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Rishworth, don't repeat past mistakes in disability employment with "reforms" that pander to providers
Hallmarks of past failures evident in Disability Employment Services Consultation Report
The Antipoverty Centre is reiterating its call for government to centre people affected by its policies in response to the Disability Employment Services consultation report released by social services minister Amanda Rishworth yesterday. The report follows the disastrous mainstream employment services rollout of Workforce Australia in July.
Included below: comments from spokesperson and disabled advocate Kristin O’Connell; excerpts from Antipoverty Centre and People with Disability Australia submissions; crisis line contact information.
What disabled people need is less rhetoric and more control.
The DES consultation report is more of the same: the opinions of people who profit from unemployment have outsized influence compared to unemployed and disabled people.
Employment services providers should not be at the table when they have shown a constant disregard for the welfare and safety of disabled people already in their care. All signs indicate that any “support” under the new model will again be at the behest of those cashing in on these services.
We need more groups led by unemployed and disabled people making decisions, not another roundtable with organisations who will benefit from government contracts. We need meaningful support that does not prioritise “cost effectiveness”, but the right to to gain a living by work freely chosen under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The government should follow the lead of the Antipoverty Centre and People with Disability Australia, whose work on the Disability Support Pension and Disability Employment Services ensures the voices of people affected by these programs are at the centre.
The Antipoverty Centre urges Labor to abandon its history of pushing disabled people out of the welfare system through disastrous “activation” policies, cutting access to the DSP and instead forcing us onto JobSeeker and the cruelty of mutual obligations. Instead, it should do what the evidence says is needed: uphold our rights by providing enough money for people to live, abolishing “mutual” obligations and taking meaningful steps to address disability discrimination.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell
As an unemployed disabled person I look at this report and I fear it. What they want is to continue failed welfare-to-work policies that see us not as human beings but nothing more than our potential to create economic value.
We presented the government with a vision of a truly supportive and responsive system that would make sustainable employment a real option for far greater numbers of disabled people. Yet again, what providers want has trumped what unemployed people had to say.
Employment services providers are not experts.
Amanda Rishworth is saying she intends to do more consultation – and she should, because unemployed disabled people need a far greater say. As one of the few who has been involved so far I look forward to an invitation to these roundtables, along with others like me.
Disabled people are punished for circumstances beyond our control: we can’t control the discrimination we experience in the labour market, we can’t control the fact that our bodies and minds prevent us from working in the same ways as people who aren’t disabled, and we can’t control the fact that the government actively seeks to keep hundreds of thousands of people unemployed.
You cannot have a serious conversation about disability employment without centring the economic barriers that will continue to block us from paid work no matter how much training we receive. Yet this report seeks to do just that, with the department of social services viewing these as “out of scope”.
There will never be meaningful change while the government continues its proud support for Australian Disability Enterprises – sheltered workshops where disabled people earn as little as $3 an hour.
There will never be meaningful change while the government continues to keep disabled people who don’t have paid work living below the poverty line, which is the reality for the vast majority of us who are unemployed.
People forgo medication and healthcare and that means over time, if you are disabled, which hundreds of thousands of people on JobSeeker are, your conditions get worse. It means you are less employable, it means your healthcare costs go up and over time you are denying yourself more and more treatment that you need.
It’s clear we have a long, long way to go until disabled people are fully included in society and the workforce. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. The government must take its responsibility seriously to help us live a full life when so many of us have little hope of ever having steady employment.
We know what is needed. Why don’t they just listen to us? We shouldn’t have to be millionaire political donors to be viewed as experts on our own lives.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Excerpts from the Antipoverty Centre and People with Disability Australia submissions on disability employment
Disability Employment Services review submission (access via https://engage.dss.gov.au/new-disability-employment-support-model-submissions/people-with-disability-australia-pwda/):
Another missed opportunity is as good as a decision to throw billions away without benefit to people with disability. Failing to do the necessary work now will deprive people with disability of adequate support for years into the future and leave us right back where we started when it is time for the next review.
To uphold its commitments to people with disability the Australian Government must … directly invite people with disability who are in DES and jobactive to play a central role in the design of a new model through an open call for expressions of interest. Participants should not be selected or recommended by providers.
Despite numerous government commitments to self-determination for people with disability, we have regrettably seen the Department of Social Services not follow the co- design principle of 'nothing about us without us' … People who have used employment services are the experts and must be given a leading role both in both designing the consultation process and as part of the consultation itself.
Disability Support Pension inquiry submission (access via https://apcentre.substack.com/p/the-government-should-offer-us-euthanasia):
The primary purpose of the DSP must be to ensure that all people with disability in Australia have the financial capacity to meet our needs and be supported to fully participate in society on an equal basis … But there is no quick fix to the inequalities, discrimination, and exclusion we currently face.
We must create a more ambitious system built on a new understanding of how income support payments, in combination with other social and employment policies, can be reimagined to fully realise our rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We have the right to work. The social security system and employment programs are contributing to workforce discrimination against people with disability. We need the Government to put the DSP at the centre of a web of supports that enable people with disability to fully participate in society on an equal basis as those without disability.
Read more on the DSP inquiry submission below.
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: https://embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.