Janet Tobin

My son, Alex, has an intellectual disability and is 28 years old. He began working at a very well known fast food restaurant chain, near the domestic airport in 2012. There have been during the course of Alex’s employment some significant ups and downs. He has also been subjected to intimidation and bullying in the workplace.

Alex received a NSW, state run, supported independent living program which then transitioned to a NDIS plan. His first plan had the employment category within it. After this first plan, he lost this category. We have tried repeatedly to have this category reinstated, without success. We tried many times to find out why we couldn’t have this category, to finally be told that we can’t ‘double dip’. If we have access to a DES, we can’t have the employment category in the NDIS plan. We asked if we had the option of not having a DES, this request was denied.

Over the past 9 years, we have had been involved with 4 DES organizations. One of these organizations made my son ‘inactive’, without informing us, another organization suggested that we give up on ‘open employment’, another organization informed us that they wouldn’t support Alex in any voluntary work and the current organization that we are with will not have anything to do with Alex unless it is to sign off on job access plans to ensure that they receive their funding.

During a period of time when Alex was subjected to intimidation and bullying in the workplace, the current DES wanted nothing to do with it. It was only when the IDRS got involved that they finally agreed to also support Alex, somewhat.

Our recent experiences with DES is one where there is absolutely no interest in obtaining any employment for the participant. Their only interest is to ensure that they receive their allocated revenue. We have been informed that it is our responsibility to look for work, apply for work, compile resume’s and participate in interviews. If we are successful, the DES will then assist us in setting up the supported wage for the employer, however, they have advised us that they are only funded to give some assistance in this role.

I have tried many times to explain this to the NDIS planner, that funding and support is needed, from the NDIS to assist with the above process. We again told that ‘we can’t double dip’ and get funding, for the same category, twice from the Government.

Alex hasn’t worked since COVID-19 first hit. He doesn’t understand why he can’t work and his current employer stripped his days and hours from 4 days a week to 1 day a week for 3 hours. He doesn’t even have that now. We don’t receive any support, whatsoever, from his DES.

I don’t think that I can get across my total and utter frustration with this process. What is the point of having DES officers who advocate sending the participant to a sheltered workshop.

My experiences with DES officers is one where they are totally focused on getting that revenue for their organization and couldn’t care less about the participant.

On speaking about this to a NDIS planner, we are then advised that we can use funding out of the participants ‘core supports’ to engage a support worker to assist with the above. This goes against how the actual plan was funded to begin with. By following this advice, I would actually be stripping my son of allocated funding that has been provided to support him in his daily living of tasks and social participation.

My submission is allow participants to have some choice and control over the above. Allow them to have the choice of either having a DES or having the employment category in their NDIS plan with the appropriate level of funding.

I have been shocked when advised by providers, who operate these sheltered workplaces, how much money they charge the NDIS, on an annual basis – whilst paying the worker approximately $2.50 per hour. It would be far more affordable to allocate funding for providers to find participants jobs in open employment, rather than spending thousands upon thousands of dollars, each year in a sheltered workplace environment.

Open employment gives the participant more choice, control, dignity, financial control, as well as, a sense of community.