability types'.
The generalist nature of the DES system and providers' lack of capacity to support particular cohorts, including job seekers with autism, was also noted in the DES model consultation paper, which sought feedback on ways to lift workforce capability and whether specialist providers are needed to increase employment opportunities.
Stakeholders also raised concerns about the lack of in-placement support offered by DES providers. For example, Ms Kirsty Richards, Program Lead, Autism and Agriculture at SunPork Farms, told the committee that SunPork was offered wage subsidies through the DES program but no in-work support:
…we weren't looking for wage subsidies. What we were looking for was workplace support for our employees that went beyond the recruitment phase—so the idea that someone would be there six months or 12 months down the track. Sometimes problems might appear two or three years later, and it's then that you need that trusted person who can come in and cast their eye over the situation, understanding the employer and the employee, and give you that little bit of advice and support. That doesn't exist in the DES context.
They were very focused on the recruitment phase. We've worked out that we can do recruitment without any dramas at all. It's maintaining and providing that ongoing support in the workplace where the employer need really lies and understanding what that actually looks like.
In a similar vein, the Department of Defence indicated that employment services 'often overlook the social support needs and on-the-job training required by employees with autism'.
In recognition of the need to improve outcomes for people with disability, the Department of Social Services is designing a new Disability Employment Support Model (the new DES model) to replace the DES from 1 July 2023. The new DES model is being designed in collaboration with people with disability, employers and providers in order to make sure it supports both job seekers and employers to achieve sustained and successful employment. Six working groups have been established to consider employment reforms through the lens of specific cohorts and disabilities. This includes a working group on intellectual disability, autism and psychosocial disability.
While the extent of the problem is not clear, the DES model consultation paper also noted the view that DES staff are largely unqualified to provide on-the-job support to help people with autism succeed in the workplace.
In response, stakeholders made a number of suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the DES system for autistic job seekers. These included:
auditing DES providers to assess their understanding of autism and the appropriateness of support provided to autistic job seekers;
making it easier for autistic job seekers to identify DES providers with knowledge of autism;
providing autism education and training for all DES providers that work with autistic job seekers, including knowledge of the benefits of hiring autistic people, barriers to employment, and what works in terms of job placements;
introducing minimum qualification/experience requirements for DES staff;
building connections between DES providers and autism employment specialists to identify the skills and strengths of autistic job seekers and provide autism training to employing organisations; and
revising the DES performance framework to include qualitative measures and individual job seeker outcomes.
Some these suggestions appear to be reflected in the stated aims of the new DES model which will aim to ensure:
sustainable and cost-effective investment in employment services for people with disability;
alignment with other Commonwealth-funded employment services programs;
reduced duplication and overlap with other government investment in disability and related services, including the NDIS;
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 job seekers around the employment services they receive;
a tailored set of quality services and supports that meet the needs of job seekers and employers; and
job seeker-centric design and delivery.
Targeted employment options
Specialisterne noted that autism employment programs have been gaining traction in both the government and the private sectors—not only as a diversity measure but also because of the skills that autistic employees can bring to an organisation. For example, Services Australia indicated that it has provided autism-specific employment opportunities since 2015 via its Aurora and Dandelion (see Box 13.6) programs. It described the benefits of these programs as:
providing meaningful and sustainable employment for people who may have otherwise struggled to find a job;
building disability confidence within Services Australia and increasing awareness of the skills and talents of autistic people;
building an inclusive workforce culture, which contributes to the provision of more effective government services; and
attracting and developing new skills and capability in specialised areas of the organisation, including ICT, fraud and compliance.
This view was shared by Dandelion program participants, trainee supervisors and parents. For example, one participant told Services Australia that the program had given them options and provided a career stepping stone, while a parent stated that the program was 'the best thing that's ever happened' to their son. In addition, a trainee supervisor reported that:
The team is far surpassing our initial expectations with their desire to learn, their attention to detail and are embracing their roles of software test analysts in a new challenging environment. The commonly held beliefs and often negative stereotypes within society surrounding people with autism are being broken down as people get to know the employees in the Dandelion Team. They soon discover that they are awesome people who have so much to contribute.
Box 13.6: The Dandelion program
The Dandelion program (the program) commenced in 2015 in collaboration with Services Australia, DXC Technology and Specialisterne. The program aims to provide autistic people with ongoing employment and long-term, sustainable careers.
The program's recruitment and induction processes enable applicants to demonstrate their strengths in a supportive environment, providing each person the opportunity to thrive in the workplace.
DXC Technology provided training, line management, performance management and related HR services as part of a fully managed service to build life skills and self-advocacy for participants. Services Australia staff, including managers and colleagues of trainees, were trained to be autism aware and confident to support the trainees to perform at their best.
Since 2015, a total of 58 people have been engaged in ICT traineeship roles, including as business, systems and data analysts, technical and data engineers and web application developers. The roles have been located in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra and are up to three years in duration.
The program has a retention rate of around 80 per cent and participants remain a valued part of the Services Australia's workforce. Two participants have since joined the Services Australia's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate employment scheme. Another two participants have gained full-time roles in state government and private industry.
The program is also one of only two employment programs in the world to have been the subject of an independent research program, with Services Australia and the Department of Defence co-funding two three-year longitudinal studies. This research has been used to inform the program's evolution over a number of years.
The Dandelion program is estimated to have generated $26 million for Australia's GDP over five years.
Source: Services Australia, Submission 66, pp. 3–4; DXC Technology, Submission 68, p. 1; La Trobe University – the Olga Tennison Research Centre (OTARC), Submission 55, p. 18.
In addition to the growing interest in autistic employment, Specialisterne also noted a concurrent increase in the number of organisations focused on recruiting autistic employees into businesses.
The committee heard that the primary difference between autism-focused programs and generalist employment services is the tailored approach taken to recruitment and workplace support. For example, Specialisterne advised that its approach involves:
using practical and inclusive approaches to assess and source talent into businesses;
building skills and inclusive practices across organisations, including the executive, human resources, team managers, supervisors and peers;
helping autistic employees to transition into their new roles and identify any necessary workplace adjustments;
mentoring and coaching autistic employees, including helping them to identify their own support networks;
mentoring and coaching the employee's line manager, supervisors and peers; and
tracking and monitoring the career progress of all job seekers and employees that participate in its programs.
However, while acknowledging the success of targeted initiatives such as the Dandelion Program and other initiatives run by specialist employment firms such as Xceptional and Specialisterne, stakeholders such as the Autism Alliance pointed out that they 'are of micro scale and are few and far between'. The Autism CRC also noted the low numbers of individuals employed through these programs.
The need to scale up successful targeted employment programs was also noted by WithYouWithMe (WYWM) which argued that just under 20 000 jobs would need to be created in order to meet the NDIS employment target of 30 per cent.
Mr Rhett Ellis noted that the current cyber security skills shortage provides a potential solution to this problem. According to Mr Ellis, by 2026 there will be an estimated shortfall of 17 600 cyber security workers. At the same time, existing government initiatives only produce 500 new candidates per year, 'which does not even cover the interest let alone the backlog'. Mr Ellis indicated this gap could be filled by adjusting recruitment processes and office environments to suit autistic candidates:
At the same time we have enough unemployed highly intelligent highly functional autistics that want to do that job and have an interest in IT to completely solve that skills shortage, the only missing puzzle piece is a supported on the job training program which tests them on merit instead of 30 year old unscientific interview techniques, it’s very obvious to anyone who spends a few moments thinking about it that watching someone do the job is more effective than talking about doing the job, but for some reason we don’t do that, and autistic people are unfairly written off despite being the best candidates for the job, we have demonstrated that with the JPMorgan study which saw long-term unemployed high school educated candidates being 140 per cent more effective than PhD educated experts.
Both Mr Ellis and another submitter highlighted the success of Israel's unit 9900, known as the Roim Rachok program, which recruits and trains autistic people in a range of professions. While the first Roim Rachok cohorts were trained to decipher aerial and satellite photographs, the program has since expanded to train candidates for civilian roles such as software quality assurance, information sorting, and electro-optics technicians.
In addition, WYWM suggested that a 'bespoke neurodiversity hiring program' could be championed by a single agency such as the Digital Transformation Agency, in order to establish pathways for autistic job seekers to start technology-based careers with the Australian Government. The lessons from this program could then be applied across other Australian Government agencies.
Options beyond ICT
In addition to the relatively low numbers of autistic people employed through existing employment programs, stakeholders observed that most of these programs are focused on technology-based roles. According to one autistic submitter, these programs focus on an 'elite' group of autistic people and fail to cater for autistic job seekers whose skills and interests lie in different directions. Another autistic individual told Yellow Ladybugs:
I am so sick of getting asked to apply for computer programming jobs, because of the cliche and limited understanding of autism. I would love to get into teaching, beauty therapy or something with animals. We are not all engineers. Our interests are unique, but all existing services cater for male autistics.
Accordingly, the committee heard calls to expand autism-specific employment programs to cater for a broader range of autistic job seekers. For example, Autism Queensland cited a need for more programs that 'accommodate job seekers with a wide range of abilities and interests' including entry level jobs for those with no post-school qualifications, as well as highly-skilled professional positions for those with university qualifications. Another submitter suggested expanding the technology-focused model to fields like 'health, government and policy, social sciences, education, business, finance and commerce'.
To this end, Krofne indicated that its TEAM COACH program was seeking to change the dominant paradigm around autistic recruitment by focusing its training on 'foundational work-based skills modules' for job seekers, which are then directed to focus on industries that align with participants interests, skills and capabilities.
The I CAN Network (I CAN) also called for greater support for autistic-led social enterprises that create jobs for autistic people:
Giving trainee mentors a pathway to employment in I CAN Network provides them with fulfilling work in the short-term and transferable skills and experiences which will increase their employability in the long-term. This reduces their chances of unemployment and their reliance on government welfare payments and support. As at July 2020, I CAN Ltd has successfully developed 20 trainee mentors into paid I CAN mentor staff.
However, I CAN stressed that additional funding would be required to allow it 'initiate more opportunities which create jobs for autistic people'. It suggested this kind of activity could be supported via funding from the Department of Social Services' Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program.
Complex needs and concurrent intellectual disability
As noted by Autism Queensland, autistic people's abilities range 'from those who are academically gifted to those who experience learning and language comprehension challenges'. However, Autism Awareness Australia suggested that current employment efforts focus too strongly on those with high-level skills and abilities:
The recent focus on the benefits of people with autism in the workplace is excellent, however, there has been far too much focus on those on the spectrum with high IQs and high-level technical skills. Whilst this is a wonderful beginning, we cannot forget individuals with a different presentation of autism and different skill set. The rights of people with autism who want to and can work should be a priority.
OTARC concurred and argued that many current programs are not inclusive of autistic people with co-occurring intellectual disability.
The need to cater for the range of abilities across the autism spectrum appears to have been recognised by Krofne, which is using tiered training as part of its TEAM COACH program in recognition that some autistic people will be able to attend training independently, while others will need the assistance of a support worker to do so.
In addition, more than one submitter noted the relatively high proportion of autistic people working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). The Autism Alliance suggested that this represented an under-utilisation of autistic people's skills, while CYDA argued that 'segregated employment in Australian Disability Employment "sheltered workshops" constitutes a form of neglect of people's rights'. To this end, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) recommended transitioning all workers with disability in ADEs into mainstream employment.
However, one parent of an autistic man with intellectual disability highlighted the importance of supported employment options and activity centres for autistic people with more complex needs. They described how, in the absence of any suitable employment options within easy travelling distance, Arts Project Australia provides a very positive service for their son five days per week.
Another autistic submitter stated that they did 'not condone the closure or slander of such facilities' and suggested instead that ADEs could be reformed to help upskill workers and prepare autistic job seekers for a transition into open employment.
Some stakeholders suggested that self-employment could provide another pathway to employment for autistic people. For example, I CAN asserted that as '98 percent of Australian businesses are small businesses (sole traders or employing less than 20 people), starting up a business or social enterprise is a viable way for autistic people to be employed'. Other stakeholders, such as The Autistic Realm Australia (TARA), also pointed out that self-employment can allow autistic people to better control their work environments.
However, submitters recognised that additional support would be required to help autistic people start their own businesses. This includes help to develop their business capabilities, as well as financial support. As noted by I CAN, any support provided would need to 'consider the unique strengths and challenges autistic people possess such as their attention to detail and their fear of uncertainty, respectively'.
The benefits and challenges of self-employment for autistic people were summarised by one parent who explained that while self-employment had been extremely positive for her son, it had also come at a cost:
Running [redacted] business and watching his self-confidence soar to heights we could not envisage has been the very best thing I have done for him. It does involve a lot of work. I get burnt out. I worry about the longevity of his business. … No parent should have to work so hard on helping their child become employable. This is something I strongly believe. I am glad I do it. I wouldn't change a thing but I give up a lot for this to be possible. My daughter has less time with me. I still cannot pursue any form of employment (which I would dearly love). The ripple effect again can’t be measured. … But I know this: [redacted] will be a taxpayer. He will not be a welfare recipient. [redacted] spends money in his community. [redacted] hires kids from his high school.
Accordingly, stakeholders made a range of suggestions to improve self-employment options for autistic job seekers. For example, I CAN proposed that a grants program be established to help autistic individuals set up (or expand) their businesses and improve their business skills and capabilities.
In addition to small business grants, submitters also suggested that business mentoring programs should also be introduced to help guide autistic people through the process of establishing their own businesses.
Government incentives and employment quotas
Multiple stakeholders identified a role for government in incentivising autistic employment, and proposed the following mechanisms:
establishing governments as model employers;
introducing employment targets and quotas; and
expanding social procurement approaches.
Governments as model employers
Some stakeholders, such as Specialisterne, pointed out that 'government leading the way in their own best practice will be key to driving change in the business sector'.
Accordingly, a number of stakeholders suggested that governments at all levels commit to creating employment pathways into the public service for autistic people. This could include developing autism-specific streams within existing pathways such as graduate and trainee programs.
The Autism CRC also suggested that the evidence-based benefits of, and practices for, neurodiversity in the workplace should be codified and promoted 'through major employer groups, such as the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Public Service'.
Employment targets and quotas
Various stakeholders suggested that governments should set targets for autistic employment, including mandatory quotas. One submitter pointed to evidence from Japan showing that, when enforced, quotas improved disability employment 'with little impact on businesses'.
The Autism Alliance also noted the introduction of employment targets for people with disability more broadly, including a 6 per cent target in Victoria (rising to 12 per cent by 2021) and a 7 per cent target across the Australian Public Service by 2025.
However, at least one stakeholder indicated that these figures were too low given the proportion of the population with a disability in Australia. Indeed, PWDA suggested that the quota for the public sector should start at 15 per cent, with a quota of 51 per cent for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
In relation to autism more specifically, one submitter suggested that a target of 2.5 per cent should be set, reflecting the estimated prevalence of autism in Australia. Another submitter suggested that tax incentives should be used to incentive businesses to meet employment targets.
Social procurement approaches
Stakeholders highlighted the potential for governments to use their purchasing power to encourage or oblige vendors to increase the numbers of autistic people they employ. For example, the Autism Alliance pointed out that some state governments have implemented social procurement initiatives that require contracted organisations to generate employment opportunities for marginalised job seekers. According to the Autism Alliance, this includes purchasing arrangements that preference social enterprises—including those hiring people with disability.
However, the Autism Alliance noted a lack of social procurement measures at the Commonwealth level (other than the Indigenous Procurement Policy) and suggested that the Australian Government establish a social procurement framework that requires contracted organisations to provide 'training and employment opportunities for marginalised job seekers, including autistic people'.
The committee is alarmed by the poor employment statistics for autistic people. These statistics highlight the total failure of the Disability Employment Services (DES) system to support autistic people. This committee heard that this failure has reduced the quality of life of countless autistic people and has robbed Australian society of the skills and expertise that autistic people have to offer.
According to evidence provided to the inquiry, the effectiveness of the DES system is hampered by a lack of autism expertise and an overreliance on traditional job-seeking mechanisms. Perhaps most troubling were reports that the DES system actively rewards fast placement of job seekers into employment, rather than the appropriateness or sustainability of job placements. The committee is also concerned that, once a placement is made, DES providers appear not to be providing ongoing in-placement support—despite the DES system making provision for providers to support participants in their first year of employment (and longer if needed).
The committee is also disappointed to learn that general recruitment and induction processes remain largely inaccessible and ineffective for autistic people and that relatively few adjustments are made for autistic people within the work environment. The committee heard that fears about discrimination or inappropriate treatment also make autistic people reluctant to disclose their diagnosis. This suggests an urgent need to improve autism understanding among employers and employment service providers, including via the creation or promotion of resources to support the recruitment and onboarding process.
Although there are a handful of autism-specific employment programs that are achieving positive outcomes, they support relatively small numbers of autistic people. Without action to broaden the reach of these programs, they will always remain limited in what they can achieve. While recognising that ICT‑focused programs are an important avenue for autistic employment, the committee also supports calls for these programs to be broadened beyond ICT in order to accommodate the wide range of interests and abilities found within the autistic community—including those individuals with more complex needs and/or co‑occurring intellectual disability.
However, improving employment outcomes for autistic people cannot simply be the preserve of a few committed workplaces and specialised employment services providers. Governments and businesses need to work together to drive widespread, systemic change to hiring and induction processes, as well as developing workplace cultures and systems of supports that will help autistic individuals to maintain their employment. The committee notes that valuing the contribution people with disability make to the workforce and recognising the benefits of employing people with disability is also an identified policy priority under Australia's Disability Strategy 2021–2031.
The committee believes that investing in greater support at start of an individual's employment journey will help to lower costs later on by reducing unnecessary reliance on government social security payments. According to some stakeholders, it also has broader economic benefits by increasing taxation revenue and gross domestic product (GDP). In particular, the committee notes evidence suggesting that a one-third reduction in the employment gap between people with disability and the broader population would increase GDP by $43 billion over ten years.
The committee notes the release of the Employ My Ability strategy in December 2021. The Employ My Ability strategy contains admirable goals, including many that align with the evidence presented to this committee.
In addition, the Department of Social Services is developing a replacement for the DES system that will commence in 2023 and aims to further break down barriers to employment for people with disability. The committee is pleased to see that an autism-focused working group is contributing to the development of this new model.
The committee understands that it will take time to assess whether either of these measures will improve employment outcomes for autistic people. Accordingly, the committee urges the Department of Social Services to ensure that all monitoring and evaluation activities related to these measures allow for disaggregation by disability type, including autism.
However, the committee remains concerned that these measures may not be specific enough to meet the needs of autistic people. For this reason, the committee strongly believes that a national framework is required to coordinate and drive measures to improve autistic employment outcomes. Priorities for the framework should include actions related to:
improving information for both autistic job seekers and employers;
communicating the benefits of hiring autistic people;
improving education and training for DES providers and employers;
expanding ICT and non-ICT employment programs; and
identifying ways to support self-employment, further establish governments as employers of choice, and incentivise private sector employment.
The committee also believes that the new DES model should build on the experience of, and evidence about, autism-specific programs in terms of what works to support autistic employment.
The committee recommends that a National Autism Employment Framework be agreed under the auspices of the National Autism Strategy. The framework should identify actions to:
promote the benefits of hiring autistic people to governments and business;
further establish governments as employers of choice;
incentivise private sector employment;
encourage the expansion of both ICT and non-ICT autism-focused employment programs;
support self-employment options for autistic people;
improve information for autistic job seekers about available supports and DES providers with autism experience; and
improve autism-related education, training and resources for DES providers and employers (building on existing resources where available).
The framework should also be compatible with the Employ My Ability strategy and should help inform the new Disability Employment Support (DES) Model being developed by the Department of Social Services for implementation in 2023.
The committee recommends that the Department of Social Services ensure that all monitoring and evaluation activities related to the Employ My Ability strategy and the new Disability Employment Support Model allow for disaggregation by disability type, including autism.
The committee recommends that the Department of Social Services incorporate into the design of the new Disability Employment Support Model:
relevant elements of the National Autism Employment Framework; and
lessons from autism-specific employment programs about what works in relation to achieving long-term employment outcomes for autistic people.