Boom of 25,000 Jobs Tipped with Disability Insurance Scheme

More than 25,000 jobs will be created in the disability sector in Victoria when the national disability insurance scheme is fully implemented, according to industry research.

As bureaucrats prepare to launch a DisabilityCare Australia pilot program in Geelong from July, federal government agency National Disability Services has begun an advertising campaign to attract workers to the sector. Initially focused on Sydney, the campaign is targeting parents returning to work, students and people looking for a change in career.

Based on a sample of resumes sent to NDS’ employment arm, careercares, most of those changing careers are coming from industries that have experienced recent cutbacks. About a quarter of career changers come from a retail or sales background, 14 per cent come from hospitality and 12 per cent switch from IT.

Nationally, it is expected the number of people working in disability care will double from about 70,000 today by 2018, when the scheme will allow people with disabilities to have greater say in their own care.

National Disability Services Victoria chairwoman Estelle Fyffe said the new jobs created in disability services would be increasingly diverse, attracting people from a range of backgrounds. The scheme would bring more chances for people with disabilities to enter the workforce, with new aide positions and equipment introduced to support them.

Already, Victorian disability and aged care service provider annecto, where Ms Fyffe is chief executive, has staff with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, including advertising and engineering. ”We are seeing people who want to move into roles that are fulfilling, where they can make a difference and work with people,” Ms Fyffe said.

The disability scheme has broad support in Parliament. The government has Coalition backing for an 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy to pay for part of the $15 billion-a-year scheme, provided it also explains how it would fund the shortfall and clarifies who disabilities would be covered and what would miss out.

Jack Welsh, a 26-year-old former engineer, has been a community developer worker at annecto’s David House in Yarraville for two months, helping run arts and other programs for people with intellectual and other disabilities. Also a musician and designer, he moved to Melbourne from Hobart to get away from an ”office job” and to work with people.

”There is a lot of really good and valuable engineering work to be done, but my role in it was a very profit-driven role working with private developers,” he said. ”It wasn’t doing what I saw as giving the value to the community that you can working with people with disabilities.”

A report last year by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency found that aged and disabled care topped the list of vocational education and training jobs that have undergone a surge in openings.

Poor pay has traditionally been cited as a barrier for potential recruits, but a Fair Work Australia ruling last year to increase pay for community sector workers is expected to lift rates by up to 45 per cent.

Care worker Nicky Bosman traded her corporate job in an advertising firm to work in aged care last year. She does not regret making the switch. She visits her elderly clients at home, helping them with domestic tasks, taking them shopping and providing company.

”I feel like I become part of their family,” she said. ”I take them shopping, I take them to medical appointments, I take them to visit friends. But, really, the companionship is a huge thing. I like keeping them in touch with what’s going on in the world, keeping them young. I’ve shown some of my clients how Facebook works. I’m teaching a client at the moment how to use a computer.”

Unlike her previous corporate roles, Ms Bosman feels her job makes a genuine difference to people’s lives: ”This is like being a volunteer but you’re actually being paid for it. It’s so rewarding. I help people, I get to see different people every day. The difference it makes in a senior’s life is huge.”

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Employment, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Rachel Browne

The Age

Date published:
Mon 6th May, 2013