Disabilities Employment: A misunderstood opportunity and under-utilised resource

For an under-represented group, we’ve certainly been hearing a lot more about disability employment over the last 6 months. For those of you who missed it, the Senator Mark Arbib announced the National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy in September last year. This initiative aims to ensure Australians with disability and mental illness have improved opportunities to search, find and maintain employment.

Ever since then, those who won tenders for contracts under this scheme have been advertising for disabled job seekers and willing employers and many of us have found ourselves wondering – what’s all this about?

If you have not considered employing someone with a disability in the past, now is the time to take a closer look at it. Not only is it the right thing to do, but there’s a wide range of gove

ment incentives available to assist in the employment of individuals with a disability, including:

  • >The Employment Assistance Fund (formerly the Workplace Modifications Scheme) is a pool of funds used to cover the cost of workplace modifications needed to accommodate disabled employees. Assistance includes physical and environmental workplace adjustments, computer software upgrades, vehicle modifications, communication technology devices and other specific items of equipment that might be required.
  • >The Wage Subsidy Scheme assists employers by helping to cover the cost of wages for the first few months of employment. With the aim of providing sustainable employment, Disability Employment Services pay an employer as much as $1500 (excluding GST) as an incentive to employ people with a disability under this scheme.
  • The Supported Wage System allows employers to pay some disabled employees less than the regular award rate (depending on an independently assessed productivity rate). This is beneficial for disabled individuals who are unable to find or keep a job at full award wage rate due to the effect of their disability on their productivity.
  • >The Disability Support Pension Employment Incentive is a new program that aims to fund up to 1000 sustainable jobs for people who receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The program offers wage subsidies of up to $3,000 to employers once a DSP recipient has been employed in a new job for at least eight hours per week for 26 weeks.

NB. These incentives all differ depending on a range of factors and are not ALL available to ALL employers of disabled people.

But wait there’s more! Typically the services you receive from disability employment services are greater than what you would get from a regular commercial recruiter. That’s because the gove

ment funds these organisations to provide extensive on-the-job support for up to 6 months after you hire a disabled job seeker.

The attractive incentives mentioned above, coupled with a tightening labour market should be more than enough reason for all of us to take a closer look at disability employment. Matt would be more than happy to share his experiences in this field with you and to introduce to people that specialise in this area.

Alternatively, for further information on Disability Employment visit: http://jobaccess.gov.au http://www.deewr.gov.au

Who should I talk to?

HC has partnered with Team Focus to assist Ability Options Employment (AOE) on a range of initiatives during the last 12 months. Most recently, we helped them prepare their successful tender with the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations. HC also conducts psychological testing for their staff and have helped to improve a number of their people-related systems. AOE is a not-for-profit organisation that helps people of all ages with a disability to find employment.

AOE provides support to both the employer and their clients, to ensure that the employment arrangement is successful. The types of placements vary greatly, and last year included placing disabled persons as nurses, administration assistants, bakers, shop assistants, cleaners and apprentices.

Here at HC, we have been particularly impressed with the level of support that Ability Options provides to employers and have absolute confidence in recommending them to you.

If you would like to learn more about AOE, please call www.abilityoptions.org.au

C A S E S T U D Y

>When we think about disability employment, most of us conjure up an image of a high-needs or severely disabled individual. However, this is not always the case. People with a disability can also have less severe conditions such as asthma, diabetes or anxiety. They may also have acquired disability which has been sustained via injury.

In 2008, AOE assisted a young man suffering from dyslexia in his search for employment. Diagnosed in his late teens, this individual didn’t lea

to read or write until high school. It was at school that he discovered that he could only read words if they were printed on coloured paper, rather than on white. Placed as a apprentice butcher by AOE, this man excelled at the practical side of this job and was praised by his employer. However, the written and comprehension skills he needed to complete his TAFE requirements, soon became a challenge.

With the assistance of AOE, he was able to have his textbook printed on coloured paper and was supported by an in-class AOE consultant with theoretical work that he had difficulty with.

Due to his perseverance and the support of AOE, this young man has passed all his TAFE subjects to date and is nearing the third year of his apprenticeship, in July this year.

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