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Call for Royal Commission into abuse of people with disability

Media Release:  

“As a woman with an intellectual disability, I can say that abuse from people who were supposed to be caring for me has had a very bad long term impact on my life”, says Heather Forsyth. 

Ms Forsyth is Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice Chairperson and knows first-hand the devastating impact abuse and violence against people with disability has on lives.

Inclusion Australia and its member organisations are supporting the call for a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability. And pressure is mounting for the Government to step up and do the same, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin, today also calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability.

“Every single week, Inclusion Australia hears stories of abuse, bullying and violence – this happens in disability services, schools and our community – it must stop”, says Kevin Stone, Chairperson of Inclusion Australia.

“People with intellectual disability suffer human rights abuses every day such as neglect, lack of access to appropriate care as well as physical and sexual abuse. It is just not acceptable”, he says.

A Royal Commission is essential in hearing the voices of people with disability, in particular intellectual disability, who haven’t been given adequate opportunity to voice their experiences and who are the sufferers of alarming and widespread violence and abuse.

The rate of violence for people with disability is three times the national average. It’s an epidemic. Stories from a mother whose son with an intellectual disability was “assaulted, starved and neglected” in care are shocking – but all too common.

More than 90% of women with disability who have severe communication difficulties, have experienced sexual abuse. This is absolutely horrific”, Kevin Stone says.

A Royal Commission is critical to providing a comprehensive, independent, and just response to all forms of violence and abuse against people with disability.

“A Royal Commission will not only bring justice for the many victims but will also be a powerful mechanism in working towards a future where people with intellectual disability can be free from abuse.  Inclusion Australia join an army of voices from people with disability and their families, human rights advocates, academics and healthcare professionals in calling for this to happen now”, Kevin Stone says.

Inclusion Australia urges the Government to call a Royal Commission into this critical issue now. People with intellectual disability in Australia deserve nothing less.

For more information please contact Kevin Stone on 0418 562 922 or Aine Healy on 0418 450 717.

Inclusion Australia is the national and leading voice on issues of importance to people with intellectual disability in Australia. Inclusion Australia brings together Members from across Australia, all of who are connected locally to people with intellectual disability and who are committed to the vision of inclusion.


People with intellectual disability need quality mental health services not to be ignored

The Commonwealth Government has just release the National Mental Health Plan for comment, and people with intellectual disability are not even mentioned in the 77 page draft.  This omission defies belief in view of the terrible mental health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disability and the highlighting of the need for action on these in recent years.

We urge you to speak up for people for people with intellectual disability!

See for how you can have your say – by going to a consultations meeting, filling in a feedback survey or making a submission.

Feel free to use our arguments on why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability  and how it can do that.  –

Why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability?

  • Approximately 150,000 people with intellectual disability have mental disorders but poor access to appropriate mental health care.
  • The COAG National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 specifically calls for universal mental health initiatives to address the needs of people with disability.
  • The National Roundtable on the Mental Health of People with Intellectual Disability 2013 endorsed eight key elements of an effective response:
  1. The needs of people with intellectual disability and a mental disorder are specifically accommodated in all mental health initiatives.
  • The NSW Mental Health Commission included a specific and detailed focus on intellectual disability mental health in its 10 year strategic plan for mental health in NSW.

How the plan should include people with intellectual disability  

 The plan should:

  1. Include a focus on the research in relation to poor mental health of people with intellectual disability.
  1. Include “people with intellectual disability” in the list of groups whose specific needs should be considered when implementing the plan.  Already listed are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex people; and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  1. Include specific measures through the plan so that the needs of these equity  groups are in fact acted upon. Without specific measures, the plan’s call for equity is likely to be little more than a motherhood statement.  This is the experience of people with intellectual disability and their families over many decades.

In particular, specific measures to ensure inclusion of equity groups are needed in the draft plans sections on:

  • Priority area 1: integrated regional planning and service delivery
  • Priority area 7: safety and quality in mental health care
  • Monitoring and reporting on reform progress

Priority area 2 : coordinated treatment and supports for people with severe and complex mental illnesses:

  • The plan should address that people with intellectual disability often have complex mental illnesses due to difficulties with communication and diagnosis and the interplay between the mental illness, the intellectual disability and the person’s social circumstances.
  • Include people with intellectual disability who also have a mental illness in the discussion about the interplay between the roles of mental health services and the NDIS. In the draft plan, the focus on the NDIS does not address the issues arising for people who have a primary intellectual disability but also a mental disorder. The focus is concentrated on people who have a primary psychosocial disability.
  1. Priority area five: physical healthof people living with mental health issues
    Include a focus on working with the NDIS on physical health issues for people with mental illnesses. Improved health and well-being is one of the key outcome measures being used by the NDIS in its outcomes framework.
  1. Priority area six: stigma and discrimination reduction
    Include a specific focus on discrimination against people with intellectual disability in the mental health workforce. For people with intellectual disability, their mental health needs notoriously go untreated on the assumption that the behaviour resulting from the mental health problem in fact flows from the intellectual disability.
  1. INCLUDE A SPECIFIC PRIORITY AREA ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY! The NSW Strategic Plan for Mental Health 2014-2024 includes specific sections focused on people with intellectual disability and other equity groups. If NSW can do it, so can Australia!

(The material was prepared by NSWCID which takes the lead on health issues for people with intellectual disability on behalf of all Inclusion Australia’s members)


Commonwealth takes NDIS back to the ‘bad old days’ …

Minister Porter’s unilateral action in appointing new Board members to the NDIS has cast a shadow over the successful implementation of the NDIS.

“Inclusion Australia’s strong support for the NDIS was largely based on the belief that the new scheme would end decades of ‘bickering’ between the States and Commonwealth over meeting the daily support needs of people with disability; cooperation not competition. Minister Porter’s authoritarian approach will destroy the co-operation that has been built up to date and replace it with a new Centrelink, currently in the spotlight for its adverse treatment of people with severe disabilities”, says Mr Kevin Stone, President.

The States and Territories must be equal partners in NDIS. This is the only way in which people with disability and their families will have a direct say in how the Scheme works or not for them as this is where trusted relationships currently exist.

Inclusion Australia calls on the Commonwealth Government to genuinely consult with the States and Territories. As a matter of urgency the Commonwealth must re-establish the cooperative spirit of the NDIS and build the trust of people with disability and their families. Without this the NDIS will just become another Commonwealth department with all the inherent faults of a political and centralized bureaucracy.


If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Mark Pattison at 0407 406 647 or email at

Full media statement

When you get the right employment support good things happen!

21 DES services for people with intellectual disability show the way forward

People with significant intellectual disability can work in the open labour market when they get the right support.

The DES Outcome Rates by Disability Type report shows that some DES providers are achieving high rates of open employment outcomes for people with intellectual disability.

Twenty-one (21) providers are achieving 26-week employment outcome rates greater than fifty percent (>50%) for people with intellectual disability, with the highest performing provider achieving eighty-four percent (84%).

The highest performing provider had the following distinguishing features;

  1. Structured job search to customise a job specifically for a person with intellectual disability and building a compelling business case to the employer.
  2. Undertaking job analysis to establish the employer’s needs for job performance.
  3. Systematic job training by qualified staff at the work site to achieve the required job performance.
  4. Ongoing support with the employer and employee to maintain the quality of the job.

DES providers that adopt evidence based employment support for people with intellectual disability are demonstrating high rates of employment outcomes from 5 to 8 out of 10 persons with intellectual disability getting jobs that last at least six months.

The Commonwealth should be congratulated for;

  • focusing on rewarding providers who achieve good results,
  • introducing consequences for providers who achieve poor results, and,
  • publishing provider results by disability type, and creating an informed market.

The Executive Director of Inclusion Australia (formerly the National Council on Intellectual Disability), Mr Mark Pattison said,

“High performing DES providers deserve our recognition for their excellence in assisting people with intellectual disability get and keep jobs in the open labour market. It is encouraging to see a growing number of providers achieving 26-week employment outcome rates beyond 50%.”

These results indicate that future reform of Disability Employment Services must ensure that good practice remains viable and expanded to reach a greater number of people with intellectual disability across all regions who need the right support to get a job in the open labour market.

For inquires, contact Mark Pattison;; 0407 406 647

Full statement including table

A national inclusive employment plan for people with intellectual disability


Inclusion Australia welcomes the Willing To Work National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability report from Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan.

We agree that we must do something to address the poor rates of employment participation of people with intellectual disability in Australia.

We call on the Commonwealth to develop a national strategy based on what works in collaboration with Inclusion Australia to lift the participation rate of people with intellectual disability.

Just 8% of adults with intellectual disability in receipt of national disability services work in the open labour market, despite decades of research and demonstration finding this group can successfully work in the open labour market when provided with the right support.

People with intellectual disability are currently subject to a system that underestimates their capacity to work, and fails to provide skilled providers across all regions.

The Commonwealth’s evaluation of Disability Employment Services found that:

Research and practice in the field has shown that with the right level and type of support, people with significant intellectual disability can achieve more substantial employment. After 30 years of open employment provision in Australia, it is clear what works and what doesn’t in achieving outcomes for people with intellectual disability. 

Our plan — provided to the Commonwealth in 2015 — is focused on building competent open employment support. This support is critical to raising expectations, engaging employers, achieving outcomes, and providing savings to the Commonwealth.

The Centre for International Economics has estimated that national evidence based open employment support for people with significant intellectual disability would save the Commonwealth up to $53 million per year.

Our plan calls for a new open employment program which exclusively targets jobseekers with disability that are NDIS eligible.  A new support system must presume a capacity to work in the open labour market and provide evidence based support to give the best opportunity to lift the current poor participation rates.

The Federal Budget 2016 did not offer any indexation to the immediate concerns about Disability Employment Services (DES) funding. There has been no Indexation of DES funding since 2010 and this is putting the the viability of evidence based open employment support for people with intellectual at risk. There was also no discussion or decision from the Budget about the Commonwealth’s plans to develop a new national disability employment system.

Inclusion Australia, in partnership with Down Syndrome Australia, will be writing to all political parties as part of the We Can Work With the Right Support Campaign, to begin a national discussion to find a way forward to develop a long term national plan to lift the employment participation rates of people with intellectual disability.

Media Statement

16.05.09 – HRC and Budget Response

Supporting people with disability to have a good life must not be about politics

The request by the Commonwealth Government to State and Territory governments to cede the NDIS Agency’s Board nomination rights to the Commonwealth is not the ‘right way to go’ to ensure that the Australian community has a commitment to the NDIS and the substantial funds that it requires.

The States/Territories have a considerable financial stake in the NDIS and also provide a range of other services to people with disability, e.g., accommodations and health, and their commitment can only be assured if they have equal responsibility for the governance of the Scheme.

The current governance arrangements have successfully launched the NDIS, and as the Scheme goes through expansion and consolidation the skills, experience and capacity of Board members should be reviewed. This process will only be successfully accomplished through cooperation and negotiation involving all stakeholders, based on what is best to enable people with disability to have a good life and the appropriate governance of the NDIS and not with one party asserting its position.

The success of the NDIS is built on the cooperative efforts of people with disability, their families, the community and the leadership shown by all governments. The creative tension created by the involvement of the different parties has enabled the Scheme to roll out within an evidence based framework without the ideological / policy stance of any particular party or group prevailing. This governance arrangement has ensured the ongoing commitment of the Australian community to the increase in the medicare levy and the additional government resources that are needed for the full implementation of the Scheme.

Any attempt by one party to dominate the ongoing policy development and implementation of the Scheme places the NDIS is grave jeopardy of losing the community’s goodwill and hence its ongoing financial sustainability and viability.

Inclusion Australia calls on all governments to continue to work cooperatively to ensure the viability of the NDIS, the commitment of the broader Australian Community and the successful interrelationship of NDIS services with State/Territory services for people with disability.

Media Statement

budget logo

Budget 2015 summary

The information below outlines the announcements that accompanied the Budget 2015. Over the coming weeks we will be publishing the details related to each measure. 

I would like highlight the BETTER PATHWAYS initiative in the Employment section; we have been advocating for this initiative for over 12 months and it is pleasing that Minister Morrison and DSS have accepted our policy initiative and funded it! Congratulations Paul Cain.

For more information:

For more information about Department of Social Services’ Budget measures, visit the Department of Social Services website (

For information about the 2015 Budget, visit the Australian Government budget website (


People with disability contribute much to the workforce. They generally stay in jobs longer and take fewer sick days. The Government wants more people with disability to have to opportunity to work.

The 2015 Budget includes four measures to better support job seekers with disability and employers. These measures deliver a $25 million package over four years to begin shaping disability employment toward a new model in 2018.

The Government is also investing $17 million on business development to improve the viability of Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). This is part of a $189 million ADEs additional support package.

These initiatives will be delivered from 1 July 2015 until June 2019 to assist ADEs to be ready for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2019.

The funding will enable ADEs to use professional services to help them improve their sustainability and prepare for likely higher wage costs over time.

JobAccess Gateway

A new central information entry point will streamline employment services for job seekers with disability and potential employers.

It will provide a new online and telephone service with information about Government employment programmes and direct access to Disability Employment Services (DES).

The Gateway will streamline services and programmes and create a virtual disability employment marketplace through a new online and client relationship service centre.

Extensive support already exists to help potential employers hire people with disability, including funding for workplace modifications and wage subsidies. A lack of awareness about these supports in the broader job market, however, is a barrier to getting more people with disability into jobs.

The Gateway measure will cost $9 million over three years.

Better pathways

The Government will also provide better opportunities for young people with significant disability at a critical point in their lives, when they leave school.

Through a $2.2 million investment, up to six month’s DES support will be provided while a young person’s participation in a state or territory funded post-school employment or Transition to Work programme is finalised.

Empowering people with disability

Through a $14 million investment (from 1 January 2016), eligible employees of Australian Disability Enterprises will have access to DES provider support for up to two years while maintaining their ADE jobs.

Currently, people with disability must resign from their ADE to receive assistance from a DES provider.

This means an additional 300 people per year in ADEs will benefit from DES assistance to find a new job, doubling the numbers who already take up this opportunity under the existing arrangements.

This measure will remove barriers for people with disability in supported employment to move to open employment.

Employment benchmark

A new 23-hour employment benchmark for DES will be introduced.

This will remove an unintended consequence in the DES programme that allowed service providers to claim participants were working for 23-29 hours per week while placing them in a job of only 15 hours per week.

This will address jobseekers concerns of not getting a job with sufficient work hours and will lift expectations of DES service providers, helping people with disability reach their full employment potential and reduce their reliance on income support.

Key facts

  • The Government is providing $17 million to help improve the viability of Australian Disability Enterprises, securing future employment opportunities for people with disability.
  • The four disability employment measures will cost an estimated $25 million over four years.
  • The Job Access Gateway will be operational from 1 July 2016.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new way of providing support for eligible people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers.

The NDIS is currently being trialled across Australia and the Commonwealth and states are working to finalise details of the roll out of the NDIS to fully cover participating states and territories by 2019-20.

The 2015-16 Budget includes measures to effectively support the delivery of the NDIS as it rolls out across the country and a measure for early transition beyond the trial in
New South Wales.

NDIS full scheme technology

Before the Government can roll out the NDIS, the correct information and communications technology platform needs to be in place.

That’s why a new information and communications technology (ICT) system will support delivery of the NDIS when it replaces the current interim solution, which was never intended to service the Scheme long term.

The interim solution is not easily scalable to support the NDIS at full scheme and does not provide the full range of capabilities needed to support people with disability, their families and carers.

The new system will support about 460,000 participants when the NDIS is fully rolled out as well as service providers. It will provide enhanced data to the Australian Government and state and territory governments and streamline NDIS processes for people with disability.

The new system is estimated to cost $143 million over four years, with the Department of Human Services managing its implementation and integration.

Scheme roll-out

A carefully designed and staged roll out is critical to the national success of the NDIS.

The Australian and NSW Governments have signed an agreement to deliver disability supports for up to 2,000 young people up to 18 years of age in the Blue Mountains and Penrith from July 2015.

This agreement underscores the Australian Government’s commitment to introduce the NDIS in a carefully planned way across Australia, while also providing further opportunity to test features of the NDIS in advance of the ramp up from July 2016.

The Government has earmarked $20 million in 2015-16 so young people with disability in the Penrith and Blue Mountains area, and their families, can access information, referrals and capacity building through the National Disability Insurance Agency from July 2015, and individualised packages of support from September 2015.

Transfer of the Sector Development Fund

Responsibility for the Sector Development Fund (SDF) will transfer from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to the Department of Social Services.

This transfer will allow the NDIA to focus on its key responsibility of implementing the roll-out of support packages for people with a disability eligible for the NDIS.

This measure also includes some refinements to the transition arrangements for Commonwealth programmes in NDIS trials and the My Way trial in Western Australia, at an overall cost of $3.8 million.

Key facts

  • The new ICT system is estimated to cost $143 million over four years.
  • The Department of Human Services will manage its implementation and integration.
  • Young people with disability in the Penrith and Blue Mountains area of NSW can begin preparing for the NDIS from
  • July 2015.
  • The SDF facilitates development of the disability support sector in preparation for the new way of delivering disability services in the context of the NDIS.



Students with a disability will receive the extra support they need with a record $1.3 billion being provided in 2015–16, and more than $5 billion over 2014–17 through the funding loading for students with a disability.
From 2016, for the first time ever, Commonwealth funding will be informed by the National Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) so that all students with disability are funded on the same basis, regardless of the state or territory in which they live.


Senate Inquiry into Private VET Providers – IA submission

In Summary:

Inclusion Australia wants to ensure that youth with intellectual disability are treated with respect by the VET industry.

This requires that VET providers ensure that:

  • VET marketing strategies provide independent safeguards to ensure that students with intellectual disability make an informed decision and that the contract of service is valid.
  • Course offers and enrolment are relevant to the skills, competencies and preferences of students with intellectual disability;
  • Government funding is contingent on the achievement of outcomes; outcomes should include suitability, completion, and quality of training and assessment.
  • Marketing materials should include outcome indicator results including completion rates and graduate employment outcomes six months after training completion.


Committee Secretary
Senate Education and Employment Committees PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Committee Members

PO Box 771
Mawson ACT 2607
61 2 6296 4400

Inclusion Australia (formerly known as the National Council on Intellectual Disability) is the national peak organisation for people with intellectual disability and their families in Australia.

We would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to provide a late brief submission to this inquiry into the operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia.

In our view, the current regulatory and funding framework is insufficient to protect the rights and needs of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We are increasingly receiving feedback about the behaviour of some VET providers who prey on the vulnerability of youth with intellectual disability to gain access to government VET funding in return for little, if any, benefit to the student.

As a result youth are presented with offers of training in which;

  • they have difficulty in understanding the nature and consequences of such an offer;
  • are inappropriate in meeting their training and employment needs, and;
  • burdens them with a lifelong debt that provides little or nothing in return or benefit.

We realise that the government acknowledges that there are serious problems with the behaviour of some VET providers and is trying to address this abuse of youth and taxpayers money. We believe more needs to be done.If we may borrow the words of the Prime Minister, some in the VET system are playing us for “mugs”.(1) Inclusion Australia is now of the view that the government must do something to stop the rorts, and stop the abuse of young vulnerable people.

People with disability currently experience high levels of unemployment and underemployment.(2) It is vitally important that the generous government funding provided for education, training and employment programs provides value for money by demonstrating outcomes and employment participation rates for people with disabilities.

The following is a cross section of the kinds of reports we have received. We have modified the reports to remove names of individuals, VET providers, and other people and organisations, and also the locations or any other information that may identify the individuals or organisations in the reports we have received.


“An individual recently told me that he has been enrolled into a Diploma of Business Administration through a VET provider and that they will be providing him with a “free laptop”. According to the individual they went door-to-door and sold him on the idea of doing the course. The client was made aware during their discussions that the course wouldn’t cost anything if he never earns over $52,000 per annum. I have tried discussing the suitability of the course, in hopes of having the individual withdraw from the course as I believe it to be unsuitable relative to his learning abilities at this time and irrelevant to his overall employment goals, sadly however, he is convinced and wishes to complete the course.”

Specialist disability provider


“We have spruikers for VET outside our building looking to pick up youth with significant intellectual disability and sign them up for very expensive and totally unachievable qualifications.”

Specialist disability provider


“Two individuals were signed up by VET spruikers – we believe they will be incapable of completing a Diploma and were enticed by the promise of laptops.”

Specialist disability provider


“A jobseeker came to us with the following tale of woe. He is 19 and has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and recently completed his mainstream schooling receiving an HSC.

He registered with a Disability Employment Service provider who referred him to a language, literacy and numeracy course; a full time course for a period of 10 weeks.

The provider claimed an educational outcome and got paid for an unnecessary course that involves the jobseeker doing nothing while sitting in a classroom for 5 days a week. He’s Australian from birth, and his literacy and numeracy skills are better than the instructor.”

Specialist disability provider

There are people walking the streets encouraging young people with disabilities to sign up for training programs with offers that include the provision of ‘free’ iPads or laptops if they will sign up.

If individuals are unfortunate to be beguiled into signing, they incur a debt that then attracts interest and, while the course is ‘free’, the debt is anything but, and it may never be repaid.

Abuses of training programs including the offer of inducements to sign up for unnecessary or inappropriate training is rife at the moment — these waste taxpayers money, saddle people with disability with debt they will never repay, do not contribute to employment that leads to economic independence, and tarnishes the reputation of education, training and employment programs.


Capacity to provide valid consent

Many people with intellectual disability will find it difficult to understand the detail of complex contractual propositions without supported decision assistance.

Without independent safeguards this group of people will frequently acquiesce to the wishes of others particularly when subject to premeditated marketing techniques aimed to achieve a sale in the best interests of a business or service.

According to the specialist legal service, Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS);

“People with intellectual disability may need support in entering into contracts; i.e. they may need help to understand the nature and effect of the specific contract at the time it is made. The more complex the transaction and the higher the value of the property, the greater the understanding and help required.”(3)

IDRS state that help for people with intellectual disability to understand a contract may include;

  • “having a support person present
  • making them feel comfortable and not vulnerable
  • having the contract read and explained in simple terms
  • asking them to explain in their own words what the contract means
  • asking questions that test their memory
  • testing their ability to understand their needs and how to meet them
  • asking questions that test if they understand when and how much to pay
  • avoiding the use of questions that only need a “yes’ or “no” answer
  • overcoming any speech problems
  • avoiding nodding” or “smiling” etc. to influence answers
  • checking for undue influence
  • allowing time to think, or change their mind, or get independent advice.”(4)

These kinds of help recognise the impact of intellectual impairment in making informed decisions without undue influence. If, after this help, a person with intellectual disability does not understand the general nature and effect of the contract, then they are said to ‘lack legal capacity.’ It is clear that VET providers, and their associated marketing personnel and organisations, do not regularly provide safeguards and protections of this nature – nor does it appear that they are required to provide these minimum types of help, before signing up youth with intellectual disability.

Inducements such as iPads and laptops should not be permitted and should be considered a major non-compliance of standards and breach of consumer protection laws.

The Senate committee should recommend a minimum set of safeguards that include independent support to assist youth with intellectual disability before an enrolment for a VET course is approved for government funding.

Whereas Inclusion Australia knows that this level of support is explicitly needed for youth with intellectual disability, we are of the opinion that these kinds of help would provide universal safeguards and protections for all youth being offered VET courses due to the general vulnerability of youth due to their inexperience.

VET courses offered to youth should be highly relevant to their needs

Education, training and employment programs should provide services that highly relevant to the needs of participants. To be relevant, a program must first clearly identify what needs a participant has, and what is most relevant to meeting those needs.

What is most alarming for Inclusion Australia is that some VET providers are signing up youth with intellectual disability for courses which are inappropriate to their ability and capacity to benefit.

As a result, many will struggle to complete the requirements of the course, most are likely to withdraw and fail to complete the course, and failure will exacerbate an already fragile sense of self-esteem about being able to succeed in the adult world of work.

The costs of such failure to the individual, their families, their community and the nation is enormous. We are currently in the midst of a paradigm change where we wish to support youth with intellectual disability to increase their social and economic participation as opposed to traditional experiences of lifelong dependence on the pension outside the labour force.

In this respect, training and employment programs, if they are to be value for money must be relevant to the needs of youth with intellectual disability to succeed and lead to participation in the workforce.

For people with significant intellectual disability (IQ≤60) there is little evidence of classroom based training leading to successful placement in jobs or careers in employment. This is directly related to the nature of intellectual impairment which includes a lack of ability to transfer and generalise learning from one environment to another. The evidence demonstrates the need for explicit on the job training. There is little evidence of a link between VET course completion and employment outcomes for this cohort of people.

Even for people with mild levels of intellectual disability, they will require substantial support in curriculum modification, multi-level teaching and explicit instruction techniques which take into account their literacy, numeracy and learning needs. This group will also need significant on-site workplace training.

We agree with the Consumer Action Law Centre’s recommendation that VET provider’s be required to conduct a suitability (or relevancy) assessment for each student prior to enrolment.

Whereas we welcome Standard 5.1 of the VET Standards, which which requires VET providers to provide advice to prospective learners about the training product appropriate to meeting the learner’s needs, ‘taking into account the individual’s existing skills and competencies’, this does not go far enough.

There should be a requirement of VET providers to demonstrate that the course offer and enrolment is an appropriate match with the individual’s current skills, career preferences, and that the provider has the competency to deliver this outcome for youth with intellectual disability.

Government funding should ensure value for money

It is a lucky country that can provide funding assistance to youth to give them the opportunity for education, training and employment support. This gives youth who would otherwise not be able to pay the cost of their chosen career pathway the capacity to do so.

Unfortunately, some VET providers have taken this good policy of government funding support as a signal to use youth as a commodity to raise funds for self interest.

Inclusion Australia has seen this kind of misuse of funds in related programs.(5) It seems that the opportunity to obtain funding without providing any positive outcome for the people it is intended to benefit is clearly too tempting for some providers.

As a result, government is often forced to implement greater controls and accountability. Unfortunately this results in greater red-tape and administration for the sector as a whole. It is as if the sector must cop greater scrutiny due to the poor behaviour of some. This is unfortunate but clearly the government must respond by ensuring that resources are actually used as intended.

It is our view that funding should have ‘strings’ attached. Why pay for something “not completed”, “inappropriate”, or delivered with “poor quality”.

We believe the government should consider an outcome based funding system – where a proportion of funding is withheld until certain requirements or milestones are met. Funding could be made contingent on meeting evidence requirements around performance indicators which are audited externally on a random basis, including;

  • suitability of course enrolments;
  • course completion,
  • course delivered with quality training and assessment
  • graduate employment outcomes six months after completion
  • outcome data provided by student characteristic including students by intellectual disability and other primary disability groupings.

Outcome indicators for VET providers should be made transparent and included in marketing materials as a part of statement of disclosure to prospective students.

In Summary

Inclusion Australia wants to ensure that youth with intellectual disability are treated with respect by the VET industry.

This requires that VET providers ensure that:

  • VET marketing strategies provide independent safeguards to ensure that students with intellectual disability make an informed decision and that the contract of service is valid.
  • Course offers and enrolment are relevant to the skills, competencies and preferences of students with intellectual disability;
  • Government funding is contingent on the achievement of outcomes; outcomes should include suitability, completion, and quality of training and assessment.
  • Marketing materials should include outcome indicator results including completion rates and graduate employment outcomes six months after training completion.

Any enquires about this report should be directed to Paul Cain, Director of Research and Strategy at or 0419 462 928.


1.  Prime Minister Statement on National Security, February 23, 2015

2.  8% of people with intellectual disability using disability support services report work in the open labour market. See —Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement.

3.  IDRS Factsheet: Consumer protection and people with intellectual disability. Source:
4.   IDRS Factsheet: Consumer protection and people with intellectual disability. Source:
5.  Department of Social Services. Evaluation of Disability Employment Services 2010-2013. Final Report. Chapter 6. School leaver pathways to employment through DES p. 102
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Welfare reform will succeed with the right employment support

 Welfare reform will succeed with high expectations and the right employment support!

Minister Morrison makes three points we can agree with;

  • “the best form of welfare is a job
  • the biggest welfare savings are driven by getting people into work
  • the NZ investment model uses actuarial evaluations to identify which risk factors drive long term welfare dependency and outlays, and what are amenable to early effective intervention”

Getting a job is good. Good for the individual and the federal budget. Investment in support that works is value for money.

Inclusion Australia presented two case studies of evidence based practice to the consultation — Audrey and David. These show that with the right right support, it is possible to get a job and reduce reliance on the pension. (Inclusion Australia’s submission to McClure Review)

Audrey and David are, however unique. Their provider is the only evidence based transition and open employment provider for people with significant intellectual disability — operating in Sydney and part of Melbourne. Their jobs were created by combining their strengths with the needs of employers — i.e. not jobs advertised by employers.

Audrey and David save the Commonwealth $15,906 annually (Table 1). Put in context, only 2.5% of all DS Pensioners earn more than $250 per week. The potential annual savings of providing the right support to 100,000 DSP recipients with intellectual & learning disability is between $0 and $1.6 Billion.

The Productivity Commission noted that effective transition support could save the Commonwealth considerable funds currently spent on more expensive non-work and supported employment options.

The Centre for International Economics (Table 2) found that the annual cost to the taxpayer (after pension offsets) for evidence based open employment was $4,206 per annum and this was far cheaper than alternate supported employment ($12,908) and state government programs ($17,667 – $23,884).

Changing to an evidence based system of support will require investment to develop this capacity. Inclusion Australia will be presenting a report to the Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency on building a national sector of evidence based transition and open employment support for all people with intellectual disability.

For people with intellectual disability, the best form of welfare is getting the right support to get a job.

Enquiries: Paul Cain,

0419 462 928,


MC report tables

Note Table 1: Figures based on DSP figures for adults 21 and over rates as at 20 September 2014.

Notes Table 2:

  1.  Most recent wages available for ADE are for 30/6/2008. Wage indexed to 30/6/2013 using minimum wage movements.

  2.  CBF funding and wage subsidy for 2012/13 year divided by the number of DES-ESS clients on 30/6/2013.

  3.  Pension offsets based on the March-June 2013 means test of $0.50 per dollar of earnings above $76 per week.

fair pay

Variation of Supported Employment Services Award — Update

United Voice, Health Services Union and National Peak Disability and Advocacy Organisations — Communique, Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Variation of Supported Employment Services Award — Update

On 23rd December 2013, United Voice and the Health Services Union made a joint application to the Fair Work Commission to vary the Supported Employment Services Award 2010.

This Award covers employees with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs, formerly known as Sheltered Workshops).

The application was made following the decision by the Full Federal Court in Nojin v Commonwealth which found that the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool used to determine wages unfairly discriminated against workers with intellectual disability.

The application also seeks to deal with the extent to which other Wage Assessment Tools listed in the Award are discriminatory against workers with disabilities.

On 20 June 2014 the full bench of the Fair Work Commission decided that in an effort to find a solution that there be a Conference of the parties led by Deputy President Booth.

There has been a series of meetings held at the Fair Work Commission since 1 September 2014. Conference proceedings are conducted as a confidential process and without prejudice basis.

On 16 February 2015 the parties agreed to conduct a study using the Supported Wage System with modification in a sample of ADEs. This will consider the impact of using historical productivity data on the productivity wage assessment rates of workers with disability. The parties will discuss the results of this study at the next scheduled meeting on Monday 27 April 2015.

For enquiries: Contact Leigh Svendsen, National Industrial Officer, Health Service Union, 02 8203 6066;


National Peak Disability and Advocacy Groups supporting the joint application and parties at the conference include — AED Legal Centre; Inclusion Australia (formerly the National Council on Intellectual Disability); and People with Disability Australia.