The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus is helping people living with disabilities find meaningful employment.
Greg Moult, The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus managing director, understands more than most that a job can be more than just a way to earn a living; it can be life-changing.
“It can involve you with the community, increase your self-esteem, help you support yourself financially and give your life a new layer of meaning,” he says.
That’s why he and his staff are excited about the launch of nine new Employment Plus Disability Employment Services (DES) around the country last month.
“We welcome the opportunity to help people overcoming any manner of disability to find the job they want,” Greg says.
“The Salvation Army provided welfare to our nation before official welfare existed under structured government, with over a century of caring for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“Over the past 20 years, more than 600,000 Australians have found work with us, and it’s an honour to extend our services to this important and valuable section of our community.”
The Salvation Army Employment Plus launched its DES after the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) opened up the market to allow employment service providers to tender for the contracts. This means people living with a disability now have a choice of providers to help them find employment. Launches have been held in Rowville (Vic.), Launceston (Tas.), Ipswich and Browns Plains (Qld), in Chatswood and Gosford (NSW) and Woden (ACT).
“A job is truly fulfilling and we believe everybody, including those living with a disability, has a right to that.”
Employment Plus DES national manager, Ashley Clarence, says the organisation’s mission is to provide quality employment services to those most affected by unemployment—and that includes people with disabilities. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, there were 4.3 million Australians living with disability in 2015.
“This means there is a significant proportion of people with disability looking for work,” he said. “A job is not just a job, it’s something truly fulfilling, and we believe everybody, including those living with a disability, have a right to that.”
There’s a great deal to consider when finding the right job for someone who has a disability. Employment Plus DES staff focus on personal and professional development, identifying what job seekers can and want to do for work. They offer career advice, employment preparation, resume development, training, help with job searching, as well as ongoing support at work, including funding for workplace modifications and wage subsidies to employers.
“Our staff are truly passionate about what they do; they take a very personal approach with every job seeker and their actions and values reflect Salvation Army standards,” Ashley says.
“The main challenge is finding that ‘right fit’ where an employer has a suitable role with tasks for the job seeker to be able to complete and enjoy completing. We work with employers to ensure there is training and ongoing support to establish long-term, sustained employment. We understand that everyone is different, so everyone we work with has their own program that best suits their individual needs.”
Jessica Jovanovic and Ben Warren recently featured on ABC TV’s Employable Me.
Employment Plus DES has developed resources with Jessica Jovanovic and Ben Warren, who recently featured on ABC TV’s Employable Me, which followed people with neurodiverse conditions in their search for meaningful employment. Ashley says Jessica, who has autism, and Ben, who has OCD, provided staff with advice on how to best assist their clients.
“They gave us first-hand knowledge on how to reach these job seekers, help them find work and ensure our resources resonate with both a young audience and an audience that may be living with a neurological disability.”
Kayla Sirrell, Employment Plus DES ambassador
Ben and Jessica, along with singer/songwriter and Employment Plus DES ambassador Kayla Sirrell, who also starred in Employable Me, know how supportive and helpful DES providers can be during the hard slog of finding a job. Ben notes that “a DES provider does a lot of stuff behind the scenes”.
“You have no idea of how much work has been put into it until you actually get to the next stage of getting to the interview,” he says.
Ashley says some of the “stuff behind the scenes” is working with employers to ensure there is training and ongoing support to establish long-term, sustained employment.
“People may think there are hurdles to employing a person with disability—maybe their workplace doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp, maybe they need someone with a driver’s licence,” he explains.
“We ask employers to not make assumptions, to concentrate on finding the right person for the job and we’ll make the rest work.”
The benefits of hiring someone with a disability often go beyond just the tasks at hand. Ashley observes that these employees are often more reliable and stay in jobs for longer, with fewer sick days or days away from work (according to research by the Western Australia Government’s Department of Communities).
“People also want to work in and work with diverse workplaces—customers and employees alike.
“Employing a person with a disability can improve goodwill in your workplace,” Ashley says.
“A person living with a disability may have a range of challenges to face every day and conquering these challenges can inspire creative thinking, resourcefulness and an ability to think outside the box.Hiring a person with disability can bring a team member with a fresh perspective to your organisation.
“Next time you have a vacancy, consider looking for a person with a disability to fill the gap.”