Tuesday 19 August 8.30pm on SBS ONE
“I can’t get a job behind a bar. I can’t see over the bar!” – Prue Hawkins
Lawyer Prue Hawkins was recently preparing for a job interview. A few days before the appointment, she visited the office building. But there was a problem. The disabled lift was out of action.
It’s not an unusual experience for Prue. Despite years of working in law, she’s been unemployed since February.
She says she’d take any job – but it’s not always possible.
“I can’t get a job stacking shelves, I can’t get a job behind a bar – I can’t even see over the bar!” she says.
Despite this, Prue doesn’t qualify for the Disability Support Pension, and is therefore struggling on the less generous Newstart Allowance.
This week Insight looks at whether more people with disabilities should be working – and what’s standing in the way.
The discussion comes as the Federal Government is reviewing the DSP, saying it wants more people who have a capacity to work back in the workforce.
Host Jenny Brockie asks people with disability about their experiences with the system and how the proposed changes might affect them.
She also hears from employers about the challenges of employing people with disabilities.
Prue Hawkins is a 33 year old lawyer. She spent years working in family law, community law and Legal Aid, but she’s now unemployed. Prue is looking for law jobs but says she’d work anywhere including cafés, supermarkets or pubs. But it’s tough because of her brittle-bone disease – sometimes she can’t physically get into the building where the jobs are. Prue says that because she used to work, she’s been deemed ineligible for the Disability Support Pension.
Bryson Douglas receives the Disability Support Pension. He says he has obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, cerebral palsy and anxiety. He says he is grateful for the support the DSP gives him but anxious and ashamed about admitted he has a disability. “Sometimes I think to myself ‘what the hell are you doing? Why aren't you working?’ And I know people could look at me and say, ‘he's got two arms and legs, he can walk and talk’.”
Ha Vo receives the Disability Support Pension for her Bipolar Disorder but has mixed feelings about it. “On the one hand I’m grateful that I’m receiving it. On the other hand there is a certain degree of guilt and shame.” She says she’d be comfortable working in a quiet environment but couldn’t handle somewhere noisy or stressful.
Malcolm Gunning runs a commercial real estate firm in Sydney and has employed people with disabilities in the past. He says he can understand why some people don’t disclose their disabilities when they apply for jobs, but not having that information makes it difficult for him as an employer. “If you discover there’s a disability later, you probably think there’s a level of dishonesty.”
Karla Milner is a clinical psychologist and used to be Job Capacity Assessor at Centrelink. She says sometimes getting the green light to go on the Disability Support Pension can actually do that person a disservice. “It can give them the feeling that they’re not worth being employed. It can result in their own sense of self diminishing even further.”
Insight is hosted by Gold Walkley Award-winning journalist Jenny Brockie and airs every Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.