I’ve focused a fair bit in the last year or so on seeking the views of people working for advocacy and service organizations aimed at assisting people with disabilities. The following issues are ones that have been raised in various ways by many of them.
A major concern which is regularly raised is unnecessary difficulties for people with disabilities in accessing employment, including the so-called ‘welfare to work’ changes that started coming into force in the middle of last year. Whilst some extra support in finding employment has been provided in some circumstances, there is also further financial hardship being inflicted on people. This applies not just to those who still can’t find jobs but who have their income support payments reduced. Even some who find part-time or intermittent full-time work end up worse off, due to the extra costs involved in travel and the loss of some of the assistance with health costs which now have to come more out of their own pockets.
There has been a shift from disability agencies dealing with the employment of people with disabilities, with this activity often now being done by job networks. This is creating a problem as job networks are paid for every person that they enter into the workforce. Those who can be harder to place, which can include people with disabilities, are not only potentially seen as less ‘profitable’, but can also end up being put to the back of the line.
Many care agencies are telling me they are having difficulty competing with the State health system on Nursing and other professionals’ wages. They are finding that Queensland health is taking many of their trained nurses. Some organisations in the not for profit sector say they are falling behind in what they can pay nurses by up to 25%. This is making it difficult for them to not only recruit but to keep the nurses that they have spent money training. The same issues are arising with counsellors and other professionals.