A key issue is students with disability. The Committee specifically requested information in relation to students with disability. Although the Committee did not receive a great deal of evidence on students with caring responsibilities, the evidence that was received was instructive, and appreciated. Accordingly, the Committee felt it was important to include this evidence in the report.
Accordingly, this chapter outlines programs the Australian Government have in place to support students with disability, evidence from submitters and some recommendations flowing from that evidence.
However, as the evidence, and the conclusions drawn from it, are limited, the following should be read in the context of the Committee’s belief that additional witnesses should be given the opportunity to present to a future inquiry to inform a more considered series of recommendations, consistent with the importance of effectively responding to this challenge. The Committee is of the view that the complexity and importance of supporting students with disability warrants further consideration, to do justice to the issues that arise in relation to inclusion in education and employment for all young Australians.
Australian Government support for students with disability
National disability agreement
The National Disability Agreement, introduced by the Council of Australian Governments in 2009, is a high level agreement between the Australian and state and territory governments for the provision of disability services for people with disability. It features clear roles and responsibilities for each level of government and joins these efforts together though nationally agreed objectives and outcomes for people with disability, their families and carers.
National disability strategy 2010-2020
The National Disability Strategy (the Strategy) sets out a ten year national plan for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. It draws on the findings of extensive consultation conducted in 2008-09 by the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council and reported in Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia (2009).
Outcome 5, Learning and Skills of the Strategy states that:
People with disability achieve their full potential through their participation in an inclusive high quality education system that is responsive to their needs. People with disability have opportunities to continue learning throughout their lives.
To support this outcome, the Strategy outlines four policy directions:
Strengthen the capability of all education providers to deliver inclusive high quality educational programs for people with all abilities from early childhood through adulthood.
Focus on reducing the disparity in educational outcomes for people with a disability and others.
Ensure that government reforms and initiatives for early childhood, education, training and skill development are responsive to the needs of people with disability.
Improve pathways for students with disability from school to further education, employment and lifelong learning.
Disability employment services
In the 2017 Budget, the Australian Government announced that, over the next four years, the Australian Government will invest over $3 billion in Disability Employment Services (DES) and associated services to help people with disability get and keep long-term jobs.
This includes over $300 million over the next 10 years to index provider payments in DES. This will ensure DES providers can continue to deliver the necessary support required for people with disability looking for work without these being eroded by inflation.
These changes aim to improve the program’s overall performance to help more people with disability, injury or a health condition find and maintain employment.
The Australian Network on Disability (AND) submitted that ‘nationally the DES system is not performing strongly enough for job seekers or employers.’ AND outlined their concerns that:
there is a focus on the jobseeker at the expense of the employer; not enough time is spent understanding the employer’s business and job roles/core competencies;
too many employment service providers approaching employers and employers don’t know which ones offer quality service;
ongoing support for employment is unreliable and ineffective; and
the system is difficult to navigate.
In response, AND recommends that:
DES services need to operate a dual customer focus, equally meeting the needs of jobseekers and employers. Providers need to invest the time to better understand employers, their culture, job roles and inherent requirements to improve job matching and long-term retention. The Federal Government should fund brokerage services to make it easier for large employers to navigate multiple providers.
Ms Kerrie Langford, Manager, National Employment Manager, National Disability Services (NDS) opined that:
Disability Employment Services is actually not funded to work with young people until the last year of school, and then they are funded only to work with young people with disability who have a significant disability.
NDS’s submission welcomed the ability for DES providers:
… to claim a payment for completing a PaTH internship in the new funding model to be introduced from 2018.
However, the submission pointed out disadvantages in the way this is being implemented:
Where DES providers are at a disadvantage is that the Youth Bonus wage subsidy ($6,500 - $10,000) is only available to job seekers who are registered with Jobactive or Transition to Work.
The disparity in the subsidies will make it more difficult for DES providers to negotiate ongoing employment for participants at the conclusion of an internship. NDS recommends that this disparity in the levels of subsidies be removed.
The Committee notes that an employee registered with DES can only claim the Restart wage subsidy ($10,000) but not the Youth or Youth Bonus ($6,500) wage subsidies.
Australian disability enterprises
Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) are:
…generally not for profit organisations providing supported employment opportunities to people with disability. ADEs provide a wide range of employment opportunities and they operate within a commercial context.
ADEs across Australia provide assistance to ‘approximately 20,000 people with moderate to severe disability. ADEs are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.’
School leaver employment support
School Leaver Employment Support (SLES) is an initiative of the Australian Government designed to assist students with disability transition from school to employment. It offers individualised support for 2 years after a student finishes year 12 to help them get ready for work and plan their pathway to employment.
Data on school students with disability
The annual Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) collects information about Australian school students who receive an adjustment to address disability:
Nationally consistent information on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability enables schools, education authorities, and governments to better understand the needs of students with disability and how they can be best supported at school.
AND commented on this data and their inability to find:
…precise data on the number of young people approaching school leaving (16-18) and then transitioning to employment (19-24).
Ticket to work
Ticket to Work is a National initiative set up in 2014 as a pilot, through an innovation fund, by NDS. Currently funded by philanthropic organisations and a grant from Jobs Victoria, it uses cross-sectoral collaborative partnerships to improve employment outcomes for young people with disability. The initiative is delivered through Local Ticket to Work networks including schools, employment services, post school providers and employers.
Ticket to Work prepares young people for the world of work and provides them with an open employment pathway in their transition from school through a combination of vocational/career development and early contact with work environments.
Specifically, Ticket to Work:
brings together disability-specific and mainstream representatives from a variety of sectors to work strategically and collaboratively;
supports young people to gain access to early experiences that positively influence their views of themselves as workers;
prepares young people with disability for the workplace and gives them an employment pathway that is typical of other young adults; and,
increases opportunities for meaningful work experience and learning prior to exiting school.
Based on extensive research Ticket to Work focuses on three areas:
Supported Skills Development; and
Activities and Sector Collaboration.
Details on these areas are outlined in the following figure.
Figure 5.1: Ticket to Work – three areas of focus
Ms Langford describes the program, which starts to work with students in year 9, as:
…a grassroots approach to working with young people. We bring in a broad range of people who are specialists in the school. We bring in RTOs, employers and the actual support networks around the individual young person. We work with them to gain work experience and work towards the work experience turning into what is known as an Australian School-Based Apprenticeship. Then we take that a step further, when they are in year 12, by negotiating for employment after they have left school. We have had great success with that. It is a really good way of connecting a young person with disability to work.
Ms Suzanne Colbert, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Network on Disability was very supportive of Ticket to Work and commented specifically on the fact that the program was scalable. She stated:
…when it comes to the employment of people with disability there is very little that is scalable; it's very much selling an individual ticket to a plane that is never going to take off. I think it's about taking programs like Ticket to Work, funding them, making them scalable and keeping good data over time.
Ms Colbert further stated that:
In Australia we don't have that culture of keeping data to make long-term review of the success of our programs. We set and forget. I really hope that if one thing can come out of this it's that the Ticket to Work program is sustainably funded. With an overarching dataset that can inform us into the future, that will be investing in the future of young people with disability. I think it's a great program.
Assisting students with a disability
Children and Young People with Disability Australia’s (CYDA) report titled Post School Transition: The experiences of students with disability formed the basis of their submission to the Committee. The report is comprehensive, well researched and evidence based. The report found that many young people with disability:
…have extremely poor post school transition experiences. This is impacting negatively on life outcomes where there is low participation in employment and tertiary study and social exclusion remains high. While there are pockets of good post school transition practice, generally programs and preparation for this transition are fragmented with minimal coordination and guidance regarding what should occur during this time.
Mr Paul Cain of Inclusion Australia and Ms Stephanie Gotlib, Chief Executive Officer, Children and Young People with Disability Australia, were asked: ‘is the Australian school education system adequately supporting the learning of students with disability to prepare them to transition out of school?’ both answered, whilst acknowledging some pockets of excellence, ‘No’.
Students with disabilities face barriers almost as soon as they enter their school life. Blind Citizens Australia’s submission outlined the barriers that students who are blind or vision impaired face when they are required to sit the NAPLAN test along with their sighted peers:
NAPLAN can incorporate a range of visual elements and is not always able to be delivered in a way that meets the unique access needs of students who are blind or vision impaired. If a NAPLAN question asks a student about a 3D shape or includes a complex image, for example, a child who is blind can be disadvantaged because they do not have access to the same range of information as their sighted peers.
Vision Australia supported the view that NAPLAN is difficult for students who are blind or have low vision. In recommending better accessibility for such students to NAPLAN, their submission stated:
Students who are blind or have low vision are often left behind when measuring gain within schools. This is because the measurement methods have not been designed to be accessible. Without accurate student measurements, policy cannot be developed that genuinely accounts for the needs of students who are blind or have low vision. The lack of accessible measurements of gain also sends a message to students with disability that they are not a priority. Students flourish when supported and encouraged but exclusion is likely to increase a sense of isolation among students with disability.
Ms Kerrie Langford, Manager, National Employment Manager, National Disability Services spoke of a pervasive culture of ‘horizon-limiting expectations for young people with disability’.
Vision Australia explained that, historically, people who are blind or have low vision have been given career advice, based on a limited view of their ability, to enter occupations such as call centre jobs, social work or therapeutic massage. Vision Australia recommends an approach that deals with each individual on a case by case basis and they point out that:
People who are blind work in a variety of disciplines and can acquire a variety of qualifications. While the abilities of people who are blind can be vast and varied, they require great drive, ambition and support to achieve these things as the societal barriers that exist in terms of access to information, access to mainstream technologies and access to public spaces can sometimes make students and job seekers give up.
For Vision Australia:
The challenge when providing information and career counselling to students who are blind or have low vision, is balancing aspirational goals with realistic goals. Counsellors must provide accurate and realistic information to students while maintaining the student’s sense of ambition and their right to pursue career goals that are not typical for people with vision impairments and which may harbour challenges.
This accessibility issue is not limited to NAPLAN and Vision Australia explained that all information offered to students who are blind or have low vision must be in accessible formats such as large print, audio, electronic or braille. Post school education information should include detail on whether a course and any expected employment outcome is accessible to someone who is blind or has low vision.
Ms Langford explained to the Committee that there is very little assistance provided to students with a disability at a young age and emphasised the importance of connecting:
…a young person with disability to the world of work before they leave school, they are most likely to be employed the day after they leave school and also most likely to be employed by the time they get to 25. All the research demonstrates that. So early intervention is absolutely key to young people with disability.
This point was also made by Ms Taye Morris, Manager, Careers and Employment, University of New South Wales Sydney. Ms Morris explained that gaps in career advice for high school students transitioning into university and employment is exacerbated for students with special needs or disabilities. She said there is:
…a desperate need for these students to have a much higher level of career advice, support and education at the point of high school when choosing a degree.
Ms Morris went on to state that, whilst it is important that students with disabilities complete degrees, they should be doing so with the idea of participating in the workforce, and that these students:
… need a lot more support at the transition into university, then throughout their time at university and then transitioning into the workforce.
Ms Langford explained the importance of after school work for a student with a disability:
Quite frankly, after-school work is a rite of passage for young people. I think all young people aspire to have an after-school job at McDonalds or Dominoes, all of which are really good training ground for our young people. So what we are actually experiencing is young people with disability leaving school and competing for exactly the same jobs as young people who have had the after-school job and don't have a disability. And guess who an employer picks first, every single time.
Once a student with disability has decided on a career that they want to enter or, at least, pursue work experience, they are faced with the challenge, pointed out by AND’s submission, that employers can have concerns that ‘hiring people with disability can be associated with increased risk and cost’.
Mr Cain informed the Committee of some of the nuances in the process of finding a job for young people with an intellectual disability:
…it's a different way of finding jobs for people with intellectual disabilities. It's not seeking advertised vacancies; it's negotiating a customised job where you're trying to find a position that's going to help the employer but also fit the young person. It's a very different skill set. And then you have to teach the job on-the-job, and that's a different skill set again. That's having to know how to do explicit instruction and break down jobs into pieces and teach different components, and then you have to know how to provide long-term ongoing support to deal with change and those kinds of things. So when we talk about capacity, we talk about the support being provided because that's the glue that makes it work. That's the glue that creates the successful long-term job sustainability from school to work.
The evidence above highlights that in order for students with disability to successfully transition to work a respect for the abilities of students with disability and provision of documentation and services in a way that is accessible coupled with early intervention and careful planning and assistance by someone with knowledge of disability is needed.
The CYDA Post School Transition: The experiences of students with disability report made seven national recommendations and the Committee draws particular attention to the first recommendation which requires that there be a quality post school transition process whose core requirements must include:
transition planning to begin early, by Year 9;
planning to be person-centred;
high expectations to be embedded throughout the process;
work experience opportunities and the facilitation of part time work - connections with local businesses and employers will be essential for this;
foundational skills to be addressed;
career development planning to take place; and
follow up with young people post school.
This recommendation by CYDA addresses many of this issues brought to the Committee’s attention.
National disability insurance scheme
The Committee feels it is important to present the following statement, in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Vision Australia’s submission:
It is too early to tell whether the NDIS will lead to the economic participation benefits that were predicted.
There are a number of reasons why increased economic participation flowing on from the NDIS may take some time.
NDIS-funded initiatives to engage community and businesses to improve employment outcomes for people with disability have not occurred yet.
The NDIS will have a greater effect as time goes on.
…given the NDIS is continuing to evolve, it should not yet be relied upon as the solution to successful school to work transition for people who are blind or have low vision.
The Committee received one submission that specifically dealt with the issues that students with caring responsibilities face when at school and when transitioning from school to work. Carers ACT’s stated:
Young carers risk ongoing socioeconomic disadvantage because of their lower education completion and workforce participation. Appropriate support to reduce this disadvantage is required to allow young carers to enjoy similar life opportunities to transition into adulthood as non-carers. It is well recognised that education, particularly higher education, is directly linked with employment and an income that determines economic and social participation in the community.
Ms Lisa Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Carers ACT Ltd, told the Committee that:
Various reports indicate that, although a minority of young people, young carers are in need of additional support. Given the relatively small group of young people involved in intensive caring, estimated to be around 8,500, investment in targeted policies and programs to provide additional formal support for the young person in need of care, and also provide better support for these young carers to participate fully in school, could make a real difference to the lifetime educational prospects of this group of young people.
The Carers ACT submission sets out many Australian Government programs designed to support young carers. These provide money, support and help in transition to work.
Whilst young carers require money, time and flexible studying options, the most important thing they need is a champion. Ms Kelly stated:
We need to find people outside of the home and outside of the parent group that can champion those young people, who can show them that life can be something different. Now, I liked your question before about where we start to see young people, where you start talking to them about, 'You could get a certificate, run your own business, be your own boss and work the hours you want to work', where they are starting to go, 'Hang on. I can combine these things together and I can be successful in those sorts of things.' Certainly ecommerce has been a place where we have seen young carers start to go, 'Hang on. I can do more here.'
Carers ACT made three recommendations as follows:
Carers ACT recommends that in line with the Young Carer Bursary Program evaluation the Australian Government continues:
to invest in the Young Carer Bursary Program as a priority young carer initiative;
increases the program funding to increase the number of young carer bursaries, particularly younger young carers with extensive caring responsibilities; and
implement a strategy to increase the number of female young carer bursary recipients.
Carers ACT recommends that in line with the Inquiry’s aim to support young people continue education and transition to employment that:
all Australian Governments invest in the development and implementation of a national young carer education framework or strategy to better identify and respond to young carers’ education support needs, including mandatory young carer identification at enrolment
that the Australian Government monitors and identifies unmet needs in the Young Carers Respite and Information Services initiative and implements measures to provide early intervention access for at risk young carers to ensure they continue and complete their secondary education
that the Australian Government invests in and commits funding to meet the service demands of the Young Carers Respite and Information Services initiative to young carers in need.
Carers ACT recommends that as a priority the Australian Government rethinks the way it determines its young carer policies so that young carers are identified and supported at the beginning of and along their caring path with timely, responsive and appropriate interventions to ensure that they complete their education and transition to further study or employment, while maintaining their caring role.
The Committee notes that the Young Carer Bursary Program Evaluation has been completed.
The Young Carers Respite and Information Services:
… assists students with a significant caring role who need support to complete their secondary education or the vocational equivalent due to the demands of their caring role.
The Young Carers activity is a targeted measure and seeks to supplement existing programs and services, not replace them.
The activity has two components:
Respite and education support services – assists students up to and including 18 years of age with a significant caring role to access respite and age appropriate educational support. These services are delivered by the national network of 54 Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres (CRCCs).
Information, referral and advice services – supports students with a significant caring role up to and including 25 years of age with information, advice and referral services, including referral to counselling. These services are delivered by Carers Australia and the network of state and territory Carers Associations.
The evidence received highlights the resilience that young carers in Australia show and notes the programs that the Australian Government has in place to assist young carers.
Whilst the Committee acknowledges the important programs the Australian Government has in place to support students with disability in their post school transition the evidence is clear that more needs to be done.
In this context the Committee was heartened by the Ticket to Work program. This program shows the importance of individual engagement, engagement with employers and work experience in assisting students with disability into post school employment. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government Department of Social Services continue to support Ticket to Work.
In the absence of the Committee conducting an inquiry of its own specifically targeted to the school to work transition of students with disabilities, it feels it is important for it to adopt the first recommendation made in the CYDA report Post School Transition: The experiences of students with disability.
The Committee was concerned with evidence that information and testing such as NAPLAN offered to students who are blind or have low vision is provided and carried out in an accessible manner. It is important that this be corrected and the Committee makes recommendations in this area.
Noting the NDIS is continuing to evolve, the Committee echoes the words of Vision Australia that it ‘should not yet be relied upon as the solution to successful school to work transition for people who are blind or have low vision’. The Committee would extend this caveat to all people with disabilities.
Given that an employee registered with DES can only claim Restart money ($10,000) but not the Youth or Youth Bonus ($6,500) the Committee would recommend that the wage subsidies Youth Bonus and Youth be open to employees who are registered with Disability Employment Services.
In chapter four, the Committee acknowledged and agreed with evidence regarding importance of career advisors. The Committee extends this view to career advisors, who are appropriately trained in assisting and advising students with disabilities.
Young carers are definitely remarkable people. They deal with the usual stresses of education and transition to employment, in a situation in which they must take the care needs of another person, often a parent or a sibling, into account. Given this, the Committee endorses many of the recommendations as set out by Carers ACT.
Having regard to the evidence above the Committee makes the following recommendations:
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Department of Social Services continue to support Ticket to Work.
The Committee recommends that Australian governments, through COAG, draft model legislation to ensure students with disability can access a person-centered post-school transition process, beginning as early as Year 9 and including:
work experience opportunities and the facilitation of part time work –connections with local businesses and employers will be essential for this;
foundational skills to be addressed;
career development planning to take place; and,
follow up with young people post school.
The Committee recommends that measurements of gain within schools, such as NAPLAN, are made accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.
The Committee recommends, in relation to students who are blind or have low vision, that all information offered to students about further education, training and employment outcomes is provided in accessible formats.
The Committee recommends that career advisors be appropriately trained in assisting and advising students with disabilities and students who are carers.
The Committee recommends that the wage subsidies Youth Bonus and Youth be open to employees who are registered with Disability Employment Services.
The Committee recommends that:
all Australian Governments invest in the development and implementation of a national young carer education framework or strategy to better identify and respond to young carers’ education support needs, including mandatory young carer identification at enrolment;
the Australian Government monitors and identifies unmet needs in the Young Carers Respite and Information Services initiative and implements measures to provide early intervention access for at risk young carers to ensure they continue and complete their secondary education; and
the Australian Government invests in and commits funding to meet the service demands of the Young Carers Respite and Information Services initiative to young carers in need.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government rethinks the way it determines its young carer policies so that young carers are identified and supported at the beginning of and along their caring path with timely, responsive and appropriate interventions to ensure that they complete their education and transition to further study or employment, while maintaining their caring role.
Mr Andrew Laming MP