Thursday, 18 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. The Morrison government has a proud record of supporting Australians with a disability to participate in the social and economic life of our nation. Can the minister advise the Senate as to how the government is driving our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting people with autism to find and keep a job?
I thank Senator Hughes for her question. The Morrison government is absolutely committed to getting as many people with a disability into employment as we can. But despite the improvements we've seen over the past seven years, there still remain many barriers to employment for people who live with autism. There are still way too many people with autism who are either unemployed or underemployed. That's why, as part of the election campaign in 2019, we made a commitment to support people with autism to not just find a job but to keep a job. We know that people who live with autism have a wide range of strengths and skills, and we need to make sure that we get the message out to employers about the benefits that they can achieve for their businesses and the long-lasting improvements they can have in their businesses by employing people with autism.
Just last week, Senator Hughes was part of an announcement around funding for two new projects that will encourage businesses to become 'autism-confident employers'. Firstly, doughnut bakery and social enterprise Krofne, along with Whitmur Advisors and GenU Training, have received $200,000 to work together to develop two accredited training programs for the hospitality industry. So people with autism will be able to undertake training to help them navigate the fast paced and often rapidly changing environment in a real-world situation. With more than 50 per cent of its workforce being people with intellectual disabilities, Krofne bakery is a leader in the Canberra region for disability employment—and I know that Senator Zed Seselja is a great supporter of this business and what they do. The Krofne bakery started in the first place because the owners' son has Down syndrome and they decided it was very, very important that their child had a meaningful job that he loved. I'm reliably informed, not just by—
We already know, through our figures, that there will be a growing number of young people leaving school with autism. The fact is that autism is the highest represented category in the NDIS. It's very important that this government continues to focus on helping this particular group of people to successfully transition out of school and into employment. That's why the Dandelion program, which has been a fantastic success in conjunction with DXC Technology, will receive further funding of $1.5 million so that we can expand this particular project. Work has already commenced on developing a suite of autism specific training tools for disability employment service providers, and participants and employers, which will target disability employment service providers so that they can understand the specific benefits of supporting people with autism into a work environment.
Thank you, Minister Ruston—as a very confident autism employer, it is very much appreciated. How is the disability employment service program supporting Australians with a disability to find work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Disability employment service providers play a very, very important role in assisting people who live with disability to get jobs and to stay in jobs. As part of the original announcement by the government in March supporting people with disability and recognising the challenges that the COVID crisis was going to present to them, we announced a $61 million funding package to support disability employment services to ensure that they were able to continue to provide support to people with disability through this unprecedented time.
Disability service providers are reporting strong numbers of people who are being placed into employment and supported in jobs for in excess of 26 weeks. We know that if we can get somebody into work for a longer period of time, the chances of them remaining in employment are so much higher than they otherwise would be.