Disability Employment an Antidote to Poverty
12 October 2015 at 11:11 am
Disability advocates are calling on employers to recognise the skills, talents and contributions that people with disability can bring to the Australian workforce.
To mark the beginning of Anti-Poverty Week the Australian Network on Disability (AND) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) have said that that the antidote to poverty for people with disability was employment.
The organisations said evidence showed that while many people with disability were willing and able to work, they were often not given a fair go.
Workforce participation of Australians with disability is currently 54 per cent, compared to 84 per cent of people without disability, and just under half (45 per cent) of all people with disability are living near or below the poverty line.
AND and PWDA encouraged Australian employers to do more to make their employment opportunities accessible to, and inclusive of, people with disability.
The organisations provided two case studies to show the impact of employment on people with disability.
Mark Boerebach has been looking for a job since finishing high school almost 30 years ago, and has regularly been left with nothing in his bank account after paying all of his bills.
Borebach has a vision impairment and Aspergers’ syndrome, and said he routinely faces discrimination when trying to secure employment.
“If I was able to secure paid work I would be able to provide for myself without having to rely on the government, live with more certainty and start saving up for my own place. I would also have more social contact and build more relationships, both personally and professionally,” Boerebach said.
Jeanette Purkis was receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP) for 12 years before finding full-time employment within the Australian Public Service.
“When I joined the public service my life changed completely. It was not just about having money, but about having choices and feeling much happier with who I was. I also loved being a taxpayer and feeling that I was contributing,” Purkis said.
AND CEO Suzanne Colbert said that many Australian employers were already reaping the business benefits of employing people with disability.
“Many of our members, including large employers like Westpac, ANZ, Manpower, Telstra and Woolworths, as well as many government departments, are already making a proactive effort to recruit more people with disability, and make their systems and processes more accessible,” Colbert said.
"We encourage all Australian employers to make inclusion of people with disability a priority area within their operational strategy.”
PWDA Advocacy Project Manager, Samantha French, said it was not just people with disability who benefited from employment, businesses that employ people with disability also benefited in many ways.
“Employees with disability have fewer workplace accidents, make fewer Workers’ Compensation claims, take fewer days off and have longer tenure than employees without disability,” French said.