At NOVA, we try not to kid ourselves about what it takes to do this job well. Sure, we see ourselves as experts in the disability employment field, and we have some good scores on the board. These are not laurels to rest on.

Our stated mission is ‘to help people with a disability find and keep satisfying jobs of their choice’. And that’s certainly what we dedicate ourselves to in our day-to-day work and our long-term planning.

The keystone to that achievement is not spelled out but you’ve heard it before: we are only as good as our people. What does that really mean? The short answer: much more than a recruitment process.

‘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?