THE National Disability Insurance Scheme is failing to work with the federal government’s antiquated $1 billion employment service and is being forced to push people into controversial sheltered workshops, says chief executive David Bowen.
Mr Bowen, who oversees the agency that runs the $22 billion NDIS, said the scheme was uncontrollably, “perpetuating the old system” by pushing people into sheltered workshops regardless of their wishes because the two systems ran parallel but never co-existed.
“The interface between the NDIS and Disability Employment Services is not working, we can be pretty frank about that,” he told a forum.
“Employment and the agency is not working as well as I would hope and primarily because, for all those people who need supported employment, Australian Disability Enterprises (government-backed workshops) are an in-kind support.
“So the commonwealth provides access to those services, but not the funding. We have no choice, if someone needs that kind of support, to swap that person and that is perpetuating the old system where we push someone into it. That needs to be fixed.”
The Federal Court of Australia found about 10,000 employees of sheltered workshops had been illegally underpaid — as little as $1 an hour — and last year the government tried to pass legislation in the Senate that would backpay only half of what they were owed on the proviso individuals excluded themselves from a class action, to prevent “double dipping”.
The Greens and Labor rejected the bill.
Mr Bowen said the broader DES providers, contracted by the government to support people with disabilities into work, were too rigid and could not offer permanent, full-time work to people in the NDIS without greater flexibility.