Workbridge AGM

Disability Issues
Thursday, October 20, 2016

Today I spoke to the Workbridge Annual General Meeting about some of the exciting things they have been doing and what is happening in the disability sector. Workbridge is at the forefront of helping people with all types of disability, injury or illness into work. Highlights included Workbridge arranging over 3,200 jobs for disabled people in the past year.

Our government is also committed to improving opportunities for people with health conditions and disabilities into employment.

We have just finished updating the New Zealand Disability Strategy, and will be launching the new version at the end of November this year. The new Strategy will guide the work of government agencies on disability issues for the next ten years.

It is based on what disabled people said was most important to them in the two rounds of public consultation that were completed earlier this year. One of the outcomes in the new Strategy is employment and economic security for disabled people.

EmployAbility is a new Ministry of Social Development initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work. We’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify your workforce.

EmployAbility is based on the outrageously successful Project 300! Project 300 was Christchurch based employment scheme that had the goal of getting 300 people with health conditions and disabilities off benefit and into work over 12 months.

As part of that Project, 584 disabled people entered full time and part time work with 420 employers. We only had a goal of 300! This is an outstanding achievement and shows that when you give employers the confidence and the support to employ disabled people, everyone benefits.

Access to employment for disabled people is one of my top priorities as Minister for Disability issues and bringing existing resources together in one place to make it easy for employers to access the information they need.

One of the areas that the work undertaken by Disability Employment Forum has shown is the lack of access to work experience and internships for disabled people. We have been working with the Public sector to ensure that their internships are inclusive of disabled people. To help this change, the Ministry of Social Development and the State Services Commission have provided advice to the Public sector on how to make their internship process more inclusive.

I recently heard that in this year’s internship programme a disabled person has been employed by DOC. I look forward to hearing more success stories like this.

I also know that ACC is working closely with Workbridge on an intern program.

The Lead Toolkit is the commitment we have with Public sector to take a leadership role in the employment, retention and career development of disabled people. This Toolkit provides resources for senior management groups to take ownership for driving the strategy within their organization, HR teams to have the skills, tools and knowledge to build a fully inclusive HR system and managers to feel confident in employing and have the resources to maximise the potential of all their employees

You can find the Lead Toolkit on the State Services Commission’s website at https://www.ssc.govt.nz/lead.

We have established champions within each of the major public sector agencies. These champions include both HR specialists and current disabled employers. This approach reflects the spirit of “Nothing about us, without us.” The purpose of this group is to share information, success stories and strategies that have worked.

While it is important for the Public sector to take a lead, the information from the Research project jointly lead by Business NZ and the Disability Employment Forum will provide practical steps that employers can take in building disability confidence in their businesses. The practical steps been developed are not only applicable to large organisations but equally as applicable to small and medium sized businesses.

With 53,000 people with health conditions and disabilities on Jobseeker Support and 84,000 on Supported Living Payment, Work and Income can’t work with everyone who needs support. That means they need skilled providers like Workbridge, who get great results for our clients.