Improving job outcomes for people with disabilities labeled a ‘human rights issue’

Improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities is a human rights issue that deserves attention at the upcoming jobs summit hosted by the Albanian government, disability discrimination commissioner Ben Gauntlett says.
Dr Gauntlett has called for reducing barriers to employment for people with disabilities to be a key discussion point at the meeting of unions and employers, which will be held at Parliament House in Canberra on 1 and 2 September.

The summit is aimed at driving reforms in workforce participation, migration and women’s economic security.

Dr Gauntlett said a “fragmented” approach to disability employment services in Australia needed to be improved to ensure the system is “fit for purpose”.
“We know that when people with disabilities are getting not just a job – but a good job – that they are healthier, safer and that our society as a whole is better,” he said.
“It is of the utmost importance that people with a disability are present at the jobs summit. The employment of people with a disability is a human rights issue.”
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has said she intends to hold a disability employment round table at the upcoming summit in recognition of the government’s awareness of the challenge at hand.
She described the meeting as a “foundational” part of the government’s plan to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
“Hiring someone with disability should not be seen as an optional or charitable act,” she said.
“People with disabilities bring diverse skills and experiences and make significant contributions to the workplace.”

Ms Rishworth has described the workforce as “sadly underutilized” and that hiring a person with disability “makes good business sense and is good for the nation.”

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Source: AAP / DEAN MARTIN

Adrika Sinhababu, 21, who suffers from a chronic illness, recently secured work with a government department in Canberra with the support of an internship program from the Australian Network on Disability, which is Australia’s peak body for employers looking to improve recruitment pathways for people with a disability.

She said the assistance helped her overcome barriers posed by her medical condition that made the prospect of accessing work more difficult.
“I live with a chronic illness which has definitely impacted the way I can work and also study,” she said.
“It’s extremely daunting and exhausting to apply for any sort of graduate program.

“[With] different chronic illnesses and health issues there is another extra layer of exhaustion or anxiety towards it.”

Disability should not be ‘construed as a barrier’

The federal government on Monday released a consultation report for a new Disability Employment Services model, which is aimed at providing support to people with disabilities finding or keeping a job.
The report, which summarizes public feedback gathered via a submission process that closed in February 2021, found key issues were reducing job barriers, allowing better access to job services, and providing more holistic, wrap-around services and complementary supports.
It found people with disabilities also needed clearer information on support that is available to them, as well as greater flexibility in program and service delivery.

Other critical areas include more targeted support for disabled people and employers, streamlining of job program administration, and workforce skills, according to the report.

But Rick Kane, CEO of Disability Employment Australia, Australia’s peak body for disability employment services, said the most crucial barrier to people accessing work remained social attitudes towards people with a disability in the workforce.
“We want to get past the sense that disability might be construed as a barrier,” he told SBS News.
“Rather, we are here applying for a job because we have the capability – we have the skills and we think we’ll meet the needs.”

The current disability employment services program is set to finish on 30 June next year, with the Department of Social Services in the process of launching a new model.

‘Troubling’ statistics

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Australia (10 per cent) is more than double that of working-age people without disabilities.
It means just 53.4 per cent of people with disabilities are in the workforce, compared with 84.1 per cent of those without a disability.
The gap of around 30 per cent has also remained largely unchanged since 2003.
Dr Gauntlett said it was ‘troubling’ that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities had not shifted.
He described them as a “fabulous untapped resource” for Australia to harness.
“Our employment system for people with disabilities has not worked as it should and so we need to ensure that people with disabilities are offered roles in mainstream open employment where their strengths are valued and they can build a career,” he said.

“We need to ensure our disability employment services are fit for purpose to enable people with disabilities to not just get a job but get a good job.”

Corene Strauss is the chief executive officer of the Australian Network on Disability.
She described the release of the new report into the disability employment services system as a “great opportunity to reset” the current model.
“Employers all around Australia are all willing and open to employing people with a disability – many of them just don’t know how, so obviously our role is to try and help them on that journey,” she told SBS News.
“The disability employment support model needs to be one that actually supports employers to be able to employ people with disability in a continuing way.”
Disability advocates have told SBS News having a seat at the upcoming jobs summit amounts to not only an important display of inclusion but also a recognition of the contribution some 4.4 million people with a disability can make to the workforce.
Ben Carblis, Mission Australia executive of community services, said the challenge remained helping create a “level playing field” for people with disabilities.
“Everyone deserves the best chance of finding employment regardless of having a disability or not,” he told SBS News.

“Both ensuring the infrastructure and wrap-around supports are available to them.”

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