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Wake Up Call As Employment Rates For People With Disability Go ‘Backwards’

30 January 2017 at 8:56 am
Wendy Williams
A report showing employment rates for people with disability are going “backwards” should serve as a “wake up call” to the government, according to disability advocates.

Wendy Williams | 30 January 2017 at 8:56 am


Wake Up Call As Employment Rates For People With Disability Go ‘Backwards’
30 January 2017 at 8:56 am

A report showing employment rates for people with disability are going “backwards” should serve as a “wake up call” to the government, according to disability advocates.

An annual Productivity Commission report, which examined government services across the disability, aged care, child protection and youth justice sectors, has revealed workforce and social participation rates have fallen among Australians with disabilities.

For people between 15 and 64 with a profound or severe core activity limitation, the labour force participation and employment-to-population rates both fell by around 6 per cent between 2009 and 2015.

While overall the unemployment rate for the group was “not significantly different from 2009”, slipping by about 3 per cent from 2009 (10.6 per cent) to 2015 (13.7 per cent).

The report showed social participation outcomes had also worsened over time.

People with Disability Australia co-CEO Ngila Bevan told Pro Bono News the latest report must be a “wake-up call” that employment rates for people with disability were going backwards, at the same time that the federal government was “cracking down” on disability income support.

“These attacks on people with disability, such as calling them bludgers, has to stop as it only further stigmatises people who already facing discrimination,” Bevan said.

“One of the other shocking statistics in the report was that people with disability are having less social contact with friends and family and are spending more time stuck at home.

“People with disability want to work, want to be out in the community and want to spend time with their friends, just like everyone else does. But if the supports they need aren’t there and the transport isn’t accessible, then it is hard to make this a reality.”

According to the commission 4.3 million Australians – or 18.3 per cent of the population – had a disability in 2015, while about 5.8 per cent had profound or severe core activity limitations.

From 2009 to 2015 people with a profound or severe core activity limitation had less face-to-face contact with family and friends (67.9 per cent in 2015 down from 72.5 per cent in 2009) and travelled to social activities less (a decrease from 88.2 per cent to 82.4 per cent).

The proportion of those who reported their disability or condition as the main reason for not leaving home as often as they would like rose by 3 per cent over the period (from 12.7 per cent in 2009 to 15.7 per cent in 2015).

According to the latest report total government spending on specialist disability services was $8.4 billion in 2015/16, an increase of 2.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

States and territories contributed more than 70 per cent of government funding, with the Commonwealth providing the rest.

More than half of the total funding amount was spent on accommodation support, while almost 83 per cent of Australian government funding went on employment services.

Multicap CEO Joanne Jessop told Pro Bono News that Multicap had identified a number of barriers when it came to employing people with disability.

“We are not surprised by the findings,” Jessop said.

“Firstly, a high proportion of employers in Australia are not aware of the level of government assistance available to them if they employ a person with disability.

“There are also multiple issues when it comes to accessibility. Many workplaces have limited or no wheelchair accessibility and there is also a lack of accessible accommodation in areas where employment opportunities are available.

“Transport is also an issue as there can be high costs involved when utilising accessible transport options such as maxi-taxis. Finally, although workplace flexibility is improving overall, there are still limited options for part-time employment.”

Jessop said some things will improve as the NDIS rolls out .

“The NDIS can provide people with funding to access transport, to complete workplace modifications and access improved accommodation options,” she said.

“We also see a need for organisations who employ people with disability need to work with the media to increase public awareness of the valuable contribution employees with disability make to all our workplaces.

“It is also important to highlight the financial assistance available to employers if they employ a person with disability.”

According to the report there was $915.7 million committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2015/16, with 30,281 participants securing approved plans worth about $39,100 per year.

Bevan said the NDIS was only one piece of the puzzle.

“We hope that the full roll out of the NDIS will start to change this shocking statistics, with people with disability able to access the individualised supports they need to work, play and live an ordinary life,” she said.

“The NDIS is only one piece of the puzzle however, with accessible transport and community infrastructure needed as well as attitudinal change from employers and more affordable and accessible housing.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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  • Ben Harris, MOVE muscle, bone & joint health says:

    MOVE muscle, bone & joint health recommends changes to the Fair Work Act to allow people on the disability support pension to work shorter hours – see our article in The Spectator Australia at

  • disabled says:

    If you feel like society hates you and resents giving you dsp or even newstart, it’s a bit hard to want to participate socially. We are constantly told we are a drain on resources and constantly threatened with reduced income support or being completely cut off.

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