Exploring the NDIS and Disability Employment Services

Project Details

Australians with disability continue to experience poorer employment outcomes when compared to people without disability.

The budgetary implications of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) were rationalised on modelling that the NDIS would lead to improved employment outcomes for many people with disability and their carers, thereby offsetting the cost of the Scheme’s implementation.

Australia’s Disability Employment Scheme (DES) program is the Federal Government’s specialised welfare program for people whose disability is assessed as their main barrier to employment. The interaction of the NDIS and DES systems occurs when either existing DES participants gain access to the NDIS or when an NDIS participant requests employment support within their package. Within the NDIS, DES are recognised as the primary source of assistance for NDIS participants wanting support to build skills to participate in and gain work, and, provision of on-going support to help participants maintain employment. Yet there is limited evidence of whether and how the NDIS/DES interface is functioning effectively to improve employment outcomes for Australians with disabilities.

The project investigated participant and stakeholder perspectives on this interface and its influence on employment outcomes for people with disability.

“It really comes down to the NDIA, the planners, the people who are knowledgeable enough about the employment system and the employment opportunities. From what we can gather, there are a lot of issues around low expectations for people with disability.” (survey participant)

Key findings

The findings point towards a stronger focus for future investigations on the interaction between the NDIS and DES in order to achieve better employment outcomes for people with disability. We recommend the findings be further prioritised by stakeholders and the research team, to help shape a shared future research agenda.

The report can be downloaded below.


Alexandra Devine, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Disability and Health Unit
Dr Sue Olney, University of New South Wales
Professor Shelley Mallett, Brotherhood of St Laurence
Stefanie Dimov, Disability and Health Unit, University of Melbourne 
Georgia Katsikis, Melbourne Disability Institute


Brotherhood of St Laurence


Melbourne Disability Institute

Research Publications

Devine A, Olney S, Mallet S, Dimov S, Katsikis G, Karanikolas A. (2020). Exploring the interface between the NDIS and Disability Employment Services (DES). Melbourne Disability Institute: The University of Melbourne. (Web)

Olney S, Devine A, Karanikolas P, Dimov S, Malbon J & Katsikis G. Disability and work in a health and economic crisis: Mitigating the risk of long-term labour market exclusion for Australians with disability through policy coordination. AJPA, 2021(6); https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8500.12500

Research Group

School Research Themes

Disparities, disadvantage and effective health care

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

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