The Employment CoLab program wins 2021 PIEF Excellence in Injury and Disability Management Award

A new open employment program for people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), developed by a team at Monash University in collaboration with key industry partners, was last week announced as a joint winner of the award for Excellence in Injury and Disability Management (Return to Work / Community) at the 2021 Excellence in Personal Injury Education Foundation (PIEF) Award ceremony.

With a total of 130 nominations and 34 finalists across nine award categories within the PIEF Awards, this new mainstream employment pathway for people with ABI - called ‘Employment CoLab’ - was identified as an innovative program that drives collaboration between employers and employees, builds inclusive workplaces, and offers mainstream wages for people with ABI.

In Australia, people with ABI experience low employment rates, compared to both the national average and others with disability. To address these low rates, a co-design approach was used by a team from the Monash Occupational Therapy Department. The team consists of Dr Em Bould, Associate Professor Libby Callaway, and two lived experience consultants, Scott Thomas and Libby Witts, along with Sarah Johnstone, Work Lead at the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

After scoping existing employment pathways used by people with ABI, the team then drew on existing evidence and co-design work to develop ‘Employment CoLab’. This mainstream employment pathway was initially tested in a pilot led by Dr Bould, and then successfully transitioned for implementation by a vocational provider (IPAR) to support people with ABI to work in open employment. The research team also collaborated with Dr Natasha Brusco, Rehabilitation stream lead at the Rehabilitation, Ageing and Independent Living (RAIL) Research Centre, to deliver an economic evaluation to compare the cost and resource implications of Employment CoLab, compared to the traditional employment pathways for people with ABI that the TAC invests in.

This project was funded by a Jobs Victoria Innovation Fund Grant and was developed to respond to the needs of people with ABI to find and keep a job, and the needs of employers to build disability confidence. The Employment CoLab pathway has therefore been an important initiative, co-design and collaboration have formed the basis of both the pathway and the project itself.

"It was really exciting to receive the PIEF award in recognition of the life-changing outcomes we have seen for participants involved in the pilot of the pathway. Our aim is that the Employment CoLab program can continue to drive employment outcomes for people with ABI”, says Dr Em Bould.

A person who gained employment through the Employment CoLab program said, “My whole life has changed. Before I was at mental breakdown, I was just clutching every moment of my life, I felt terrible. But now, I’m so happy, it’s changed my life. I love having a job, it is like my sense of identity is formed, because I’m doing well at a job. I’ve got responsibility and it’s made my life so wonderful and fabulous.”

To view the published article on the co-design of Employment Co-Lab, click here.

Employment CoLab tean

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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