Support for finding a job – but not for when it's coming to an end
Many people with disability find it difficult to gain employment. Disability Employment Services (DES) are government-funded services contracted to help people with disabilities find employment. I used one of these and spoke to many others when I was searching for my current role.
A DES will help the disabled person by providing them with support while looking for and after securing work. The types of support will vary depending on the individual's needs. For instance, I'm legally blind and can't read signage when I enter a building to attend a job interview. An employment consultant can accompany me to the interview to assist. In my case the consultant will accompany me as far as the reception desk, then leave. This provides me with support that ensures I arrive at my interview calm while also allowing me to display my independence. Other people might need the consultant to remain with them as support and to help explain their abilities and what support is available to employers. It is also common to need help writing applications.
One of the supports available to employers is a financial incentive. This is paid when an eligible person with disability has been employed full or part-time for 13 weeks. In addition, employers don't need to worry about the cost of adapting the workplace. Funding is available through JobAccess for adaptive technology and equipment as well as for workplace modifications. The employment consultant can usually explain this to the employer and complete the paperwork.
Job in jeopardy
'Job in Jeopardy' is a special category of assistance available to people with a disability who have a paid job, but who are at risk of losing it as a direct result of their disability. This could be due to a deteriorating condition such as vision or hearing loss. It can also occur when the employer's needs change, and the person's role needs to change accordingly.
It is not classed as Job in Jeopardy when a person's work is ending due to the finish of a contract role or because of redundancy. It is common knowledge that it is easier to find a new job while still employed. However contractors and others still working at 50 per cent or more of their assessed capacity are ineligible for DES services.
Recently I found myself in this situation. My employer advised that my contract would be terminated early due to budget cuts. They gave me six months notice, but it takes a lot longer to find work when you have a disability. I contacted three DES providers to seek assistance and was advised that I was ineligible.
As my March end date drew closer I contacted Centrelink to register as a job seeker. I was told that until the day after I finished working I could not register. Their only advice was to call in the week I was finishing work and make an appointment for a job capacity assessment for the next week.
My one hope was that I would not be unemployed for long. Like many independent people with a disability I have financial commitments including rent. I applied for more than 50 jobs in the six month period, and was interviewed for eight roles. Fortunately my last interview resulted in success. I have a new two-year contract which will allow me to maintain my independent lifestyle.
What is needed
I feel that the system is failing to support people with disabilities adequately. People who have a disability are among the lowest paid in society. The support systems in place are for the unemployed. They don't enable people with disability to transition between jobs without a period of unemployment. I have been lucky in securing work without assistance.
More support is needed. A program that supports people to find a new job before leaving their current one would significantly reduce the unemployment rate among people with disability. It would also improve their socioeconomic status. Benefits for people with disability would include greater career mobility and financial independence.