As we are all aware the International Day of People with Disability is about promoting an understanding of people with disability and encouraging support for their dignity, rights and well-being. Today I want to focus on employment as a means of achieving this goal. Everybody should have the right to access and participate in employment. Employment is one of the key elements in assisting somebody to live a happy, healthy and productive life. Employment not only provides the capacity to achieve greater financial independence but it promotes dignity and social and mental wellbeing for people. It enables people to actively contribute within their community.
Furthermore, increased workforce participation of people with disability underpins the long term financial viability of the NDIS. In order to meet this goal it is vital that a strong and efficient employment support system exists that will assist people to participate to their full potential. But do we have the right support systems in place?
The Commonwealth Government currently invests approximately $6.8 Billion per annum in specialist disability employment services (this includes Disability Employment Services and Australian Disability Enterprises), yet the labour force participation rate for people with disability 15-65 years remains at an unacceptably low rate of 54% compared to those without a disability (83%) – (ABS, SDAC, 2014). Additionally Australia is ranked 21st out of 29 OECD countries for employment participation of people with disability.
The 2011 Deloitte Access Economics report ‘The Economic Benefits of Increasing Employment for People with Disability’ concluded that Australia would increase its Gross Domestic Project (GDP) by $43 billion if employment rates for people with disability were increased only by one third. The report estimated that a 10% increase in the labour market would equate to an increase of between 191,000 and 203,000 jobs for people with disability.
To increase employment participation we need to effectively engage people with disability, employers, service providers and government. Current specialist employment related services/interventions (from school to retirement) have inflexible rules and regulations that impede the seamless transition from one phase to the next. These include rules and regulations around:
- eligibility and access to different types and levels of support
- the manner and the delivery of the support required; and
- what constitutes employment.
So I have a few questions I hope you can provide some answers to, and these questions really drill down to how we can better assist people who want to work access employment opportunities.
If the current rules and regulations did not exist, what would the suite of employment supports look like?
How can people obtain the support they need to access appropriate types of employment when they need it?
How do we engage more effectively with employers?
I hope you will all engage in this conversation with me.