Disability and finding work
A word from our Acting CEO, Brad Webb:
Have you been watching the ABC’s documentary series “Employable Me”? I have. And over the last few weeks it has given me an insight into the lives of a group of people with neuro diverse conditions as they strive to find work.
The show brought to light some of the challenges people with disabilities face when securing work experience and open employment.
Samaritans currently runs a supported employment arm that gives wrap-around support and employment to people with mental health conditions and/or disabilities. The aim is to develop the skills and confidence of those wanting to enter the workforce but who request the extra support. Some are working to a goal of attaining open employment while others appreciate the supported employment environment.
Following the Employable Me series, we spoke with two of our current supported employees, Tanya and Brendan, to get their insights on what it’s like to look for work.
Tanya | 37
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18 and up to the age of 26 I didn’t understand it and didn’t have good people around me. I’d go on and off my medication. I was homeless a couple of times for about 3 months each time. It’s fine in the summer because you sleep on the beach but in winter it’s just so cold.
In 2007 I got out of hospital and my case worker asked if I wanted a job and I had an interview with Samaritans at Monet’s (catering).
Before I got sick I did two seasons grape picking in Mildura, I worked meatworks at Esperance and did motel cleaning. My employers didn’t know I had a mental illness, back then schizophrenia was labelled like a “psycho person” and there was no support.
When I started at Samaritans I found it was the nicest job I’d had; you can ask questions and you get help when you need it. It’s a good support network. If I get a letter or anything I don’t understand they help me.
I did a lot of certificates at Monet’s – Certificate III in Hospitality, Introduction to Barista, sandwich training and chemical training. The food was really good, I got fat!
When Monet’s shut down 3 years ago Samaritans offered me the cleaning job. It gives me something to do to get out and about and gets me extra money. My hours vary but I do around 26-30 hours/fortnight and get to be a fill in too if someone is sick.
It’s good that [disability] is talked about more now. You see the disability ads on TV and people are starting to get jobs and get out and about into the community. I like my job now but if I wanted to change it’d be easier if I can talk about my sickness to my employer so they’d know why some days I’m down or tired. Everybody’s different and that’s ok.
Brendan | 30
I’ve been on the disability pension since I was 16 and I dropped out of school because of issues with my back and chronic pain; it makes things harder for me. I’ve got an intellectual disability and I was raised slower than my peers so that made working at school always hard and I always struggled.
I lived in America for a while and I’ve only had 2 jobs since living back in Australia. The first one I got straight away, I was a gardener for two days a week, but I didn’t get along with my boss, she was pretty mean. She told me to lose weight or I’d lose my job.
Where I’m at now I couldn’t ask for anything better. My managers at Samaritans make everything such a breeze, if there’s anything I’ve got going on that I need to deal with they make sure to help. Everybody’s given the time of day. It makes life so much easier.
Eventually I’d like to get a full-time job and get off the Disability Support Pension. It would make me more independent and I could get my own house, and I think there are other people that could benefit from the Pension other than me.
TV shows like [Employable Me] are opening people’s eyes. Sometimes what might look like someone’s weakness is actually a real strength. Many people are being overlooked just because we’ve got a disability or we’re different. I hope in the future I can go for a job and tell my employer I’ve got a disability and it wouldn’t be a problem. The show makes people see that people with disabilities can do anything; if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
Tanya and Brendan’s tremendous stories reinforce for me the responsibility we have as an organisation to make an impact for people through employment. So much so that is embedded in our new Strategic Plan, ‘for all people’.
In our ENABLING pillar, you will see reference to the development of a Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). Currently 5% of the people we employ identify as having a disability and the DIAP will assist us to grow that percentage and benefit from the rich diversity and skill that people with disabilities have to offer.
And we have not only made a commitment to people with disabilities. In our INSPIRING pillar, we have set a goal of developing pathways for people who access any of our services to engage in employment opportunities with Samaritans.
We are committed to having an impact on the lives of the people we support. Meaningful and secure employment is one way we can achieve that.