The Improving Disability Employment Study (IDES) is the first longitudinal survey to investigate perspectives on barriers and facilitators to work for Australians with disability accessing the Disability Employment Services (DES) program. The aim of this paper is to describe the survey development and data collection methods, as well as key learnings to improve future research.
Two surveys, conducted 12-months apart, covering socio-economic factors, employment, physical/mental health, and experiences of employment support, were used to collect information from 369 jobseekers with disability, recruited from nine government-funded DESs, across Australia. The surveys were developed with industry input, where possible used validated instruments, and cognitive and pilot testing were undertaken. The IDES sample was close in composition to the broader Australian DES population. The most commonly reported primary disability was psychosocial disability (48.0%), followed by physical disability (33.1%), and most participants had worked at some stage in their lives (90%). Numerous challenges associated with recruitment were identified, such as conducting the survey during implementation of significant sector reform, and the limited reach to some cohorts.
The IDES study provides important data to assist in the analysis of vocational and non-vocational barriers and facilitators to work for Australians with disability accessing DES. Future studies in this area should seek to address the challenges in conducting such studies including ensuring representation of the broader job-seeker population, having the survey available in languages other than English, and resourcing service provider support. Awareness and appropriate management of the challenges to inclusive and representative research is required to maximise the outcomes of disability research using partnerships with industry organisations.