Almost half of people with a disability in Australia are living in or near poverty, making Australia the worst in the developed world.
A report by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), published last week, also found that Australians with a disability were half as likely to be employed as people without a disability. Australia is ranked 21st out of 29 developed nations in this category
We weren’t always hopeless, we weren’t always near the bottom and there is absolutely no reason we need to sink further.
However, we do need a change in direction and attitude if people with disability are to be given a real chance at improving their financial position through employment.
20 years ago we were ranked about 3rd or 4th in our employment outcomes - that time has passed and since 1996 we have been on a slope that has led us to be motherless last in terms of disability related poverty and amongst the world’s losers (21 out of 29) for employment participation.
What’s even more frightening is that our present government is hell bent on seeing us slide further down the ladder! The proposal to ‘shake-up’ disability employment will not help us improve it will significantly worsen our position.
I won’t drone on about my experience and qualifications rather I will use yours – in your experience have you ever seen any person or organisation consistently act against their own interests?
The obvious answer is no – another way of putting it would be to say you get what you reward.
That’s why there are so many casual and part time jobs and why participation amongst people who have significant disability is worsening – because these are exactly the results government rewards. Funding for disability employment services actually reduces the chances of particpation in a job that actually pays all bills.
Here’s an example: Our Hurstville team, under the management of Phil Duren have consistently obtained full, or close to full time positions for their job seekers. Phil’s ‘Star Rating’ (what a sick joke) steadily worsens, despite the fact that the majority of his service’s workers achieve financial independence.
Phil is measured against his competitors locally and they have wised up. Job splitting (taking a single job and breaking it into 2, 3, 4 or even 5 minimal hour jobs is either (at best) winked at or actively encouraged since the number crunchers can say; “we improved from x to y number of employment outcomes”.
The other appalling result of the present system has been a move toward creaming the most able amongst the disabled and moving them to the front of the queue.
Job splitting and creaming plus an environment that has seen disability employment services move from a cooperative group that shared ideas and innovation are what has caused our decline – the proposed purchasing process will seal the lid on the coffin of competitive employment.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Reward financial independence and/or a reduction in Centrelink benefits – tie service funding to genuine outcomes and reward levels of participation, not participation. – This need not be audited by the overwhelmingly complex system that ‘manages’ DES programs – tie data to Centrelink payment, they know and show what’s happening.
License any organisation that wishes to participate and remove the stupid geographic boundaries that deny service users choice and on that point, let them register with as many providers as they may wish.
That’ll do it.
Can’t be done?
Well it was before and we were in the top 5. If we continue with ‘can’t be done’ we’ll stay bottom 5 and deservedly so.
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