The Invitation to Treat [ITT] for Disability Employment Network [DEN] Capped program providers is welcomed and supported by UnitingCare Australia as the best way to minimise disruption for participants and employers receiving services from high performing providers who deliver long-term support in the workplace. The ITT will ensure the sustainability of employment for those job seekers already placed into work by high performing providers; and ensure that other job seekers who are currently being supported by high performing providers to secure employment are able to have a continuity of service.
Overall, the major changes in the labour market during the past five years have been positive for workers with disabilities. These changes can be attributed to the dual phenomenon of ageing in the population, and continuing economic growth, both of which increase labour demand. The Australian context is characterised by low inflation, consecutive years of economic growth averaging 4% per annum, successive surpluses in both Federal and State budgets, low official unemployment at 4.5% and anecdotal reports of emerging shortages of both skilled and unskilled workers in most industries (Waghorn et al., 2007).
The various reviews into employment services and related areas shows that for disadvantaged job seekers, in particular people with disabilities who have high support needs, the current system has not delivered improved employment outcomes.
UnitingCare has a unique value proposition as a major actor in the employment services market in Australia. It is particularly well placed to meet the challenge of assisting highly disadvantaged unemployed people with disabilities to make the transition into the workforce and to sustain good employment outcomes.
In providing disability employment services, UnitingCare agencies connect the social justice concerns of the Uniting Church with the role and function of providing social services in partnership with communities and with governments to ensure all people have the means and opportunities to live a decent life which we define as being able to access appropriate food, clothing and healthcare; safe and secure housing; meaningful work, education, rest and enjoyment; and the opportunity to participate in and contribute to communities.
UnitingCare provides services and supports in all states and territories to people living with a disability and their carers and families through a wide range of programs and initiatives. Many of these are specifically targeted at people living with a disability, many others have a broader target and support clients who are living with a disability – such as accommodation and housing support, financial services, employment programs, family support programs and respite care. This provides UnitingCare with a very broad understanding of the needs of, and constraints faced by people living with a disability and their carers and families throughout their lifetimes. This understanding informs this submission which draws on the experience and expertise of staff in the UnitingCare network throughout Australia. It highlights key issues faced by people who are ageing with a disability, and provides examples of promising practices in this area from UnitingCare service providers, and the broader service community in Australia and overseas.
UnitingCare applauds the Australian Government‟s commitment to developing a National Disability Strategy to enhance the quality of life and increase economic and social participation for people with disability and their carers. We support the Government‟s view that the current system is not meeting the needs of people living with a disability and their families and carers, and we believe that a paradigm shift is required to create the best solutions to improve support services for people with disability.
UnitingCare Australia believes the Productivity Commission has provided a potentially transformative framework for the funding and administration of support and care for people living with disability in Australia. Along with other organisations that work and advocate with people living with a disability and their families and carers, we support the proposals made in the draft report regarding:
• The establishment of a nationally funded disability care and support entitlement based scheme that is adequate and sustainable, and will ensure consistency and transportability throughout Australia.
• The focus on person-centered approaches, and decision making by individuals and their families about what services will be used and how services are delivered.
• An emphasis on inclusion in community life and local solutions.
The Government's decision to undertake a competitive tender of the Disability Employment Services – Employment Support Services program for contracts with a performance rating of 3 Stars or below (out of a maximum rating of 5 Stars) is far too wide in a growing and high performing employment support system. We believe tendering 80% of the current contracts is not only poor policy but has the very real potential of penalising the very people for whom this program provides essential support.
UnitingCare Australia would like to commend the Department of Human services for undertaking an independent
review of Centrepay system, and for seeking comment from the community in this process.