100 signatures reached
To: Christian Porter - Minister for Social Services
Allow disabled job seekers to contribute through volunteer work
Dear Minister Porter,
I am on Newstart and have lived with cerebral palsy all my life. I have a high level of education, including an MA. Finding suitable employment has never been easy, but it was something I was mostly able to achieve until I had to quit teaching English as a second language over four years ago. I was no longer able to stand up for the extended periods the job requires. I was knocked back for the disability support pension and placed on Newstart. I have applied for hundreds of jobs and been interviewed for over 30. I completed a Diploma in Business Administration to improve my employability and have worked one day a week in an administration and customer service role in a friend’s bookshop for the past four years while seeking more work. Even when I find positions that seem to suit my skills and are physically accessible for me, employers are always able to find someone they consider a better fit for the role. After four years, it is clear that I am unlikely to find a suitable position.
I am writing to suggest a change to the system. I suggest that, after 12 months on Newstart, job seekers with disabilities should be allowed to satisfy job activity requirements via volunteer work. This would have several advantages:
• It would provide the opportunity for disabled job seekers to demonstrate our skills and develop new ones, potentially improving our employability.
• It would provide the opportunity for disabled job seekers to contribute to the community, encouraging us and demonstrating to the community that we DO have a contribution to make.
• It would raise the profile and involvement of disabled job seekers in workplaces and the wider society which could contribute to changing attitudes and make inclusion more normal.
I also suggest that as volunteer workers, workers with disabilities should be entitled to take leave (eg sick leave or holiday leave) under the same conditions as employed co-workers and not lose payment on those occasions.
Under the present system, disabled job seekers stay at home applying for jobs they are not likely to get and make fortnightly visits to employment providers, whose only suggestion is to keep looking. Continuing to do the same thing day after day and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, isn’t it? I want to contribute to the community and achieve something worthwhile with my life. About 25% of people currently on Newstart, have a significant disability which makes it very difficult for us to find employment. We are denied the opportunity to participate in the community according to the skills we DO have because of our inability to compete effectively against people who have significant advantages over us. Allowing disabled job seekers to satisfy government requirements through volunteer work would include us in the community and enable us to do something worthwhile and meaningful with our time, fulfilling one of the goals of work. Unfortunately, it is rare for Australian employers to provide this opportunity to people with significant disabilities through paid employment. I call on the government to consider providing the opportunity for meaningful activity to disabled job seekers through volunteer work.
Why is this important?
Having a disability doesn't have to stop me from contributing to society. I want the freedom to contribute according to the skills I DO have, instead of being required to look for work in a labour market that constantly focuses on the skills I lack. I want to do something useful with my life, rather than bashing my head against a brick wall. The success of this petition might even help to break the brick wall down!