From 1983 to 1985, the Commonwealth Government undertook a review of funding programs for people with disabilities, which resulted in the Disability Services Act 1986. This Act saw a dramatic change within employment service delivery for people with disabilities and resulted in sheltered workshops being progressively closed down across Australia.
The Review of Handicapped Programs
From 1983-1985, the Commonwealth government instituted a review of funding programs for people with disabilities developed under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act in 1974. The Review of Handicapped Programs took the unusual step of involving people with disabilities and their families in the consultation process. The findings of the Review came out in 1985 in a document called ‘New Directions’.
People with disabilities, their families and carers were critical of the existing services namely, institutional living arrangements, sheltered workshops and activity therapy centres. They wanted access to mainstream services, to be part of and to participate in the community, have access to paid employment and a choice in the services they used.
The Disability Services Act
The Disability Services Act 1986 was a result of the findings of the Review. The Act replaced the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act which was repealed. The main focus of the Act was on disability services i.e. employment, training and placement services, as well as accommodation support, respite and recreation services, and to ensure that organisations funded by the government provided disability services that achieved specific and agreed outcomes. Under the Act organisations unable to meet the new funding criteria were given five years to complete the transition to the new arrangements.
The purpose of the Disability Services Act was to make sure people with disabilities received the services they needed. The Act encouraged more open employment of people with disabilities, as opposed to employment in sheltered workshops. As a result of the Disability Services Act, sheltered workshops were progressively closed down across Australia.
The Disability Services Act established two new types of service. The first service type was supported employment services, developed to assist people for whom competitive employment at award wages was not possible. The second was the competitive employment, training and placement (CETP) service. It was designed to assist people with disabilities to obtain and retain paid employment in the mainstream labour market. Today, these have evolved into business services and open employment services.
Business Services provide employment for people with a medium to high level of disability who usually need support to remain in paid employment. They are supported in their work through regular job training, career planning and counselling. They work alongside people without disabilities and under equal working conditions.
Open Employment Services are similar to those offered by employment agencies and assist people with disabilities to take on jobs in the regular workforce i.e. open employment. A support worker will assist an individual to find employment and provide them with training in their new job. The support worker, after the initial training period has ended, will usually visit the individual on a regular basis to see how they are going and provide further training, counselling or any other assistance if needed.
The following organisations began as sheltered workshops but over time have changed due the impact of the Disability Services Act and society’s expectations of what people with a disability need in the area of employment.
Bedford began in 1920 as the Civilian Tuberculosis and Cancer Comfort Fund to bring relief to sufferers of tuberculosis (TB). In 1945 it changed its name to Bedford Industries and started a woodworking shop at Glenelg for eight men recovering from TB.
Today, it provides training, employment and residential and day options services to more than 700 people with disabilities across Adelaide. Bedford operates four sites across metropolitan Adelaide with commercial operations in horticulture, hospitality and packaging. Bedford also assists people with a disability find open employment.
In 2003 it was named SA Training Awards ‘Employer of the Year’.
Accommodation is provided at Balyana in motel style rooms and shared houses with further houses available in the community. Bedford’s Day Option Service (Bedford Community Access) provides community based day options in the areas of leisure, recreation, skills training, education and independent living skills to people with moderate to high support needs.
Orana began in 1950 as the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society of SA Inc. It was formed by parents who were seeking educational, vocational and training opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities. Over the next few years a number of sheltered workshops were set up and in 1980 the name was changed to Orana, which is an Aboriginal word for ‘Welcome’.
Today, after more than 50 years, Orana provides a range of employment, respite and accommodation services throughout South Australia to over 500 people with an intellectual disability.
The Phoenix Society began in 1959 with the aim ‘to help the physically handicapped to help themselves’. The first building the Society owned was an old cottage in Carrington Street, Adelaide. Its first contract was with the SA Brewing Company for the repair of 40 crates, at a total cost of 17 cents each.
During the 1980’s the Society’s original aim was changed to assist mostly people with an intellectual disability. The Phoenix Society provides vocational training and supported employment to 450 people, mainly with an intellectual disability, who choose not to move to open employment.
The Society operates four factories across metropolitan Adelaide and one in Whyalla with commercial operations in general packaging, mailing, wood maching, assembly work, light engineering assembly, sewing and embroidery, and laser printing.
Barkuma began in 1964 as a branch of the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society. It was incorporated in 1967 and provided a sheltered workshop, training and accommodation services for people with an intellectual or other disability.
Today, it offers a range of services to people with an intellectual disability. It provides supported employment in a range of business enterprises including furniture manufacturing and contract work and also provides opportunities for open employment. Barkuma provides individualised support and specialised support in the areas of counselling, training, community access and advocacy.
Labour force participation rate
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2003 people with a disability and of working-age had a lower labour force participation rate (53%) and a higher unemployment rate (8.6%) than other working-age Australians without disabilities (i.e. 81% and 5.0% respectively).
It was found that labour force participation decreases as the severity of the disability increases. People with a severe disability had a work participation rate of 30%. The majority (58%) of people with a disability and of working-age yet not working reported that they were permanently unable to work. Of that group, 52% of them were aged 55 years or older.
The ABS noted that some disability groups reported higher rates of permanent incapacity than others. For example, 48% of people with a psychological disability whereas 28% of people with a sensory disability reported being permanently unable to work. The ABS concluded that people with a disability may use mainstream or specialist disability services to help them find work. They stated that 10% of unemployed people with a disability were receiving assistance from a disability job placement program or agency.
Barkuma. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.barkuma.com.au/
Bedford Industries. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.bedfordindustries.com.au/about_history.htm
Daniels, D. Social Security Payments for the Aged, People with Disabilities and Carers 1909 to 2006 – Part 1. 2007 [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/online/aged1.htm#invalidpension
Life to live. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dsa.org.au/life_site/text/employment/index.html
Lindsay, M. 2004. ‘Background Paper 2′ 1995-96: Commonwealth Disability Policy 1983-1995 [online]. [Accessed 22nd May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bp/1995-96/96bp06.htm
Orana. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.oranaonline.com.au/services.html
Paid work: Labour force characteristics of people with a disability. 2006. [online]. [Accessed 22nd May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: Link
Phoenix Society. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.phoenixsoc.org.au/about-history-phoenix-society.htm