As a person with a disability so far I have had no say – and neither has (virtually) anybody else amongst Australia’s community of people with disability (Here I should acknowledge the work of my colleagues at Breakthru who clearly informed and encouraged their clients to make comment on the process – they were almost universally opposed).
The Government supports social inclusion; its services appear not to. There has been very little consultation with the people disability employment services are aimed at. Incidentally, surely their voices should have more weight than those of a service provider (and I include myself amongst the vested interests)?
I like stories or allegories; so here’s one: Yesterday I went to a sandwich shop and bought a sandwich. I had a choice of fillings and chose one that suited me. My choice was based on my wants and needs and was an informed choice (I have to eat less and I have to eat more healthily!).
The shopkeeper brought me a salad sandwich, but this wasn’t any sandwich. It was fabulous, the bread was fresh, the salad similarly so. In short my sandwich met and exceeded my expectation. This was a 5 star sandwich.
Under the present disability employment service star ratings my experience would have been somewhat different:
The shopkeeper would have taken my order, ignored my choice, chosen my sandwich and he would have been micro-managed on the speed with which he did so. Having decided for me the next ‘key performance indicator would have been the time it took for him to get me whatever he felt I needed (want’s abandoned!).
Next, the speed of delivery of the plate.
Finally, the meal! But it doesn’t have to be what I wanted or needed – half a sandwich is fine, sharing sandwiches encouraged! A quarter of a sandwich counts, the crust will do and, should it be only crumbs and a wilted bit of greenery I am supposed to count myself lucky!
Except I don’t. It’s not right that government and service providers make choices for the people that receive service with little or no consultation.
If I become unemployed here’s what I want: I want a service that is tailored to meet my needs and these, first and foremost are employment that pays my bills without the need for government subsidy. I have managed this for my whole life and I don’t want to hand that capacity away.
Ensure it is in the interests of service providers to get people that have a disability off the pension and away from benefits wherever that is desired and/or possible. Remuneration on the basis of reduced pension is easy to achieve, can be verified by Centrelink and removes the need for excessive bureaucracy)
Insist upon the inclusion of the wishes of service users into the decision making processes of employment services (there’s a thought!)
Start with the assumption that every person is capable of work and wants to work and do not penalise service providers on the basis of the time taken to achieve that result (speed to placement is a perverse disincentive to take on people with more profound disability)
Create a climate of stability and clear direction, rather than rule by fear and confusion.
I could go on (and do!)
When I come into a sandwich shop I want the meal I order and am delighted when my expectations are exceeded. I don’t want what the shop owner thinks I need and I certainly am not interested in the opinion of his landlord.
Australian Disability Employment Services used to be amongst the best in the world. They (and I include NOVA) have slipped down international rankings and are now amongst the world’s least effective. The proposed purchasing program will accelerate and institutionalise that placement.
Common sense and self-interest should stop the rot. My last post included the recommendations of a recent Senate inquiry into disability employment purchasing – let’s hope that some of them are listened to.
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