The "disabled": Many could work
Fewer than half of all Australians with a disability are employed and more than 800,000 disabled people are on the Disability Support Pension.
Only 1% of this group leave the pension to take up employment each year. Around two-thirds say they have a mild or ‘less than mild’ impairment but continue to take advantage of the full pension.
Our income support system channels people with a disability onto the pension and away from work even if they have worked before and think they can work again. Once they are on the pension, there is little incentive – and certainly no compulsion – to look for a job.
Yet we know that given the right help, many people with very serious disabilities can work.
Organisations such as JobSupport say getting people with disabilities into jobs is realistic.
JobSupport puts 50 to 60 school leavers with moderate intellectual disabilities through their ‘Transitions to Work’ program every year. Around 70% go on to work in jobs in the open employment market.
The Cerebral Palsy Alliance in NSW takes high school kids with cerebral palsy on ski trips to show them they can be independent and take risks. They place young disabled adults in mentoring programs with some of Australia’s biggest corporations.
The work of these organisations proves that with the right attitude and the right support, almost anyone can be employed in paid work.
We should stop telling people with disabilities that they can’t work and can’t become self-sufficient.
A life on welfare is not the best they can do or we can do for them.
In a wealthy, fully employed country of opportunity like Australia, the most damaging kind of poverty is not lack of income but lack of aspiration.