Getting more people with disability into employment is on Senator Mitch Fifield’s ‘wish list’. Speaking to F2L at the Nepean Disability Expo in Sydney, the senator said “the single most empowering and poverty-busting thing we can do for anyone is to give them a job.”

He was responding to a question about the estimated 1500 people who would likely lose their entitlements following changes to the disability support pension. Several thousand people will be subject to review, with the government looking mainly at those under the age of 35 who have been assessed using the previous Impairment Tables that were revised in 2012. “The objective is to see if we will be in a better position to place these people into work and our focus is on people who have not been on the DSP for an extended time. Evidence shows that the shorter the period someone has been on the DSP, the better their chances of finding work if they have the capacity,” he said.

Asked if he believed the government should be doing more to get work for people with disability, given that it was hard enough for many without disability to find jobs, Senator Fifield said the transfer of all policies for people with disability into one department under one minister and the NDIS were steps in the right direction towards improving employment prospects for people with disability. As well, he said the role of good employers should also be highlighted, acknowledging there was a greater understanding now among many employers as to the needs of people with disability. However, there remained uncertainty in the frequently mistaken belief that employing someone with disability involved significant expense and different challenges which, he said, were not necessarily the case.

“In fact, evidence shows that people with disability have lower rates of absenteeism and fewer sick days. Employers want good and reliable employees. Where there are adjustments to be made to the workplace to accommodate those with disability there are government programs that can help with these.”

He said while people with disability are twice as likely to be without a job as someone without disability the outlook is improving “but we still have a long way to go.”

Caption: Senator Fifield enjoying a game of wheelchair rugby at the disability expo.