‘The labour force participation rates for people with disability have remained stagnant for the past 20 years, at around 53 per cent, compared to 83 per cent for people without disability’ (DES Reform 2018: Industry Information Paper, June 2017).

In one sense the quote above says it all: the disability employment sector is no longer making progress and needs urgent reform. I’d go further and say that ‘stagnant’ is just a polite way of saying that the participation rates positively stink!

However, it would be a mistake to overlook the past 20 years.

I think we’d all agree that community connections are vital to a well-rounded life. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, church, clubs or online groups, networks provide an enormous range of social opportunities. We make friends, we find jobs, and we learn. Most importantly, we share our lives, including its milestones and stumbling blocks.

Many of our job seekers with a disability don’t have this web of support.

What happens when we don’t have this safety net of other people?

Here’s a key question to consider: how useful are disability employment services? One disturbing answer is ‘Sometimes not at all’. Fortunately another answer is ‘They can be your best resource’.

When it comes to employment, it’s important to know that making an informed choice of service provider makes a big difference. Not just in getting a job, but in keeping it too.

One of the most appealing features of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is the freedom to choose your own services, and the ways in which they will support you. This includes choosing an Employment Support Service, should you wish to find a job. (And remember, here at NOVA we have a ‘zero exclusion’ policy when matching people with jobs; we encourage everybody to find out what’s possible.)

The trouble with choice though – and we’ve all experienced this at some time – is that it can stop us in our tracks, overwhelm us with uncertainty and anxiety.