Disability service jobs booming despite coronavirus economic pain



While the coronavirus has led to widespread unemployment across many sectors, one industry is trying to meet rapidly growing demand.


The disability and aged care sectors are the fastest growing industries in Australia and Wollongong disability services provider Flagstaff wants to take advantage of that.

"The reason the disability sector is growing is that people now are identifying more with mental illness, neurological disorders, or they've just known something's just not right,"

Flagstaff's manager of people and culture, Brooke Anthony said.

"With the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) coming into fruition in 2017, the sector's grown, so people with a disability now can choose what type of activities they like to do. "They now come to us and say, 'This is what I want', so you have to tailor what they need to your business." Basic life skills and a positive attitude

Flagstaff was running a recruitment drive to find new employees, despite an economic climate where some jobs were scarce.

Ms Anthony said anyone who has worked in any kind of service industry could adapt particularly well to working in the disability sector.

"I always say if you wake up in the morning and make a cup of tea and you got yourself some toast, you can work for Flagstaff to support some of our people with a disability," Ms Anthony said.


"We're looking at anyone who has a good customer service background, who is patient and empathetic and has good listening skills, and obviously anyone who has got a particular skill set." Travel, entertainment and retail sector experience wanted

Ms Anthony said she had been targeting people in the travel, entertainment and retail sectors who may have lost their jobs to consider a career in disability services.

Many told her they did not realise their skills were adaptable, while some also felt unsure about working in disability services.

For Flagstaff employee Rachael Walton, her job satisfaction has come from reaching people with disability skills to live meaningful lives.

"I'm really big about that empowerment of people, helping them to achieve goals that they might not have thought possible, or that they haven't had the support available to them before," she said.

It can be as simple as picking up a magazine and reading it, being able to cook a meal, being able to catch a bus or train, or being able to go out in the community on their own."All those things that people might take for granted; we are empowering them to be able to do that without Mum or Dad or their family." Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou with supported employees Seteone Laka Laka and Lucy Williams.


Employment boom must not lead to a casual workforce

Chris Christodoulou is the CEO of Wollongong disability service provider Greenacres and had also noticed significant employment growth in his industry.

He was concerned that so many different job opportunities could lead to the casualisation of the disability workforce.

"There's going to be work, but the big challenge for the industry and the government is we don't set up an industry that becomes like the hospitality industry, where it's completely casualised and people don't see it as one where they can have a career," he said.

"There are career jobs in the industry and at Greenacres, we want to promote permanent, secure jobs."

He said while the NDIS was driving more work opportunities, disability service providers needed to make sure people were entering the industry with the right skill set.

"Employment is going to grow, but we need organisations that can have the necessary checks and balances in place," Mr Christodoulou said.

"When you do have a big growth in demand, you get unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of that."

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