Disability Employment in Public Service Going Backwards
16 January 2019 at 10:34 am
The disability community is being shut out of public sector jobs, disability groups say in light of recent data which shows the employment of people with disability in the public service is continuing to go backwards.
New South Wales’ latest State of the Public Sector Report revealed that people with disability made up 2.5 per cent of the public service in 2018, down from 2.7 per cent the previous year.
The report noted a sustained downward trend in disability employment, which went as high as 4.8 per cent in 2006 but has declined every year since.
This decline comes despite a NSW government target to increase the representation of people with disability in the public service to 5.6 per cent by 2027.
Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, Therese Sands, told Pro Bono News she was shocked by the figures.
“This simply isn’t good enough. People with disability are nearly 20 per cent of NSW’s population, and yet we are still shut out of public sector employment,” Sands said.
Sands was also disappointed that the report found people with disability experienced bullying at a much higher rate, with 30 per cent of people with disability reporting being bullied in the workplace compared to 18 per cent generally.
PWDA has called for a national jobs plan for people with disability, and Sands said a NSW disability inclusion minister was needed to drive cross-government responsibility for disability inclusion in all aspects of community life, including public sector employment.
“Workplaces need to change their attitudes to hiring people with disability, ensure reasonable accommodations are easy to get, and that work is made more flexible,” she said.
“This report should be a wakeup call in NSW, and beyond, that it’s time for urgent change.”
The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) labelled the disability figures “appalling” on Twitter, and CID inclusion project officer Robyn Russell said she suspected the decline was due to a lack of support in the workplace.
Appalling – NSW Government aims for a modest 5.6% employees with disability but in fact it spirals down to 2.3%
Probably much lower again for intellectual disability.
— CID (@nswcid) January 14, 2019
“Generally when someone with an intellectual disability is placed in a job… we hear successful stories of how the workplace culture is enhanced by having someone with a disability as part of their staff,” Russell told Pro Bono News.
CID is launching a new project – More Than Just a Job – which Russell said was a way to provide skills and resources to organisations and staff so they could support people with intellectual disability in the workplace.
“It’s about approaching businesses and opening their eyes to the benefits of having someone with a disability as an employee,” she said.
The NSW Public Service Commission’s Workforce Profile Report 2018 said a key contributor to the decrease of employees with disability was the transfer of disability services from Family and Community Services (FACS) to private providers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
This report also noted decreasing representation of people with disability in the public service was not confined to NSW, with the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian public sectors also reporting a decline in the last decade.
In 2017, just 3.6 per cent of Australian Public Service (APS) employees identified as having a disability, compared to 6.6 per cent in 1986.
A number of other states also have disability employment targets in the public service – Victoria has a 6 per cent target by 2020 and Queensland has an 8 per cent target by 2022.
To support NSW’s 5.6 per cent target, the NSW Public Service Commission (PSC) and FACS developed a sector-wide plan to improve employment opportunities for people with disability.
A NSW PSC representative told Pro Bono News while the disability representation rate had declined yearly for the past 10 years according to HR data, a 2018 staff survey found 3.7 per cent of employees’ identifying as a person with disability – an 0.6 per cent increase from a 2017 survey.
The representative said this showed anonymous self-reporting was viewed as safer by employees, and that there were data collection challenges around peoples’ choice to disclose and maintain up to date information.
“We are continuing to improve processes and [communicate to] support agencies and their staff about the value in providing this information,” they said.