In my recent article, I highlighted the troublingly low rates of employment supports in Participant Plans (about 1 in 5 plans). However, the fault does not lie with the NDIA alone. Service providers, governments and businesses all need to play a role in offering people with disability interesting work opportunities outside of the status quo.
While supported employment will continue to remain the preference for some Participants, an increase in the types of work available– over and above the traditional packing and factory work – is likely to inspire people with a disability to want to participate in the workforce.
Across the country, service providers are starting to understand that young people, in particular, do not see supported employment as a viable option for them, not in the longer term anyway. The aspirations of young people with a disability and their families exceed what they believe supported employment can offer them.
Types and variety of work available – mix it up and they will come!
A study of people with an intellectual disability across open employment, supported employment and in social enterprises found ‘boredom/need more of a challenge/want more variety’ to be in their top three dislikes about their roles, which were mainly in low-level work. Let’s face it, very few of us like doing the same thing day in day out, so why would people with a disability be any different?
It is interesting to note that the lack of challenge and variety was typical across all types of employment, not just supported employment.
Innovative service providers will recognise this desire for variety. They will adapt to the demand by exploring ways of creating or facilitating diverse employment pathways, roles and duties to suit individual needs. This may include open employment, social enterprise and microbusinesses alongside more contemporary supported employment options.
However, for there to a be a true diversity of employment options, the change cannot happen in the disability sector alone. On the public sector front, the Victorian Government is leading the way having recently set a target of 6% employment of people with a disability across their departments by 2020, which will increase to 12 per cent by 2025. All eyes will be on them to see how they achieve these targets.
Corporate employers also play a big part in creating more a diverse array of employment options. Hopefully, they will be spurred on by the myriad benefits to them from employing people with a disability and creating truly inclusive workplaces.
Improving Australia’s current OECD ranking of 21 out of 29 isn’t going to happen overnight. It cannot happen without the attention and action by service providers, corporates and governments alike to be part of the solution to shift the status quo.