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