What to look for in a Disability Employment Service (DES) Provider

26th April, 2023

Barkuma’s Disability Employment Service (DES) is free for people with disability in South Australia to access and is not a NDIS support. Our team is dedicated to working with people with Intellectual Disability, Learning Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down Syndrome, to find and maintain employment over the long term.

Barkuma understands that parents, family and primary carers are often highly invested in supporting their person with a disability explore their work goals and find the ideal DES provider. We asked around, and these are the top tips for finding the right DES provider in Adelaide.


One of the most important things to look for in a Disability Employment Services (DES) provider is individualised support. At Barkuma, we take a strength-based approach, which means taking time to get to know participants and understanding their talents and interests. Often a participant may need to work through options to find what they would like to do and understand the value they are able to bring to an organisation.

“Barkuma’s model of long-term support is unique and our point of difference. The key is to find the right job for the person, not the other way around. Start with the person, get to know them and understand their strengths, then find the right job for them.” Karl Melvin, Team Leader Barkuma Employment

All participants are unique and work at their own pace through a process of self-discovery. Barkuma gives participants the ability to try roles through work experience and develop a greater understanding of their interests and strengths within organisations. A great example of this is outlined in *Paul’s story at the end of this article. Paul found his ideal position as an IT professional after years of uncertainty about how he could add value to an organisation and find challenging and meaningful employment.


Barkuma is ranked second nationally for long-term disability support, a title we attribute to our unique service model providing in-person hand-on support as long as the participants want/needs it.  Support is provided throughout the participant’s work life, including exploring interests, job readiness, and transitioning into future roles in pursuit of career and personal development goals.

“We support participants through not one job, but through life and career development. One of the most rewarding aspects of our role in DES is to see people grow, and not just in their job, but as people. They take that growth and confidence and apply it into all areas of their lives. The reward is seeing change in people.” Louise Jorgensen, Team Leader Barkuma Employment


Barkuma’s commitment to supporting partnerships is evidenced by the vast number of employers we collaborate with across industries and sectors.

Partnerships start by identifying job roles and responsibilities that can be successfully filled by Barkuma participants.  We work with employers to find suitable candidates or carve out a role based on the skills and interests of a particular candidate.

Barkuma continues to support employers and workplaces by providing on-the-job support and training and assistance to maintain employment. A good DES provider will foster positive and open relationships between employer and participant, keeping participants employed in roles they feel confident and capable of succeeding in.

Barkuma has formed strong relationships with over 300 South Australian businesses, from government departments and multi-national organisations to small and family-run businesses. There is no idea employer, just someone willing to give a candidate a go. Barkuma supports the rest; committed to developing participants into the role and providing ongoing support to both participant and employer.


 It’s important to do your research and find a provider with a positive reputation in the community. The DES provider should have many participants willing to recommend them and a willingness to prove their success in having placed many other participants in long-term employment.

Referrals from friends, schools, support coordinators and the community can be a great way to find a good DES provider.

“Word of Mouth recommendation is our best friend. Barkuma Employment has been tried and tested for over 40 years”, says Karl.


Longevity of support is a unique quality differentiating Barkuma from other DES providers in Adelaide, having supported some individuals in the workforce for over 35 years. Participants can rely on Barkuma for support when it’s needed, throughout changes in the work environment, and when they are ready to transition into their next role.


 Barkuma understands the importance of connecting with your Job Coordinator. That is why we spend the time getting to know you so that we can match you to one of a dozen job coordinators. This person then becomes your key worker, advocate and much more.

A Barkuma DES success story

Paul* initially lacked confidence in his own abilities and self-worth and struggled with motivation to find work. His parents were very supportive and started the search for a DES provider to work with Paul in his employment journey. Paul and his parents met with a few DES providers, but Barkuma’s reputation for long-term success and unique support model made the choice easy. Paul was encouraged to undertake work experience in administration in a payroll department to get a feel for the type of work and work environment. It wasn’t long before Paul enquired about permanent vacancies and was successful in applying for his first paid role in open employment. Supported by his Job Coordinator, Paul developed skills in administration and gained a thorough understanding of the organisation. A few years later, while still in his administration role, Paul was able to foster his interest in IT, helping out the team and showing off his technical skills. Paul’s career goal to move into the IT department was fostered through conversations between Paul, his current manager, the IT manager and the Job Coordinator. Paul’s confidence has grown over the subsequent years as he established himself as a valued member of the IT team. His manager, colleagues and wider peer group respect him as a skilled IT professional and someone who adds a great deal to the workplace.

*Paul’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. The included photo is not of Paul*