Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

$99m Package To Benefit People With Disabilities In Disability Employment Services

The Australian Government today announced a $99 million assistance package to ensure that employees with disabilities receive fair pro-rata award-based wages and have better access to quality services and personalised workplace training and support.

Announcing the new package with the Prime Minister at G.A.T.E. Enterprises in Seymour, Victoria, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said the $99 million in new spending over the next four years was designed to deliver quality services and good working conditions to the 17,000 Australians with a disability working in business services.

“It is important that we ensure that business services, which provide vital employment opportunities for people with disabilities, are viable and can operate successful businesses in the future,” she said.

“Business services have a long and proud history in Australia. This package will ensure a vibrant and viable sector, which will meet the needs of individuals and families who will benefit from the payment of fair pro-rata award-based wages in a safe and quality working environment.”

Senator Patterson said the package, Security, Quality Services and Choice for People with a Disability, includes direct assistance to ensure business service employees have job security and businesses remain viable.

“This package will ensure that no worker with a disability loses their job because of the changes. The Australian Government will guarantee them a place,” she said.

The package has been developed in response to consultation with business services, consumers, families and carers about proposed changes to disability employment services.

The package includes:

  • a range of strategies that ensures that no person will be displaced from a service and no sole service in a town or region will close due to the current changes to the sector; and assistance to address the effect of increased wages;
  • the release of new pricing models for both business services and open employment services to provide fairer and more efficient funding; and
  • the release of the business services wage assessment tool, which has been developed by the Australian Government in consultation with provider, consumer, business and union representatives, to assist business services determine fair pro-rata wages for employees with disabilities.

Senator Patterson said: “The Government-funded wage assessment tool, independently developed and tested, is available for business services to calculate pro-rata award based wage levels for their employees.

“All business services which use this tool are eligible for free, government-funded wage assessments conducted by qualified Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service Australia staff. It is one of a range of assessment tools that business services can use if they wish.

“Currently, 19 percent of business services and 40 per cent of combined open employment and business services have used a transparent wage tool to help them to meet disability services standards and achieve certification. While it is pleasing that some services use a wage tool there is room for more uptake, of one of the tools, across the sector.

“The release of the new wage assessment tool will deliver fairer wages for business service workers because it will determine a pro-rata wage, based on productivity and competency of each individual.

“Through the industry assistance measures, the Australian Government will provide extra support for people whose productivity is very low and who choose to continue working with their business service.

“Eligible clients can have access to a case manager to support them in choosing whether they wish to remain working in the business service, undertake training at their current service, enter a targeted support service or work in an alternative service.

‘The Australian Government wants to ensure employees have security, access to quality services and choice and that business services remain viable. We will help them every step of the way.”

Senator Patterson said case-based funding is a fairer system where disability employment services will receive funding based on the individual support needs of their employees.

“Over the next 18 months providers will be gradually converted to the new system and will receive extensive support from the Australian Government during this process,” she said.

“The 2003-04 Budget committed an additional $161 million to the disability employment sector to improve services for people with disabilities. This package provides a further $99 million.

“A sustainable, viable disability employment industry is a priority for the Australian Government because we believe people with disabilities deserve increased opportunity, quality services, pro-rata award-based wages and choice.”