Housed at the University of Melbourne, in conjunction with the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University, Getting Welfare to Work is a long-standing research program on welfare and employment services reform at a national and international level.
Employment services policy and delivery is constantly in flux. The sector is persistently subject to design, redesign, regulation and re-regulation in Australia and elsewhere. It needs dedicated, independent, reliable research that can inform policy design and provide both government and providers with evidence of best practice.
Our current research focuses on the next wave of employment services reform – the digitalisation of social services delivery – and what this means for:
- The nature of not-for-profit and contracted providers involvement in services delivery; levels of professionalisation and service tailoring at the frontline, and
- Jobseekers’ access to and experience of employment support
Getting Welfare to Work began in 1998 with surveys of frontline staff working in the employment sector in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Since 2008, we have continued to closely monitor reforms in Australia and internationally through what is now the world’s largest and longest running comparative study of employment services delivery.
We have collected more than 20 years of data on frontline practice and the impacts of welfare reforms on services delivery, across multiple countries. We have built on this core body of research over subsequent Australian Research Council Linkage projects with additional interview and case-study based research on:
- The practices of high performing agencies in supporting more disadvantaged jobseekers into sustained employment
- Mission drift among not-for-profit organisations.
- Ongoing standardisation and routinisation at the frontline.
Reform is continuing, with the government now refocusing on improving services delivery through better use of technology. It will embark on another major experiment in welfare-to-work reform, moving to a ‘digital first’ system in which most jobseekers will ‘self-service’ online in 2022. As part of our most recent Australian Research Council Linkage project we are researching these changes, and whether digital delivery can genuinely improve frontline services and system governance.
Since 2008, the Employment Services Research Team has worked in partnership with the National Employment Services Association (NESA) and the Westgate Community Initiatives Group (WCIG). These partnerships have supported research across three linkage grants, detailed in the Research tab (above), and have enabled two-way knowledge transfer between the Research Team and frontline welfare-to-work staff.
National Employment Services Association
NESA is the peak advocacy body representing Australian employment services providers. It acts as a bridge between the Employment Services sector and government, providing advocacy, professional development activities and practitioner advice to private sector employment services providers, as well as hosting conferences and offering policy advice to government.
Westgate Community Initiatives Group (WCIG)
“WCIG is a community based not-for-profit organisation committed to improving lives through practical responses to unemployment and disadvantage. Our programs focus on assisting people make positive changes in their lives.
We deliver employment, disability, youth and training programs, as well as operating several social enterprises. WCIG has an established network of community organisations, allied health services, employers, community groups and other businesses. Our network enables us to provide the most holistic approach possible to assist people to reach their goals.”