‘Ruled out’ by disability employment services?

While I applaud the initiative and determination from the parents of this young man on the autism spectrum, at the same time I am ashamed of the evolution of Disability Employment Services (DES). For background, read this article. But here’s the summary.

Brodie’s disability was deemed too great for his allotted DES to handle. However, in truth Brodie has no greater level of disability than those for whom the Disability Act 1986, was created. It was set up for people whose disability was a significant barrier to employment in everyday workplaces. It was not set up for people with a sore foot.

At the same time I am not surprised that this happened to Brodie and his family. It’s happening all around the country as skilled DES staff leave the industry in droves.

Since the Disability Act 1986, successive Australian governments have spent a small fortune equipping DES staff with the skills to support people with autism and intellectual disability into work that suits their interests and abilities. Now we’ve abandoned them, and our investment.

As the CEO of a DES, it would be so much more profitable for me not to take on a young fellow like Brodie, instead, going with easier-to-place clients. Easier-to-place clients are cheaper to place in that they take less time, less effort and fewer staff skills to get to know the jobseeker, find a good job match and support them in work.

Unfortunately, and to our great shame, DES are provided no incentives to maximise the potential of jobseekers like Brodie. In the current system, long-term outcomes are not encouraged. Independence doesn’t seem to be our aim. Inclusion does not come from such attitudes.

Over thirty years after we set up a strong system to support people like Brodie, we can’t give him proper support.

Our nation should thank his parents. Their son is getting out in the sunshine and putting in a full day’s work. He’d be tired at the end of it and sleep better because of it He now waves and smiles at his clients where before he made no eye contact. He discusses his day with his family. This is inclusion. We all need to feel this.