Getting people with disability into work
The origins of NCEC are in a group of individuals and organisations that identified a lack of employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties in the Brisbane metropolitan area. Disability Employment Services did not exist at the time and was introduced in response to the increasing number of people with disabilities and levels of unemployment. Between 1994 and 2011, there was a 70 per cent increase in the number of Australians receiving the Disability Support Pension, a total of 750,000 individuals4. There were also high levels of unemployment during this time amongst people with disability, with 47 per cent of males and 58 per cent of females unemployed5, compared to a rate of 24 per cent of males and 23 per cent of females without disability5.
A local community organisation, the Community Living Association (CLA), first identified the need for a new approach to providing employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties in the north-east Brisbane region. Whilst some young people with learning disabilities were able to find employment immediately following school, they were not able to maintain long-term employment. Most had completed multiple training courses and had certificates in multiple industries6. However, the training and employment gained was not sustainable in the long-term with most employment opportunities lasting three months or less7. The workplace was often a stressful environment for people with learning difficulties as they were faced with the challenges of changing routines, the pressure of completing jobs quickly and accurately and inflexible work schedules that did not enable individuals to meet their independent living requirements8.
As a result, some individuals sought alternatives such as sheltered employment which provided longer and more stable opportunities but were often menial, providing only limited wages covering expenses such as travel and lunch7. Many others remained long-term unemployed and in some cases experienced a significant decline in mental health and developed addictions during their time of forced unemployment9. None had been able to find meaningful work.
“I’ve had other jobs, but they didn’t last long because I was slow. … It’s really hard to get a job, because no one wants you, and they let you know that.”
CLA observed the need of its constituents for employment that was sustainable for a person with ongoing learning difficulties and set out to develop a viable solution. In particular, CLA constituents wanted to find work that helped provide a sense of purpose, identity and dignity through employment, whilst also providing increased financial independence.
“I really like this job better [compared to other jobs I’ve had], because it’s not stressful, friendly people, you work at your own pace. … With other jobs I was struggling with [stressful and demanding work].”
The Community Living Association is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to assist young people with learning difficulties to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. It provides a range of different services and programs such as finding places to live, transitioning from home care into adulthood, mentoring, literacy and early intervention for young people disengaged with school3.