The disability sector is pushing for more workers in COVID-19-affected industries to consider new careers in disability services to address desperate labor shortages.
David Moody, CEO of National Disability Services, estimates an additional 120,000 workers will be required to meet the increased demand generated by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, launched in 2013.
Almost 70 percent of service providers for the disabled had to turn down requests for services in the past year because they were unable to provide them, according to the 2020 Disability Sector State Report.
“The NDIS will soon have 500,000 participants and it is estimated that the number of disabled people will have to double over the next three years to keep up with increasing demand,” the report said.
“The fact that the sector is in need of more workers is good news in a recession. Nonetheless, providers report significant challenges in attracting and retaining people for many key job types.”
Australia needs an additional 120,000 workers to support people with disabilities, according to the national umbrella agency for people with disabilities.Recognition:Kate Geraghty
Fiona Macdonald, senior research fellow at RMIT, said the move to an hourly funding model under the NDIS has resulted in an increasingly loose workforce.
“The hours are getting shorter and shorter, the work is becoming more and more insecure, so people are patching up jobs,” said Dr. Macdonald.
In one of Dr. Macdonald co-authored 2019 report – Job precariousness and instability in NDIS support work – found that disability service workers were facing new pressures resulting from NDIS ‘market-driven approach.
These included instability in work and income, unpaid work that has traveled to customers, and high turnover made worse by a lack of training and support.
The registered NDIS provider ONCALL Group Australia has to refuse 100 shifts per day due to the labor shortage.
ONCALL employs 1,700 people in Victoria to assist people with disabilities but is trying to hire at least 300 additional people now and in the future.
Laura Green, General Manager of Operations, called on the federal government to address the labor shortage.
She said this should include a national campaign to attract employees from industries affected by COVID such as Mr White who works at ONCALL.
“We could handle more and more Shanes in this industry. He brings all of his life experience to the fore in people with disabilities. “
Ms. Green also called for more funding for skilled worker training and a more consistent funding model that didn’t change the amount a customer received.
“It is really difficult for us to get involved with an employee if we don’t know year after year whether the customer’s funding will stay the same,” said Ms. Green.
“At the moment, the NDIS is funding people for two-hour shifts here, there and everywhere, they’re funding a gig economy. The future will not create a skilled workforce who can truly improve the lives of people with disabilities. “
Lynette McKeown, acting CEO of Able Australia, said the service provider for the disabled is also experiencing a labor shortage, particularly in less populated areas or where skilled workers are needed.
“We are very supportive of initiatives that help people make career changes,” she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Social Services said the government is working with states and territories to develop the national NDIS workforce plan, due to be released earlier this year.
In addition, the government examined and implemented a number of options to increase the number of people with disabilities and to ensure that quality controls are maintained.
“This includes existing online support for providers (available on the NDIS Commission’s website), mechanisms for attracting and retaining employees, rapid onboarding and targeted training of skills,” said the spokesman.
The spokesman said the National Disability Insurance Agency has periodically reviewed its pricing guide, with updates reflecting market trends, labor costs and other market influences.
Mr White believes the work in disability care will appeal to others from industries affected by COVID-19, although he said the casualization of the industry is negative.
A typical day for Mr. White is helping someone in a wheelchair get out of bed, take a shower, and prepare for work. listening to a client with dementia remembering their life; and take a man in his late 80s for walks in the park.
“I feel great every day and have a huge impact on people’s lives,” he said. “After doing it for a while now, I definitely regretted not having done it a long time ago.”
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Jewel Topsfield is the social affairs editor for The Age. She has worked as an Indonesia correspondent in Melbourne, Canberra and Jakarta. She has won multiple awards including a Walkley and the Lowy Institute Media Award.
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