The future of Transition to Work will be bigger (and better)
There was a vast increase in the number of young people accessing the Transition to Work program during Covid-19. With unemployment spiking and a lack of new employment opportunities available, providers needed to scale well beyond the usual 17,600 young people they serviced nationally.
This was a taste of what’s to come. With the Government recently outlining future shape of Transition to Work from 2022-2027, it appears the program will get permanently bigger, to become the sole youth specialist service under the New Employment Services Model from July 2022.
Are providers of Transition to Work services ready?
The state of Transition to Work
The Federal Government is investing in Transition to Work. After a positive bill of health was given in the Transition to Work Final Evaluation Report May 2021, the Government said it would inject $481m (to a total of $1.2bn over the forward estimates) into the program in the 2021-22 Budget.
This is because of the critical service it provides. By supporting young people between the ages of 15 and 24 at risk of long-term unemployment to engage with education and employment, it acts as an early intervention measure that can end up changing the course of lives into the future.
Transition to Work has been doing that. The recent review found it was a ‘well-regarded, successful service’ that has ‘achieved strong outcomes for young people at risk of being long-term unemployed, through building capabilities and helping them transition into work, including through education’.
The future of Transition to Work
The fundamentals that have made the program a success are likely to be maintained. These include a non-competitive provider model, a lower consultant to participant ratio (when compared with jobactive), the ability to flexibly support participants, and less emphasis on punitive obligations.
The 2022 to 2027 period will involve some change. Although at time of writing the Government was still seeking feedback from industry, the thrust of the changes look to be about building on what has already been achieved by augmenting the program’s service in a number of areas.
- The single biggest expected change is a change to eligibility criteria that will have the effect of channelling in more participants assessed as having ‘non-vocational barriers’, which include homelessness, mental health challenges, substance abuse, and others. Where vocational barriers (such as a lack of education and training) were the previous focus of the program, now providers will be asked to support participants with a wider variety of challenges, in a similar way to Enhanced Services providers under the new jobactive 2022 model. This will result in an increase in the total number of participants who enter the Transition to Work program, from a national commenced caseload of 17,600 to approximately 41,000 (similar numbers to those serviced during Covid-19).
- The time limit participants can be in the program will be extended form 18 months to 24 months if a participant is assessed as having complex, non-vocational barriers to work. And while the program will still act as a safe harbour for younger participants from the Targeted Compliance Framework jobseekers face as part of jobactive, the program is expected to introduce income support payment suspensions for failing to attend a first interview. This is in the hope of encouraging the 22% of activity tested income support participants who fail to attend their first interview to get there to experience and benefit from the service. (Once attended, the payment will be paid back and there is no more use of suspensions.)
- A tightened focus on the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of the service Transition to Work providers deliver will come in the form of much more robust Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These will closely assess the performance of providers across a range of quantitative (including 12-week outcomes) and qualitative (including participant surveys) measures. The previous system using Outcome Performance Targets (which are based on the average of jobactive’s past performance over three years) have been deemed inadequate for the future– the model will de-link payments from these performance targets. Providers will be paid 12-week outcome payments as soon as they are achieved.
- The enhanced flexibility when compared with jobactive will be maintained, with an extension proposed to allow national program settings to be tweaked at a local level to meet local needs. The new model will also encourage providers to involve young people in the design and delivery of the service, for example by building robust feedback mechanisms or participant committees that empower participants in the evolution of the program. With the likelihood of a significant mental ill-health in this new caseload, the government also wants flexibility in the provision of services where there are mental health issues. Youth Advisory Sessions are to be continued for those people using digital and online services.
Bigger and better
The future of Transition to Work will be both bigger and better. With are larger number of participants expected to enter the program and program settings augmented to enhance the levels of service provided, providers and participants are likely to see even more evidence of success.
This will not be without challenges. As a more diverse caseload of young people walks through the doors, providers will need to be ready with a combination of both human services and technology to ensure they can deliver appropriate services that do result in outcomes – and change lives.
The good news is that experience and technology exists. With tech providers like ReadyTech already supporting employment services with Enhanced Services caseloads and a vast experience available from the jobactive program, the sector is ready for bigger and better service in the future.