Welfare report highlights the need for urgent NSW action on disability employment

The recommendation of a Jobs Plan for people with disability and mental health conditions in the final report of the federal Reference Group on Welfare Reform highlights the need for urgent action by state government to pull its weight in delivering jobs, says Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson on Disability.

“Although some proposed changes to income support and housing assistance raise concerns, governments need to understand the fundamental importance of making their first actions to improve the opportunities for employment for people with disability. A national Jobs Plan would be a welcome initiative, but it needs to be supported by action at a state level,” Ms Barham said.

“There is a great deal more that state government can do to assist people with disability into employment. Investment is needed in a targeted campaign aimed at educating employers on the positives of hiring people with disability, challenging negative attitudes and removing persistent stereotypes.

“Vocational training and education need urgent action to reverse the impacts of funding cuts on people with disability, especially when punitive changes to federal support payments remain on the table. State government needs to partner with local government and the private sector to ensure people with disability have pathways from training into quality employment opportunities,” Ms Barham said.

“The NSW Government scrapped its Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme that provided subsidies for employers willing to hire people with intellectual disability after the take-up rate was low. Instead of abandoning it, the scheme should be expanded to include employment of all people with disability, and initiatives to support disability employment need to be more actively promoted by government.”

Ms Barham also called for the Government to act as a model employer of people with disability and address the downward trend in public sector employment of people with disability.

“As the largest employer in the state the NSW Government should be leading the way in removing employment barriers and providing opportunity to people with disability. But their EmployABILITY strategy failed to deliver on its modest targets, and rates of disability employment in the public sector have continued to drop.

“In 2014, people with disability made up only 3.1 percent of the public sector workforce, and the public sector employees with disabilities that required workplace adjustment was below one percent. By comparison, the National Disability Insurance Agency has achieved an 11 percent rate of employment of people with disability,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also noted that the success of a jobs strategy would rely on the NSW Government delivering appropriate and affordable transport and housing.

“The Greens are committed to increasing the taxi transport subsidy for people with disability and improving public transport accessibility. The Greens support an investment to boost the supply of affordable housing, including priority delivery of accessible and supported housing for people with disability,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Submission on the NSW Government’s social housing discussion paper

Social housing in NSW: A discussion paper for input and comment was released late last year by the NSW Government. It proposes three pillars to underpin the future direction of public and community housing and asks one broad question relating to each pillar.

But the discussion paper is fundamentally flawed in three ways:

Download the Greens NSW submission on the Government’s discussion paper about the future of social housing.

Greens commit to opportunity and inclusion for people with disability

Jan Barham, Greens NSW MP and Disability Spokesperson, has welcomed the release of People with Disability Australia’s (PWDA) 2015 NSW election platform and called on all parties to ensure NSW supports participation for people with disability in all aspects of life, including employment, education and housing.

“The next NSW Government must improve services and reduce barriers for people with disability. The Greens’ policy on disabilities show our commitment to ensuring those outcomes are delivered,” Ms Barham said.

“People with Disability Australia and other organisations such as the NSW Council on Social Service have released election platforms that set a path for greater inclusion and participation by people with disability.

“Some of the actions called for in those platforms are ones I have campaigned actively for in the Parliament, such as raising the support provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure the people who rely on it have affordable access to transport so they can engage in study, work and social activity.”

Ms Barham also welcomed the call for parties and candidates to declare their commitment to the closure of large institutional centres in NSW.

“Large institutions must be closed in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Institutional accommodation separates people with disability from participation in the community. We need to ensure people with disability have access to housing that suits their individual wants and needs, and that wherever they choose to live they will have access to the support services they need.

“Closing these centres requires the Government to deliver appropriate housing and ensure that the funding and services are available to provide for people’s care and support. It also requires advocacy and consultation to ensure people living in institutions gain access to the types of housing and services they want and need.

“The Greens have continued to monitor and raise concerns where closure plans leave people with disability and their families uncertain about when and how it will happen, and what the outcomes will be in terms of the housing and care services that will be available. This process needs clarity and inclusiveness.”

Ms Barham also noted that the Greens do not support the current NSW Government’s plan to entirely withdraw from its responsibilities and service delivery roles in the ageing, disability and home care sectors.

“I hold serious concerns about the Coalition’s premature announcement that it is vacating the sector and will limit its responsibilities to funding services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“The NSW Government has an obligation to ensure access to appropriate, adequate services across the state. They must retain a role in delivering supports where choice in non-government services is unavailable.”

Ms Barham called on all members of the public to talk to their local candidates about the importance of the NSW Government’s role in supporting people with disability and ensuring opportunity for their participation.

“While the NDIS is a landmark reform for Australia, its rollout can make it too easy for other disability issues to be overlooked. Most people with disability won’t be eligible for the NDIS and it doesn’t address many of the issues affecting participation for people with disability. The NDIS won’t ensure people with disability have better job prospects, more accessible public transport or improved opportunities for study and housing.

“The State Government and the Parliament to be elected on 28 March must make a strong commitment to funding and delivering opportunities and services for people with disability. All candidates and political parties must explain their plans for people with disability in terms of housing, transport, jobs and wellbeing.”

The Greens NSW policy on Disabilities

People with Disability Australia’s Election Platform NSW 2015

Speak, Plan, Act! NCOSS Election Platform 2015

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Social housing consultation ignores the evidence for genuine solutions

Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson on Housing, has called on communities to tell the State Government to get serious about delivering affordable and social housing solutions. Her comments follow the Government’s release of a Discussion Paper on Social Housing last year which has been followed by ongoing consultation sessions across NSW.

“Last year I initiated a Select Committee inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing that received more than 250 submissions and undertook extensive consultation and research across the state. That inquiry delivered 41 recommendations that were welcomed by many in the housing advocacy sector as a blueprint for resolving the affordable housing crisis in NSW.

“Sadly, the Government’s discussion paper ignores the 41 recommendations from the Select Committee, as well as the clear recommendations from the Auditor-General’s report on public housing and the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry on tenancy management,” Ms Barham said.

“Instead of drawing on what the experts and stakeholders in the community have already told us, the Government wants to take us back to square one. They’re asking the community for ideas and seem likely to continue with their unsustainable approach of selling off public housing to fund the budget shortfall.”

Ms Barham warned that a narrow focus on social housing by Government, without recognising the relevance of broader housing affordability issues and the connections between housing and employment, education, transport and support services would fail to deliver effective solutions.

“No amount of rhetoric about encouraging people to find a pathway out of social housing can help unless the social housing system actually connects people with the opportunities and supports they need, and unless there is a viable way into the private rental market.

“Access to safe, secure and appropriately located housing is a key determinant of people’s wellbeing, as it provides the basis for health, employment and education and access to consistent services.

“In NSW there are nearly 300,000 people who live in social housing and almost 60,000 on the waiting list. There needs to be a strong focus on how the government ensures increased and appropriate housing stock, along with integration with services and community connections for residents.

“Without the provision of additional housing there is little hope that the trend of increased homelessness can be turned around,” Ms Barham warned.

Ms Barham encouraged the public to engage with the consultation process and make use of the information available from inquiries and housing advocacy organisations.

“It is important that the community inform the government that improving the availability of affordable and social housing is a priority and there is ample direction available for how they could take action.

Submissions on the Social Housing Discussion Paper close on 20 February 2015. The NSW Government is due to respond to the Select Committee’s recommendations on 9 March 2015.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891