What's the difference between Eligible School Leavers and NDIS SLES?

Navigating the transition from school to the workforce can be a daunting journey, especially for individuals with disabilities. Fortunately, there are tailored support services available to assist in this crucial phase of life. In this blog post, we'll explore the differences between Eligible School Leaver (ESL) programs and NDIS School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES), empowering individuals and their families to make informed decisions about their future.

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Understanding Eligible School Leaver (ESL) Programs

Eligible School Leavers is a program of Disability Employment Services (DES) specifically designed to provide support and assistance to young people who wish to leave school early. These programs aim to help individuals develop essential skills, explore career options, and prepare for entry into the workforce. ESL programs may include:

  • Vocational education training (VET) courses, tickets and qualifications
  • Work experience placements
  • Career guidance and counselling
  • Job readiness training
  • Support to find and keep a job
  • Ongoing support, workplace modifications


To be eligible, participants need to be in their final 2 years of school and living with a disability or medical condition. They must also be enrolled in a specialist disability school or class, or be receiving specialist disability educational funding or the Disability Support Pension.

What if you've already left school?

DES providers like Castle can also offer the same support to young people who have already left school. Participants over the minimum state working age who are living with a disability, illness or health condition are generally eligible.


Ask us how we can help you navigate transitioning from school into employment



NDIS School Leaver Employment Supports

School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) are specialized services funded by the NDIS that aim to give young people between the age of 16 and 22 the skills and confidence to prepare for, and take part in, work.

SLES programs are tailored to each individual's needs and can include capacity-building activities that develop employability skills, as well as building social confidence and independence.

These can include:

  • Soft skill development, such as money handling and time management
  • Work experience opportunities
  • Assistance with resume writing and job applications
  • Social and communication skills building
  • Travel/transport training: Build confidence accessing the community


NDIS participants aged 16 to 22 are eligible to have SLES included in their plan. The funding falls under the line item Finding and keeping a job and lasts for up to 2 years.

What if you don't have the right funding in your plan?

NDIS participants can talk to their Coordinator of Support, LAC or service providers like Castle for support to add the funding into their plan.

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Key Differences and Considerations

While both ESL programs and NDIS SLES aim to support young people in transitioning to employment, there are some key differences to consider:

  1. Target Audience: ESL and DES programs are generally open to all early school leavers, regardless of disability status, while NDIS SLES specifically target school leavers with disabilities who are eligible for NDIS support.

  2. Funding source: ESL DES programs may be funded by government initiatives such as through Centrelink Youth Allowance, whereas NDIS SLES are funded through individual NDIS plans only.

  3. Program aim: NDIS SLES offer more comprehensive and specialized support tailored to the specific needs and goals of individuals with disabilities. The aim of SLES is to build participants' job readiness. Once a participant is confident enough to enter the workforce, they are able to receive employment support through by DES services like ESL programs.


Can you receive both SLES and DES support?

Once an NDIS SLES participant has built up job readiness skills and feels confident to pursue paid employment, a DES provider can work side-by-side with them to transition into employment support.

Providers who deliver both DES and SLES programs, like Castle, are best positioned to deliver this transition into the workforce.


Transitioning from school to employment is a significant milestone for young people, particularly those with disabilities. Whether considering Eligible School Leaver programs or NDIS School Leaver Employment Supports, it's essential to explore the available options and determine the best fit based on individual needs and goals.

At Castle, we're committed to supporting individuals with disabilities in their journey towards meaningful employment and independence. If you or someone you know could benefit from NDIS SLES support, don't hesitate to reach out to our dedicated team for guidance and assistance.