Laura Lewis

The Disability Employment Services as they currently exist fail everyone. It’s the system that is the issue. There is a lack of oversight and safeguards in place and a tick and flick process exists which is rewarded with payments from the Government with no real continued follow up and authentic care of the employment of each disabled person. There needs to be a design written by disabled people to rebuild the program. My son was on his third Disability Employment Service before he left school. And that was purely because each provider just dumped him with no notice and is having to find out through Centrelink.

My son spent two years from the age of 14 looking for after school work with zero involvement from DES. We supported him to start his own business while still in high school knowing the alarming high unemployment rate for autistic people.

Both my son and I were very glad to ditch his DES. His business is now in it’s fifth year of trading. He does not access any social welfare. In fact he’s a taxpayer.

In November 2019 Stuart Roberts announced the NDIS Employment Initiative to have 30% of their participants employed by 2023. I actually felt that was a low bar. Now I realise this goal is unlikely to be met due the annual battle with the LAC, the NDIS and my poor mental health to get adequate funding for my son. His goals have never changed. His funding does not provide choice and control. Frustratingly, I see inconsistencies with the NDIS funding some disabled business owners to work full time but it’s so hit and miss.

Self employment is employment. My son gives back to his community. He hires staff. Yet we are fighting again for an urgent review. I can’t do this year in year out. I actually had a fleeting though of self immolation at Parliament House to draw attention to this. It’s exhausting.

There is no benefit for my son to not be adequately funded. If he can’t secure the funding he requires he becomes a welfare recipient. How does that even make sense. He is currently a happy 19 year old with a life full of purpose and with him in the drivers seat.

I believe that the NDIS could offer stable plans for people who do not have complex needs and who’s goals remain the same. Just roll the plan over each year with a CPI increase. If circumstances change then the participant can then request a review. If many disabled people fit this criteria surely it would result in good cost cutting. The NDIS is sustainable and politicians need to stop suggesting otherwise. Participants are employers of upto 2% of our workforce. That’s a circular economy. Stop telling us we continue to be a burden.

We have a lot to say. A lot to offer. Ideas around measures to save money. We need more representation in policy and decision making. We need to be involved in the design. We need to be paid to do this.