Disability Sector Remains Suspicious Over Employment Taskforce
19 November 2018 at 4:16 pm
The federal government has unveiled a joint employment taskforce to tackle high rates of disability unemployment, but service providers have raised concerns about whether enough is being done to include people with disability in open employment opportunities.
Minister for Social Services, Paul Fletcher, and Assistant Minister for Social Services, Sarah Henderson, announced the scheme on Sunday and said the taskforce would include National Disability Insurance Scheme participant representatives, employment service providers and related organisations.
Fletcher said despite people with disabilities’ enthusiasm, commitment and good reputation as employees, they found it hard to get into the workforce.
“About 14 per cent of working age people in Australia have a disability but people with disability comprise only nine per cent of the workforce,” Fletcher said.
Henderson said this would be a way to lift employment levels, as employment of NDIS participants had remained consistent at 22 per cent.
“Both the COAG NDIS Quarterly Report released yesterday, and the NDS State of the Sector Report released today, show that employment for people with a disability remains stubbornly low,” Henderson said.
My announcement with @PaulFletcherMP on a new @NDIS Disability Employment Taskforce. Overall employment of NDIS participants is at 22%; we need to support more people with disability move into work. https://t.co/YAlXP9tlKG So much positivity at Brite in Broadmeadows. #auspol pic.twitter.com/D0ClcTU223
— Sarah Henderson MP (@SHendersonMP) November 19, 2018
Suzanne Colbert AM, CEO of Australian Network on Disability (AND), told Pro Bono News while AND welcomed the announcement, she was concerned the program was not engaging mainstream employers.
“It’s very important that people have as much opportunity as possible to participate in open employment… without employers at the table it might be that this is a system that isn’t best prepared to meet the needs of both stakeholders,” Colbert said.
She said at the moment, most employed NDIS participants were employed through disability enterprises, and were paid well below award rates, at $5.33 an hour.
“If we don’t have employers on the table being able to provide enterprise solutions which we see for other disadvantaged groups then then we’re not really going to be able to make make progress,” she said.
“If the intention however is primarily for this employment taskforce to direct people to sheltered employment, it would mean Australia is taking a step backward.”
— Paul Fletcher (@PaulFletcherMP) November 18, 2018
Chris Tanti, CEO of National Disability Services (NDS), said while Fletcher and the NDS have had discussions about lifting rates of employment in mainstream organisations, he didn’t believe the business sector were included in this particular discussion.
“I think it would be useful to include businesses, and potential future employers in that discussion as well… but there’s no visibility around any of that,” Tanti told Pro Bono News.
Colbert said she encouraged the rest of the disability sector to watch closely on how the taskforce was rolled out, and that AND would be encouraging the government to think about how they could encourage mainstream participation.
Tanti also said he believed this was a step in the right direction, as not enough was being done previously, but warned the correct people needed to be consulted.
“When you have a lopsided approach to things, you don’t get the results you need… and I do think this is a step in the right direction, but how it’s executed is critical,” he said.