People with disability want to be able to participate in the workforce, just like everyone else. We want to be able to share in the benefits of work, such as gaining financial security, having meaningful social engagement and contributing to our community and economy. However, we face multiple barriers in finding and keeping a job, and are consequently significantly under-represented in mainstream employment.
What does the Australian Government need to do?
Create a National Jobs Plan to address the multiple and systemic barriers people with disability face in finding and keeping a job.
- Establish and fund a national, multi-sector Disability Employment Coalition to:
- drive development and track implementation of the National Jobs Plan
- exchange ideas and showcase good practice in inclusive employment
- drive strategies to remove the multiple barriers to employment for people with disability
- provide high-level advice to the Australian Government.
- Membership of the Disability Employment Coalition should include:
- Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs)
- Disability, employer and industry peaks
- Best-practice disability employment services
- Cross-agency representatives from local, state and federal government
- Representatives from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
Why do people with disability want these changes?
The employment rates for people with disability are unacceptably low. Only 53% of people with disability of working age are in paid work, compared to 82% of our non-disabled peers. This gap has not changed over decades. When compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Australia ranks 21 out of 29 in employment participation rates for people with disability.
Since 2010, the Australian Government has introduced measures to force many of us off social security payments and into jobs. However, this approach hasn’t worked. It has failed to address the systemic barriers we face in gaining access to open employment. We need a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach to enable employers to create meaningful, flexible and inclusive employment, make workplaces more accessible, remove discrimination and build positive employer and community attitudes.
We want the Australian Government to set a good example for the employment of people with disability. Despite efforts through the Australian Public Sector Disability Employment Strategy 2016-2019, the percentage of people with disability employed has only increased by 0.3% in nearly ten years (from 3.4% in 2009 to 3.7% in 2018).
Further Australian Government policy initiatives, such as the reform of the Disability Employment Services (DES), have not gone far enough to address the systemic barriers that we face in finding and keeping a job.
National Jobs Plan
A National Jobs Plan must:
- be based on human rights principles of the right to fair and equitable wages and conditions of employment in the open workforce
- provide practical tools for identifying and addressing systemic and structural barriers we face in finding and keeping work
- implement recommendations from the 2016 Willing to Work Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability
- introduce a minimum quota of 15% for employment of people with disability in the public sector, with the NDIA minimum quota to be set at 51%
- set specific targets, performance indicators and timeframes for increasing the workforce participation for people with disability across all sectors
- address intersectional barriers that make it harder for many of us to find and keep work, such as gender and cultural discrimination and rural and remoteness
- strengthen the transition of young people with disability from the school education system into tertiary education and into open/mainstream employment
- integrate with the social security system to support those of us with episodic disability who may move in and out of employment
- have a monitoring and evaluation framework, with key milestones, and specified dates for public reporting on progress.
Disability Employment Services (DES) system
Currently DES support approximately 160,000 jobseekers with disability. This represents only a small proportion of us seeking employment. However, for those of us who do use DES, the system is not working. Only one in ten DES participants find a job.
Under a National Jobs Plan, we need DES to strengthen their focus on pathways and outcomes for young people with disability who are leaving school and moving to vocational and tertiary education and employment. We want higher expectations for school leavers with disability and a stronger focus on career planning, not just for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, but for all young people with disability.
Despite the reforms to DES over the last 12 months, we still don’t have a system that meets our needs. Independent advocacy and information is required to support us to make informed decisions around our choice of DES providers and assist us to navigate the system.
Segregation of people with disability in Australian Disability Enterprises
Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) are a form of segregated employment where employees are paid as little as a $1 an hour. Less than 1% of the 20,000 people with disability who currently work in an ADE get the opportunity and support to move into open employment. This has to change.
Under the National Jobs Plan, the Australian Government must commit to no more people with disability entering ADEs, no new ADEs being established, and a plan to close all ADEs and end segregated employment. This plan should include measures and timeframes to transition all ADE workers into open employment, or where workers are older, plans should look at progressive retirement.
Employment goal setting in NDIS plans
The NDIS is designed to support us to pursue our social and economic goals. Therefore the NDIS has a pivotal role to play in enabling us to find and keep a job we want.
Under a National Jobs Plan, the NDIA should focus on strengthening employment goal setting in NDIS planning and reviews, with a focus on providing a supported career pathway for participants. This should take a long-term, life-time approach putting in place the support we need to transition through our school, training and employment journey.