Is it time to start looking for a job?
If you feel ready to enter the working world but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help.
Getting your first job is an exciting endeavour but it can also be daunting, especially if you have a disability or have just left school.
That’s why the Australian Government developed the Disability Employment Service (DES) program to help Australians living with a disability through every step of the employment process.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- Am I eligible for DES?
- How can DES help me?
- How do I start the process?
- What if I’m not eligible for DES?
- Dealing with discrimination in the workplace
Let’s dive in.
Am I eligible for DES?
To be eligible to get support under the DES program, you need to meet certain criteria.
Consider the following questions:
- Do I have a medically diagnosed disability, injury, or health condition?
- Do I receive an income support payment or disability support pension from Centrelink?
- Do I live in VIC, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS or the NT?
- Am I an Australian citizen or permanent resident?
- Am I not a full-time student?
- Have I been assessed as having capacity to work less than 30 work hours per week?
If you answered yes to all of the above, you should be eligible for DES support.
How can DES help me?
The DES program is funded by the Department of Social Services and helps over 310,000 people living with disabilities to find jobs and keep them. In NSW, you can find about 40 DES providers that can help you with the job seeking process.
DES providers can help you in three main areas.
- Prepare you for employment and help you find and apply for the right job that fits your abilities and interests
- Help prepare your potential workplace for accessibility and help you settle in
- Provide your with ongoing support so that you have the best chance of success
Preparing for employment
Before you start looking for a job, certain things are necessary like resumes, cover letters, interview prep and skills training.
DES providers can help you with:
- Writing your resume
- Practicing your interview skills
- By offering career advice
- Finding work experience
- Getting training for specific skills
- Looking for jobs that suit you
- Finding services to help manage your disability
Getting comfy in the job
Once you have secured a job that’s aligned to your goals and abilities, your DES provider can help you settle into your new role and provide ongoing support for the first year of your job if you require it.
DES providers also help your potential employers by:
- Making sure your future workplace has any necessary modifications to allow you to do the job and securing the funding to cover the cost of these
- Helping to design the job to work with your disability
- Offering your employer wage subsidies to incentivise them
- Arranging on-the-job training for you
- Arranging any other support necessary
You can get extra support if needed after 26 weeks in your job. You can also get Ongoing Support from your provider beyond the first year if you need it. Just remember, you need to work at least 8 hours a week to keep receiving Ongoing Support.
Alternatively, you may prefer to utilise the services of a disability service provider such as Advance Disability Services and Respite, to help you develop your skills and confidence before seeking employment.
How do I start the process?
If you’re ready to get started, you’ll need to either contact Services Australia directly or find a provider and register for DES through them.
To register through Services Australia, you have two options:
They may recommend you get an Employment Services Assessment.
To register through a DES provider:
- Find a DES provider through the JobAccess website
- Contact them and ask them to register you
Again, they may recommend you do the Employment Services Assessment
What if I’m not eligible for DES?
If you’re not eligible for the DES program, there are still many resources available to help you find gainful employment. Job Access is the Australian Government’s website dedicated to helping people with disabilities find and keep jobs. They offer guidance on everything from finding jobs and getting financial support to training and development.
You can also search online job sites.
Some examples are:
Dealing with discrimination in the workplace
When you enter the workforce, there is the possibility of facing some sort of discrimination or barriers related to your disability. This is a sad truth but often, it comes from ignorance rather than malice.
There are a few different types of barriers you may face in the workplace.
Colleagues may have a lack of understanding of your disability and may inadvertently say things that offend or upset you. The best way to tackle this is to kindly explain to them why what they have said or done was not appropriate. It’s important to show your colleagues empathy as well and respectfully guide them towards better behaviours and greater understanding.
If, however, you experience harassment or microaggressions such as derogatory comments, jokes or hostile behaviours that were intentionally hurtful, it’s important to reach out to your manager or HR department and document the incident, so they can seek to resolve it.
The process of applying for the job itself and attending interviews may not have been designed with people with disabilities in mind. In this case, your NDIS supports and your DES provider should be able to help smooth the process. In some cases, finding a job at a company that has a more inclusive approach may be a better fit.
Hiring and advancement barriers
There are some instances where people with disabilities get overlooked for job opportunities due to stereotypes or misconceptions. Perhaps you don’t yet have experience in the field you’re applying for or employers worry that you won’t be able to do the job. That’s why it’s important to emphasise your qualifications and skills during an interview, focusing on what you can do rather than any limitations. It’s also acceptable to ask for reasonable accommodations where necessary.
Unfortunately stigma and bias are ever-present in our society and this sometimes leads to people with disabilities receiving unequal pay or benefits, or being overlooked for career growth opportunities.
In this case, it’s a good idea to do your research on industry standards so that you can negotiate fair compensation, as well as advocate for equal access to benefits. You can also advocate for yourself by setting clear career goals with your manager, seeking mentors and allies in the workplace, and taking any opportunities for professional development like courses and training programs.
A final word
Working is a big part of adult life and gives you a sense of independence, pride and self-respect. Your disability may present some challenges but by using the resources available to you and knowing your rights under the Disabilities Discrimination Act, you can equip yourself to join the working world with confidence.
If you don’t quite feel ready to take that on and want to spend some time working on specific skill development, our Day Programs offer a safe and fun space to focus on areas you feel you need to develop.
To learn more, get in touch!
T: 8328 0679