Disability Enterprises employ people with disabilities in a supported working environment. They employ more than 20,000 Australians with varying degrees of disabilities who are not currently able to work without support. Employees work in a diverse range of roles – from gardeners to store people, screen printers, recyclers and cooks – there is a wide variety of opportunities.
Employees are supported to work, develop new skills and participate in their communities. Many find the training provided in these enterprises supports them to transition into to open employment. Most Disability Enterprises are nonprofit organisations. They are social enterprises, which provide services or products and invest the profits into social outcomes.
The state and federal governments provide funding for each employee at Disability Enterprises. The amount of funding is determined by each employee’s support needs and requirements.
Currently, employees’ wages are calculated through the use of a wage assessment tool. This tool is determined by the Supported Employment Service Award and calculates the pro-rata wage rate against the percentage of the full rate.
There is ongoing public discussion about the wage assessment tool and the level of government contributions required to ensure fair wages for people with disability and the viability of Disability Enterprises.
Most supported employees receive a Disability Support Pension (DSP) as well as their wage. Some employees may also receive additional benefits, such as mobility allowance, depending on their disability.
People with disability have the right to lead ordinary lives like others in the community. In supported employment, employees make meaningful contributions to the workforce and participate in the workplace like their families and neighbours.
Many people with disability also enjoy the social interaction of the workplace. Research and case studies show that supported employment can lead to beneficial health and wellbeing outcomes for people with disability.
Disability Enterprises offer a diverse range of roles, which provide opportunities to develop new skills and to form professional networks. Some employees are also able to build on the skills and networks they develop through supported employment to form lasting non-supported careers in open employment.
Each year, supported employment saves governments billions of dollars and makes significant social and economic contributions to local communities.
Disability Enterprises reduce the need for full-time support workers and day programs. They also provide family members and other carers with time outside of caring duties.
A study conducted by National Disability Services estimated that over 200,000 people with disability want to work and have the capacity to do so if provided with the right support. Growing supported employment and offering more opportunities to more people with disability would allow them to lead an ordinary life and would save the government billions more dollars.
By growing supported employment we can create more work opportunities for people with disability and save billions more of taxpayer dollars. There is a current public discussion about wage assessment, government funding and the inclusion of supported employment in the NDIS. As the policy landscape develops, it is paramount that people with disability have the option of working in supported employment to expand their professional and social networks.