Kaz Newton

My experience in the disability sector totals 26 years, with 10 years in the Disability Employment Services.

The barriers for people with disabilities entering employment were predominantly their lack of understanding of what work actually is, how they need to change and adjust their lives and how to interact at work.

Many participants who had never worked before, found it very difficult to manage their day to day life and work commitments. They did not in practice understand how work comes first and how to fit the other parts of life around work hours. Therefore, many people with disabilities became unreliable employees.

Initially, participants were very keen to work for money purposes. Their understanding that work gives a purpose was lacking as they had not a life experience of purpose.

DES Job Clubs focused on writing resumes, cover letters, cold calling, interviews. Job clubs lacked the development of how to organize their lives BEFORE starting to look for a job. Down to things like precooking meals for dinner when they are tired when they get home. Rethinking how to make therapy or doctors appointments and other family commitments around work. Communicating with others and their choices don’t come first when at work.

Job clubs and job services lacked developing social skills, working as a team, sharing, communicating. The services wrote these things in people’s cover letters without the person having these skills at a work place level. Without these, people with disabilities fail and loose jobs and develop employers greater resistance to employ a person with a disability.

People just being referred to a disability employment service is not enough. These services over the past 15 years have become depersonalized and run as big national organizations for profit. They push consultants to achieve KPI’s based on number of job starts etc. They focus on the $ for the business. The reason I left as it wasn’t about the individual. The government has facilitated this by how and what they fund services as Centrelink payment gatekeepers.

These services need a greater focus on developing social skills for these people who are isolated from the workforce and have really limited or no social kills relevant to the workplace.

Job clubs need to focus on running programs where participants must attend the same hours as their employment obligation. E.g. 15-22 hours for 6-8 weeks participating in board games , joint projects e.g. building or making something. E.g. sewing a quilt, making shelves, garden project. The participants work on how to manage their lives around being committed to time away from their personal needs, budgeting for transport and lunches, organizing their childcare or family needs. On a social level they learn to be with people with set guidelines, times, how to work together with even people they don’t necessary like. Problem solve on projects, converse regularly, make decisions, accept direction.
Although this could be viewed as focusing on participants, we need to remember without these skills they get the backs up of employers and what is known as ‘burn the employer’. This causes greater resistance and harder for consultants to find jobs. This is what I observed and experienced across working in Sydney metro, Adelaide and Victoria.
Let’s not just focus on the dollar or attitudes of employers let’s skill the potential employees so they truly can compete for jobs, be a productive reliable worker and become long term employees. Let’s focus on EQ for potential employees.