The McGowan Government has held roundtable discussions to increase the state’s employment rate for people with disabilities, which is currently below target.
Disability Services Minister Stephen Dawson said roundtable discussions had been held after WA recorded a 1.9 per cent employment rate for people with a disability within the public sector, below the 2.3 per cent target.
“Last week’s roundtable was an opportunity to listen to the success stories within the private sector, to better understand the benefits to business from inclusive employment, and to discuss government’s role in assisting industry to consider employing people with disability at a higher rate,” Mr Dawson said.
Melanie Reed’s brother, Linsey Reed, who has low-functioning autism and limited communication, is currently in his second long-term unemployment period.
“His communication is the biggest hurdle to getting work,” Ms Reed said.
“Linsey can speak with singular words but can’t put them together into sentences.”
Ms Reed said it took two years of actively seeking paid work until Linsey’s first opportunity arose.
“Although it was a big inconvenience in Mandurah, you take what you can get because it’s so hard to find anything,” Ms Reed said.
Ms Reed said while her brother was employed he developed a daily routine and his communication vastly improved.
Allison Milner from the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health said people with a disability were more likely to be unemployed.
“People with a disability have problems at both ends of the spectrum, both getting into work but also once they’re in work, being in poor quality work,” she said.
The 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 53.4 per cent of those aged 15 to 64 with a disability participated in the labour force, considerably lower than the 83.2 per cent without an impairment.
“People with disabilities are more likely to spend a longer time job seeking, causing feelings of isolation and frustration, before eventually falling into long-term unemployment and giving up,” Ms Milner said.
She said the structured days and social support network which employment provided helped people with disabilities, and she praised companies who actively looked for employees with a disability.
Mr Dawson said increasing the employment of people with disabilities in WA was a priority.
“I strongly believe that providing people with disability the same opportunities for economic and social participation as other Australians is a key requirement for an inclusive society,” Mr Dawson said.
He recognised benefits went beyond the individual who gains employment, including lower absenteeism and employee turnover for an organisation.
Activ chief executive Danielle Newport said there were waiting lists for some of the organisation’s supported employment opportunities, which ranged from manufacturing and packaging to maintenance.
Ms Reed said since her brother’s Mandurah job ended 18 months ago, her parents felt pressure to organise activities and volunteer work for him.