Is the star system keeping you up at night?

In August 2016 the Department of Employment released the first Star Ratings for service providers under the new employment services regime. The payment structure for providers, as argued by the Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, is ‘more clearly tied to achieving sustained employment outcomes, with outcome payments heavily weighted towards placing the most disadvantaged people into employment.’ In this post, Kate O’Hara from JobVoice – an independent service operated by Social Security Rights Victoria – helps us understand the Star Ratings basics for jobseekers.


Having signed up as a ‘jobseeker’ with Centrelink, during the first consultation people looking for work are offered a choice of jobactive providers in their local area. How do they choose? Most likely jobseekers will choose the providers closest to their home. But proximity may not relate to quality.

Each provider for jobactive and Disability Employment Services is rated by the Department of Employment Services based on their performance, designed to assist jobseekers make the best possible choice.

What part of providers’ performance is rated? Well, it is complicated, and jobactive and DES are slightly different. In general, providers that do better at getting people into work quickly will receive a higher rating.

Star Ratings are reported for the provider’s overall contract and for each site they operate. Sometimes, a provider that has a low rating overall can have high-performing sites (and vice-versa).

Source: Performance Framework Guideline, Department of Employment, 4 April 2016.

Source: Performance Framework Guideline, Department of Employment, 4 April 2016.

One thing that makes the Star Ratings harder to interpret is that they are adjusted to take into account differences in regional labour markets. In essence, a complicated economic model adjusts performance ratings to take into account the state of the local job market in each area.

Whether or not the economic model produces reliable results is hotly debated in the employment services sector. Certainly, from the Star Ratings, it looks like there are areas where it’s easier for providers to achieve a high rating and areas where all providers struggle.

For example, in the latest star ratings it looks as though jobseekers living in Cranbourne are in luck, as they have three 5-star performers to choose from in Direct Recruitment, Sarina Russo Job Access and MatchWorks. For those living in Melton, however, it looks like a choice between three under performers, all sitting on 1-star. The full list of provider ratings can be accessed here.

Critically, the star rating calculated by the Department doesn’t necessarily take into account the ‘client’ experience. Over recent years, many clients of SSRV have expressed frustration with the support provided to them to find employment. SSRV created JobVoice as a way for jobseekers and social security users to document the stories of good and bad experiences with Centrelink or job service agencies. Jobseekers can rate their experience when they share their story on JobVoice, and use their own star rating system: from 0-5 stars, rating of their overall experience, quality, facilities and accessibility individually.

Already, JobVoice users have shared a range of stories about their experiences interacting with employment services- ranging from ‘dehumanising and ludicrous’ processes, to much more helpful and supportive interactions with providers.

As the impacts of the new jobactive contract continue to be felt across the employment services system, including on the financial viability of the model for providers, amplifying users’ voices and feedback on service received remains critical to assessing quality.

This post originally appeared on the JobVoice website.