Equal Pay, Equal Respect: we call on the next Australian Government to create real employment opportunities for people with an intellectual disability

With disability issues a key focus of the 2022 Federal Election campaign, Inclusion Australia is calling on the next Australian Government to make employment of people with an intellectual disability a priority.   

Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice committee – all people with an intellectual disability from across the country – have picked employment as the key policy area they want to campaign on for this Federal election. Our Voice believe that more people with an intellectual disability should have the opportunity to work in regular jobs, and earn money they can use in their lives. 

“People with disabilities have the right to work in the open job market like anyone else and get the training and support they need; this means no more sheltered employment.” – Our Voice, May 2022

People with an intellectual disability are excluded from open and self-employment, and their families face a significant workload to support them. 

The current employment policies are not working for people with an intellectual disability and their families, and big changes are needed. 

  • Just 14–18% of people with intellectual disability aged between 15–64 are in full or part-time employment
  • 60% of people in that group were not in the labour market at all
  • Just 29% of people with an intellectual disability who get NDIS supports are in paid employment (over 25 years old)
  • 77% of those are employed in a sheltered workshop or Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) 

The Disability Royal Commission also recently heard that people with an intellectual disability are being paid just $2.50 an hour for their work. We do not think this is fair or respectful. People with an intellectual disability should be paid a fair wage for their work.

We talked with and listened to people with an intellectual disability, their families, our members, disability advocates, academics, and disability employment service providers to develop a range of policies that will:

  • reduce segregated employment
  • create more open and self-employment opportunities
  • make it easier to get and maintain open and self-employment for people with an intellectual disability and their families.  
  • help remove the barriers that people with an intellectual disability and their families experience when looking for work. 

We believe our plan will create real change in the lives of people with an intellectual disability and their families, as well as making a significant economic return by investing in inclusion. 

Read our plan in full here: Equal Pay Equal Respect – Inclusion Australia’s Federal Election platform 2022

Read our plan in Easy Read here: Equal Pay Equal Respect – Inclusion Australia’s Election Platform 2022 – Easy Read


Disability a key issue in upcoming Federal Election

Commitments on disability issues from both major parties demonstrates that the rights of people with disability are a growing concern for Australian voters. This is a powerful testament to the work and strong voices of people with disability, their families and disability advocates who campaigned for the NDIS and continue to fight for more inclusive Australia.

As the national peak body for people with an intellectual disability and their families we strongly welcome today’s commitment by Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, of $8 million in funding for the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health. This significant and critical announcement is an important step in addressing health inequality for people with an intellectual disability. It follows sustained campaigning by the disability community, and in particular work by the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). The Centre is a critical component of the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability. The announcement also includes a further $20 million commitment by the Australian Government for much needed intellectual disability health research.

Jim Simpson, CID Senior Advocate said “the funding announced by the Minister will allow the establishment of a Centre with solid foundations and for important research into practical strategies for improving health care for a very disadvantaged population. While the initial funding of the Centre is only for 2 years, we will be working with government to make it ongoing.”

The announcement followed the launch yesterday in Melbourne of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) election platform for people with disabilities by Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Bill Shorten. This includes a series of measures around the operation of the NDIS, as well as support for the National Disability Strategy and a National Autism Strategy.

Inclusion Australia welcomes the ALPs focus on the NDIS. We agree on the need for more consistency in planning. People with an intellectual disability and their families want the NDIS to be secure, steady and responsive.

We are pleased to see a pledge to strengthen co-design in the NDIS. All scheme changes need to be co-designed with people with disability – including increasing opportunities for leadership and involvement of people with an intellectual disability.

We also cautiously welcome the ALPs proposal for increasing funding for disability advocacy. Our community has long argued for individual and systemic advocacy funding to help people navigate complicated processes, and to make systems easier to use and work more efficiently. We look forward to more detail on the nature of the proposed increase.

Inclusion Australia also supports the ALP election focus on employment with ‘an evidence-based Centre of Excellence to get more people with disability into long-term jobs’. However, such a Centre must also ensure that people are paid proper award wages for their work, including people with an intellectual disability. Further, work must be done in parallel to break up the ‘polished pathway’ from schools into segregated workplaces.

Catherine McAlpine, CEO, Inclusion Australia said: ‘Whoever forms government after the election, we want to make sure people with an intellectual disability are more included in the community. In particular, changes to the NDIS must stop the polished pathway to segregation that many people experience.

Changes to NDIS Supported Independent Living must not leave people with disability worse off

Inclusion Australia is concerned about announcements this week about changes to home and living supports, and in particular changes to Supported Independent Living (or SIL) for people with disability who use the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

As the national peak body for people with an intellectual disability and their families, we welcome discussion and actions to improve NDIS systems and processes and make it easier for people with disabilities to access the supports they need to live their lives.

However, any changes must reflect the very real challenges experienced by people with disability and be developed in partnership with the disability community to avoid leaving people without essential supports.

SIL is a primary support for people with an intellectual disability. This includes many people who have been institutionalised all their life and those who have complex support needs. These are the very people the NDIS was designed to support.

We and other disability representative organisations are regularly hearing anecdotal reports around cuts to SIL in people’s NDIS packages. We are naturally cautious that the changes to SIL are being rushed through in a climate of ongoing concerns expressed by the Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency about scheme sustainability and reducing costs.

This should not be the driver for change, nor should announcements that fit in with the election cycle. 

We are also concerned about the move to ‘step down’ or reduce the supports for people with disability where they live.

Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine said “Whilst we believe there is a sincerity to make the scheme work better, we fear that these changes are being rushed through. We do not wish to see changes that will mean people are left with insufficient supports. This will lead services to cut corners and will result in a decrease in the freedoms and rights of people with disability.”

“We also want to see more consideration of other safeguards people need, including funded independent support for decision-making that ensure people are not being forced into making ‘choices’ against their best interests.”

It is also critical that other parts of the system work to support the aims of the NDIS. People with disability are part of the broader Australian community.  Inclusion Australia calls for all states and territories to increase the range of accessible, social and public housing options. Without this, people ‘stepping down’ from SIL to an Independent Living Options (ILO) package will end up languishing in dangerous and insecure accommodation such as boarding houses.

Scheme sustainability is vital to the success of the NDIS. However, changes must be co-designed and implemented in partnership with scheme participants and disabled peoples organisations. To do otherwise only creates new problems and puts the lives of people with disability at risk.


No excuse for shocking abuse of Ann-Marie Smith

Inclusion Australia is appalled by comments made by the legal team representing the disability support worker who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Adelaide woman, Ann-Marie Smith. Ms Smith died as a result of shocking neglect in 2020.  

Speaking as part of the sentencing hearing for former support worker Rosa Maria Maione, lawyer Stephen Ey made a series of highly offensive statements suggesting that Ms Smith was in some way responsible for the horrific abuse that led to her death. 

As a community we must be very clear: nothing can excuse the neglect and abuse of Ann-Marie Smith by the worker who was being paid to support her. This is pure victim blaming.  

“We cannot stand by and listen to these kinds of comments about people with disability,” said Inclusion Australia CEO, Catherine McAlpine.  

“It is outrageous that the language of choice and control is being used to justify the appalling neglect and abuse of Ms Smith. When a person with disability is in pain, or is unwell, disability support workers must still make sure they have the vital personal care they need.”  

All people with disability have the right to be safe and to get the supports they need, from workers who provide professional, dignified care. 

As the late disability advocate Dave Hingsburger famously observed, disability support workers are ‘not friends, not family.’  

Many people with disability have good, highly positive relationships with their essential support workers. However, all support workers are still being paid to do an important job. This includes a responsibility to be professional, and to understand and respect personal boundaries.

There can be no excuse for poor care – or much worse as was the tragic case for Ann-Marie Smith – and the disability community will not stay silent when suggested otherwise.  

End Deadly Disability Discrimination now! Inclusion Australia and partners call for implementation of the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability.

In the uncertainty of an election year, Inclusion Australia and partners are calling on all political parties to guarantee commitment to the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability.

Evidence heard at the Disability Royal Commission showed that people with intellectual disability die up to 27 years earlier than people without disability. Many of these deaths are from potentially avoidable causes.

As the national representative body for people with an intellectual disability and their families we applaud the Australian Government’s support for the development of the Roadmap and commitment in August 2021 to funding its rollout. This includes a commitment to establish a National Centre of Excellence on the Health of People with Intellectual Disability, which is already underway in consultation with our community.

The Roadmap was developed by the Department of Health through a highly collaborative process. This included a series of roundtables with people with an intellectual disability, families, and representatives, as well as academic and health experts. As a result, it is very much in line with what was advocated for in the Our Health Counts campaign by the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) and Inclusion Australia in collaboration with Down Syndrome Australia, the Australian Association for Developmental Disability Medicine and the Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry at UNSW.

The Roadmap also has the support of a range of leading people with intellectual disability and family members, disability advocacy, health and service provider organisations, the Consumers Health Forum of Australia, representatives of key professional colleges and associations, leaders in health education, Primary Health Networks and relevant Commonwealth and State and Territory health and disability agencies.

Today we stand with them, and over 100 prominent voices from across the disability community to call for support from all political parties and independents to implement the Roadmap and “urgently address the stark and sometimes deadly health inequalities faced by people with intellectual disabilities”.

“This call comes at a critical time for people with an intellectual disability,” said Catherine McAlpine, CEO of Inclusion Australia. “The current COVID-19 pandemic has brutally exposed the reality of health inequality in for people with an intellectual disability. Reports from the United Kingdom have highlighted the death rate from COVID for people with learning [intellectual] disabilities aged 18-30 as up to 30 times higher than for those without an intellectual disability.”

“We and our members have been active and provided clear advice to the Australian Government on the need for targeted interventions to support our community. As we enter a third year of life with COVID-19, a national commitment to better meeting the health needs of people with an intellectual disability is still urgently required.”

For more on how you can get involved in the campaign, please visit cid.org.au/our-campaigns/end-deadly-disability-discrimination-2/

SACID Leading Through Inclusion Conference

SACID Conference 2022

SACID is running a conference!

The conference is called Leading Through Inclusion.

It is for:

  • People with intellectual disability
  • Families and caregivers
  • Anyone who wants to create an inclusive community.

Put this date in your diary now.

9 – 10 June 2022.

More information coming soon.

Contact SACID on (09) 9352 4415 or email [email protected]