New initiatives to drive better supported employment outcomes


Topics: New initiatives to drive supported employment options

MONIQUE RYAN, MEMBER FOR KOOYONG: Good morning and welcome to Kooyong where we have put on a beautiful day today. We all need to work, all Australian adults want to work, effectively and constructively. Some of us need more help in the workplace than others. And I think one of the important jobs of any government is to maximise the potential for achievement of its citizenry. So I'm very, very grateful to Minister Rishworth for coming to Kew this morning to announce a really important government initiative which will help many Australians who might otherwise struggle in the workplace to maximise their capacity to work effectively and to integrate within all aspects of daily society. I'm here with Minister Rishworth and with Sue Boyce from Ability Works at a fantastic local business to announce this really important initiative.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you and thanks Monique for letting me across the border [laughs]. It's wonderful to come here to Kooyong and to Ability Works, and it was wonderful to just have a look at the great work being done here. And I have to say, thank you Sue and your team for such a wonderful welcome. We believe that every Australian deserves the dignity of work and that is why I've made disability employment a key area of focus since I've become the Minister and it's been a key area of our Government. One of the areas I paid particular attention to at the very beginning of my time as Minister was looking at those with the highest support needs. Those that work in what are called Australian Disability Enterprises, or social enterprises. Often I heard from people that there might not be quite the same career opportunities or opportunities to move from supported employment into open employment. At the same time, many people said they really appreciated having the extra support that Australian Disability Enterprises provide. So I sat down with the key disability enterprises, people with high support needs, and their advocates to discuss what a set of principles would look like to ensure that people with high support needs got every opportunity to get a job, to be supported in that job, but also have career progression. I'm so pleased that today I'm announcing $26 million to support 35 organisations provide that extra support for those employees with high needs. What this money will do, as just one example here at Ability Works, it will provide for people to offer customised employment opportunities for those with high support needs. Now, you will question, what does that mean? Well, that means working with organisations out in the community, often known to the person with the high needs support to find the gaps that are needed in the organisation and support and match the skills of a person with high support needs to be able to fulfill that role. This is really important work. But as Sue was telling me, it's not just about placing in any old job, it's about placing in a job that actually meets the interests and passions and wants of that employee. That's just one example. The other organisations will be providing training, for example, in hospitality, in social enterprises that will then directly lead to jobs in broader hotels and other hospitality venues. Other organisations will be providing career opportunities and extra training to move up within social enterprises and in disability enterprises, and some will convert their business into less segregated models to a social enterprise model, where people are doing a range of different tasks. This is the type of evolution we want to see in our disability network, particularly in those areas that are supporting people with high needs. Now in addition to grants to support these organisations, the money will also go to Inclusion Australia to provide an information and advocacy service around employment for people with high support needs. Often people with high support needs don't necessarily know their rights and know where to go for help with advocacy and support. So we're providing a place for them to go to make sure they are empowered with the knowledge and their rights, along with their family members. And finally, the money will also provide for expos that will connect employers that are willing to look at things like customised employment, opportunities to connects them with organisations and individuals that want to get a success in open employment. I'm really excited about the opportunities that this funding will bring to those with high support needs. When I was speaking to the employees here at Ability Works, I heard just how important it is, having a job, having a career path and having meaningful employment and I'm so pleased to be joined by Ruby here today. She's going to share a little bit about her journey to becoming a team leader and also her pathway into open employment at a local council.

RUBY, CLIENT: Good morning everyone. Before I came to Ability Works I was having trouble getting into a job, because lots people would see the word disability and they'd be like ‘oh, she's useless’ right. So then, I really liked Ability Works because they allow you time and they give you the patience to upskill and you feel like you're contributing to the community. So we do all these different jobs with all these different people and all the customers are really grateful. There’s lots of upskilling and lots of new jobs, so now I'm in a team leader role. That just basically means that I help train other people and I'm an assistant supervisor. So being at Ability Works and having that confidence and being upskilled, really, really helps me to have the confidence to apply for an inclusive internship with Panama City Council, which has resulted for people with barriers with employment. So now I’m an events officer for them. So I help set up and run like citizenship ceremonies and community halls. I work with the councillors to help them set up for their meetings. Also it's been really great at Ability Works, we get to go out, we give advice to people who are building new buildings on how to make their workplace more accessible for people with disabilities, to explain to them that it is not that hard to change the tiny things so that people with a disability can work in regular employment. So that's been really rewarding. We’ve been doing a lot of work with Metro around that and accessibility with all the new train stations that are coming up. And yeah, it's been a really, really good experience.

SUE BOYCE, CEO, ABILITY WORKS: I am very grateful to the Minister for the grant that we are about to receive to help us get some of our employees who are interested in mainstream work into mainstream employment. We have already started this model, to an extent, but this grant will help take us to a new level and will help us employ the specialists that we require, specialist counsellors that enable us to do the specialist training in customised employment so that we can get more people who are interested in working in mainstream employment into mainstream employment.

JOURNALIST: Minister Rishworth, one of the recommendations in the Disability Royal Commission was to increase wages of people in supported employment to 50 per cent within five years, is the Government going to fund that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, firstly I would say that the Fair Work Commission is responsible for setting out the wages and conditions. One of my key areas of focus has been absolutely about looking at how we can support people with high needs into higher paying jobs, into open employment to get real wages. That has been a real focus of mine and what this transition funding is about. When we see disability enterprises transition into social enterprises, paying better wages, better conditions, when we're seeing people transition into higher paying jobs within Australian Disability Enterprises and of course, when we see people moving into open employment, that's a really important thing. So one of the principles is how we move towards fair wages and I'm working with the sector and advocates to look at how we do that.

JOURNALIST: And why is it so important?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Ensuring that people get fair pay for their work is critically important and of course, it's also about job satisfaction. We've heard stories today where people's skills and abilities were not being appreciated, so they were doing jobs that weren't necessarily at the level that they could actually aspire to. And so hearing the work that Ability Works did in identifying and breaking down some of those barriers, identifying those skills, and then demonstrating those skills to an employer, were critical in ensuring that open employment was a pathway for that individual. So this is really important, making sure that the skills are really identified and that customised employment model of filling those gaps within organisations is so important. But also, as we heard today, the ongoing work with employers as part of that customised employment model is also critical. We need to work towards better jobs, more fulfilling jobs and of course, fair wages.

JOURNALIST: The reality is that people working in these types of facilities are being paid below minimum wages. How will this change circumstances for people?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What this is doing is allowing career pathways for people to get promotion to get better wages and better job opportunities. That's what this transmission fund is doing. For example in the hotel industry, allowing for a social enterprise to train people, to support people so that they have the skills to move into open employment, to make sure that they have the same opportunities as others. Some the other programs and some of the other grant recipients will be moving, like Australian Disability Enterprises into social enterprises, reducing the segregation that has often been identified as the problem in Australia's Disability Enterprises. So we have some clear principles that have been set out about the evolution, the evolution of Australia's Disability Enterprises, and the money that we're announcing today is part of that evolution.

JOURNALIST: How will those projects that you're funding today practically help employment services transition?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This particularly is focused on helping the individual here at Ability Works. They will be using their money to employ counsellors to work with staff working here to work out what their interests are, their skills and abilities, and then identify open employment opportunities in the workplace, to allow those individuals to actually succeed in open employment. That is a really exciting opportunity. In the past, perhaps we've had a situation where people haven't had, in Australia Disability Enterprises, the opportunity for career progression. We just heard from Ruby. She didn't just get stuck in one job. She moved up, she got training, she then decided to take on a team leader role, and then she's leapt into open employment. That is the type of opportunity and career progression that people with disability and their families ask for and that is what we're supporting organisations to do. In addition, of course, the information and advocacy work that we have funded Inclusion Australia to do will provide, for example, individuals to understand their workplace rights to understand other opportunities, and to ensure they're armed with the right knowledge to actually get what they need out of a workplace.

JOURNALIST: What tasks will they actually do with this money to evolve?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Each organisation will do a range of things as I said. Here at Ability Works, they will be employing counsellors as part of their customised employment model. Others will be providing employment, education and training within their social enterprise and work towards a pathway into open employment. That's just another example. Others will be turned into job and employment hubs so people can continue to work in the social enterprise, or they can get the right training to move out of the social enterprise. This is all about pathways and opportunities. As we heard from Ruby here at Ability Works, she was able to gain the confidence to then take a step out into open employment. That is the type of practical programs that this funding will provide.

JOURNALIST: Is this the first round of the structural adjustment fund? when will the other rounds be announced?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The next round will be open later this year. Any organisations that wish to apply are more than welcome to keep an eye on the Department of Social Services website, but the key objective of this fund is not just to subsidise business as usual. It is about more opportunity, more pathways, more career guidance and opportunities for those people with high support needs. These are people that often society has said it's all too hard. But what we're seeing here at Ability Works is that it is just not the case. And we will keep working with organisations that want to evolve, want to provide opportunities, education, training and open employment opportunities. We will continue to work with them.