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A new government task force will help improve opportunities for people with disabilities in the workforce, but disability advocates are dying to know who is on the task force team.

The National Disability Insurance System (NDIS) Employment Task Force will examine how best to assist NDIS participants in finding work through the system and through existing mainstream services such as disability employment services.

Minister of Social Services Paul Fletcher announced the task force recently at a forum hosted by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Disability Services (NDS) in Melbourne.

“It will ensure that employment is prioritized in the NDIS planning and plan review process to improve employment support in participating establishments, including making greater use of existing employment services,” he says.

“Other tasks include finalizing the pricing for employment promotion under the NDIS to include employment support in line with the government’s broader employment agenda.”

However, disability advocates stress that people with disabilities need to be involved in the task force in order to achieve full, relevant and comprehensive results.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin says he does not fully understand the purpose and implications of the task force and is asking for more information.

“I don’t realize that people with disabilities will be an integral part of the task force. It is vital that the voices of people with disabilities be at the fore in such discussions when problems affect people with disabilities. “

Mr McEwin also says that more needs to be done to ensure that people with disabilities are integrated into the workforce in their communities rather than supporting employment.

“The focus should be on creating employment opportunities in the majority society. We need to move away from closed environments where people with disabilities are separated and unable to interact with other people and be together. “

“I believe we need to make sure that people with disabilities are both given jobs and properly paid, just like everyone else. The culture of people with disabilities’ low expectations of employment needs to be challenged and eliminated. “

Chris Tanti, CEO of NDS, says the task force is an encouraging sign that the government is making employment a high priority under the NDIS, but shares the Commissioner’s concerns.

“At this point it is not yet clear who the members of the task force are and we look forward to hearing who will be involved.”

“It is important that the government ensures that we have stronger and more consistent transition assistance for young people with disabilities who are leaving school and looking for a job.”

“NDS is concerned that the interface between the NDIS program and the disability work services program needs to be more effective.”

Mr Tanti says that in order to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, five important things need to be addressed;

  1. Policy reform to remove barriers to employment for disability pension recipients

  2. Better employer engagement including targeted incentives

  3. Improved assessment procedures for jobseekers with disabilities

  4. Ease the compliance burden on DES providers

  5. A more coordinated government approach to employment in the new national disability agreement.

Australian Federation of Disability Organizations CEO Ross Joyce used Twitter to share his thoughts on the task force.

“This Employment Taskforce needs to involve mainstream employers to change attitudes towards employing people with #disabilities. We need people with #disabilities who are employed in open # workplaces, not in sheltered workshops, ”he says.

Human rights activist Geoff Trappett agrees that people with disabilities must be included in the task force.

“Likewise [the taskforce] MUST be representative of the community it is intended to support. “

“A task force without PwD (people with disabilities) is not a serious task force. We have enough tokenism. Procurement reform to change the culture of PwD transmission is critical. Governments can use these levers. “

Therese Sands, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA), urges the Task Force not to reinvent the wheel but to look at the wide range of unimplemented recommendations, reports and evidence to guide their work and implement action showing the appalling unemployment rates for people with disabilities.

“We don’t need an Employment Task Force asking us again to provide the same information about obstacles and remedies,” she says.

Ms. Sands stressed the need to address the current problems of unemployment by including people with disabilities in these discussions and moving away from segregated work environments.

It also notes that most of the previous work that has been done to address these issues, such as the readiness study carried out by the Australian Commission on Human Rights, remains to be implemented.

“The employment rates of people with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, have been at an extremely low level for many years compared to other OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).”

“PWDA wants NDIS plans to help help people with disabilities find employment rather than continuing to move people with disabilities to separate workplaces like Australian Disability Enterprises, where people only make a few dollars an hour.”

“This task force also needs to look at ways to make this transition between income support and paid work easier and safer for people with disabilities,” she says.

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