The NDIS has failed to live up to expectations in many areas, none more so than disability employment. In a blunt and honest piece, long-term disability employment advocate Jeff Thompson from LEAD tell us why jobs are so important, and three things that would lead to an employment friendly NDIS.
Getting a job is the best thing. It’s a ready built community based social network that keeps you busy and pays you for the work you do. It’s a no-brainer that we should be making it as easy as possible for people with a disability to find a keep a job. The productivity commission thought so, as it was the basic premise of a successful sustainable NDIS – engaging under employed people to work and pay tax and reduce the cost of the welfare system. Simple.
In reality the NDIS got in the way of people getting work. Instead of building an employment pathway it built an employment chicane that ended in a road block for many. Now is not the time to go into some of the basic mistakes that were made, now is the time to get the employment bus rolling again because the NDIS (whoever that may be) has discovered a new interest in promoting work instead of blocking people from employment.
Better late than a kick in the teeth or whatever the saying is.
Ok, so now that services have ‘relationship managers’ and planners have ‘employment champions’, we in the disability employment sector are ready to pile on with some great advice. Finally, someone is listening. So here are three things we could do tomorrow to cut the red tape, roll out the red carpet, and get people out of the red and into the black!
1. Get in early
Aussie kids start getting jobs when they’re 14 or 15, and who are some of the best on the job trainers in the country? – fast food, retail, hospitality – they all know how to take lazy, moping teenagers and turn them into productivity machines (my teenagers included). But for people with disability we wait until the end of year 12 (or 13) then we let people sit at home for a few months then just when they’re getting comfortable we panic and try to push them out the door – hopefully they know how to catch a bus! We can’t leave it up to schools – work experience can’t be Mickey Mouse – we need meaningful training experiences with support to give young people with disability and employers a great work experience first time so they look forward to getting a job in the future. To do this people need to be able to use their NDIS funding for employment support during years 9, 10 and 11. The current program School Leavers Employment Scheme (SLES) is great but it’s sometimes too late! Early bird gets a better job later in life (I’m really good at these sayings).
2. Have employment in all plans
How many times do we have to say it! At the moment planners meet a person and in a couple of hours are meant to be able to deem if someone can get a job or not. Wrong end of the stick. Let’s assume everyone can get a job and if and when they do they can trigger the funding to get the support they need, instead of having to go back through a complicated planning process. Here’s a hypothetical scenario: A young woman is shy and doesn’t say much in her planning meeting, her mum does most of the talking, mum thinks her daughter is not ready for a job yet, planner agrees and leaves employment out of the plan. Turns out this young woman loves to go to the movies and she needs money to go to the movies and getting a job means you get money, so you can go to the movies. Suddenly our young person wants a job but it’s not in her plan so wait for a year so she can really build some great work skills – on the couch. Let’s just assume everyone wants a job and chuck it in the plan – if they don’t use it that’s ok but if and when they do want work we can pull the trigger and go, go, go.
3. Stop patronising and start expecting
Jimmy will never work. Bullsh*t. Jimmy just needs the right job and the right support. C’mon world, stop getting in Jimmy’s grill with all the things he can’t do. Give him a crack! Every employment support worker, consultant and job searcher has a story about the person who was told they’d never work, and 10 years later they’re still happily working in the job that was perfect for them. It doesn’t happen every time but when it does work it’s a badge of honour that we wear with pride. So get out of our way and let us try! The right person, the right boss, the right job. That’s our job, it’s what we do best.
As my mate Wayne Herbert says – do people with disability want to work? Does Pinocchio have a wooden…..? You get the picture. And maybe the NDIS is getting it too. Finally. Better late than a poke in the eye.