A new Government taskforce will help boost opportunities for people with disability within the workforce, but disability advocates are itching to know who is on the taskforce team.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Employment Taskforce will investigate the best way NDIS participants will be supported in seeking employment through the Scheme and via existing mainstream services like Disability Employment Services.
Minister for Social Services Paul Fletcher announced the taskforce at a National Disability Services (NDS) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) forum in Melbourne recently.
“It will make sure employment is prioritised in the NDIS planning and plan review process to improve employment supports in participant plants, including greater use of existing employment services,” he says.
“Other responsibilities include finalising pricing for employment supports under the NDIS to include supporting employment aligning with the Government’s broader jobs agenda.”
However, disability advocates are stressing that people with disability need to be included in the taskforce to ensure complete, relevant and comprehensive outcomes.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin says he is yet to fully understand the purpose and impact of the taskforce and is seeking further information.
“It is not clear to me that people with disability will be an integral part of the taskforce. It is critical that when issues are affecting people with disability, the voices of people with disability are at the forefront of such discussions.”
Mr McEwin also says more needs to be done to ensure people with disability are integrated within the workforce in their communities, rather than supported employment.
“The focus should be on creating employment opportunities in mainstream society, we need to move away from closed environments where people with disability are segregated and not able to interact and be with other people.”
“I believe we need to ensure that people with disability both get jobs and are remunerated appropriately just like anyone else. The culture of low expectations of people with disability in employment needs to be challenged and removed.”
CEO of NDS, Chris Tanti says the taskforce is an encouraging sign that the Government is acknowledging employment as a high priority under the NDIS but also shares the Commissioner's concerns.
“At this point it is not clear who the members of the taskforce are and we look forward to hearing who will be involved.”
“It’s important that the Government makes sure that we have stronger and more uniform transition supports for young people with disability who are leaving school and looking for jobs.”
“NDS is concerned that the interface between the NDIS and Disability Employment Services program needs to work more effectively.”
Mr Tanti says in order to improve employment opportunities for people with disability, five key things must be addressed;
Policy reform that removes employment obstacles for those on the Disability Support Pension
Better engagement of employers including targeted incentives
Improved assessment processes around jobseekers with disability
Easing of the compliance burden on DES providers
A more coordinated whole of Government approach to employment in the new National Disability Agreement.
CEO of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations Ross Joyce took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the taskforce.
“This Employment Taskforce must engage mainstream employers in order to change attitudes on employing people with #Disability. We need people with #Disability to be employed in open #employment, not sheltered workshops,” he says.
Human rights activist, Geoff Trappett agrees that people with disability must be included in the taskforce.
“Also [the taskforce] MUST be representative of the community it's meant to support.”
“A task force without PwD (people with disability) is not a taskforce to be taken seriously. We have had enough tokenism. Procurement reform to change the culture of passing PwD over is crucial. Governments have these levers to use.”
Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Therese Sands is urging the taskforce to not reinvent the wheel, but rather look at the broad range of unimplemented recommendations, reports and evidence to guide its work and to implement actions that will address the appalling rates of unemployment faced by people with disability.
“We do not need an employment taskforce that asks us again to provide the same information about barriers and remedies,” she says.
Ms Sands highlights the need to address current unemployment issues by including people with disability in these conversations and moving away from segregated employment environments.
She also notes most of the previous work undertaken to help address these issues such as the Willing to Work inquiry conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission are yet to be implemented.
“The rates of employment for people with disability, particularly women with disability have remained at extremely low levels compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries for many years.”
“PWDA wants to see NDIS plans supporting people with disability into employment, rather than continuing to move people with disability into segregated workplaces, such as Australian Disability Enterprises, where people earn only a few dollars an hour.”
“This taskforce also needs to look at how to make this transition, between income support and paid work, easier and more secure for people with disability,” she says.