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Issue #1447      17 March 2010

Peak disability body slams Abbott’s proposal

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) has slammed Tony Abbott’s idea to pressure people on the Disability Support Pension to work, calling it outdated and offensive.

“Targeting people with musco-skeletal and psychosocial disabilities would send us back to the Dark Ages where people with a disability were seen as slackers with bad backs and just a little bit of stress who should get off government payments and work,” said Lesley Hall, AFDO CEO. “It completely ignores the fact that many people with a disability want a job but are not supported to find and keep one. Because of their disability, many others are unlikely to ever be in the paid workforce.”

AFDO argued that there are complex reasons for people with a disability remaining unemployed. Employers are simply not hiring people with a disability; even within the Australian public service the rate of employment of people with disability sits at three percent of the total workforce, falling from 3.8 percent in 2005. Many workplaces are still physically inaccessible, and people with changing mental or physical health find it difficult to get flexibility from their bosses.

“To say that if you tell people with a disability they should look for work you will solve this problem is incredibly naïve,” said Ms Hall. “To get 24,000 people with a disability into work the costs wouldn’t just be about their decision to go out and look for a job. Getting people with a disability into work means getting employers on board and offering appropriate support to the person as they look for work and then when they have a job.”   

Next article – The Kimberley under threat

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