August 2005


Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation constituted and driven by women with disabilities. Please find below a brief Update Report from WWDA for the month of August 2005. If you have any questions, or would like more information on anything in this report, please email Angela or Carolyn at: wwda@wwda.org.au


Contents

NATSEM modelling on Welfare-to-Work -women with disabilities ‘at risk’

ACOSS National Advocacy Day at Parliament House & AFDO

WWDA Media Statement spearheads campaign for NATSEM Modelling

Welfare-to-Work and Sole Parents – NATSEM Report

Meeting with FaCS to discuss Welfare/Industrial Relations Reforms

Case Studies on Employment Experiences

ACIF Quarterly Meeting

ISOC-AU conference on ‘Convergence’ of Broadcasting/Communications

WWDA Media Statement


NATSEM Modelling on Welfare-to-Work – women with disabilities ‘at risk’

In the July Bulletin, WWDA outlined the discussions which are being held by a consortium of women’s groups about the Welfare-to-Work and Industrial Relations Reforms. If the current proposals remain unaltered, sole parents (most of whom are women) and women with disabilities are most ‘at risk’.

Since the last bulletin, we did raise enough money, and we did commission the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) to look in detail at the situation for Sole Parents. (A summary of the report is Item #3 in this bulletin.) There was much media coverage after the release of the report and there are indications that politicians have heeded its findings.

Now, we urgently need to commission NATSEM to look at the social and economic impact on women with disabilities. The urgency arises because legislation for the reforms will be tabled in Parliament in the next week or so. There is a shrinking ‘window of opportunity’ for discussion.

Naturally the NATSEM modelling will examine the situation for all people with disabilities – so is relevant to the whole of the disability sector. The report will be publicly available and it could be the instrument which enables the disability sector to make a concerted cooperative ‘push’ to bring about changes needed.

Donations are needed – from organisations and individuals.

As for the previous NATSEM exercise, the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) will accept donations from non-government organisations, the corporate sector and individuals and pass them directly to NATSEM for the research. All donations are tax deductible. The NFAW donation proforma for cheque or credit card donation is at: http://www.nfaw.org/fund_don.htm

More than $10,000 is needed, and this amount will be matched by the University of Canberra to enable the research to go ahead. If insufficient funds are raised to commission NATSEM, the money will be used for alternative research and analysis on the impact of the Welfare-to-Work reforms. Or if desired, by request to NFAW, donations can be refunded. WWDA urges your support.


ACOSS National Advocacy Day at Parliament House

WWDA is working with other organisations which have expressed concern about the Welfare to Work and Industrial Relations reforms. Information about the Australian Council for Social Services coordinating an Advocacy Day at Parliament House on 15 September was sent out over wwda-discuss email list. For update information and to sign up as a participant of Advocacy Day, please email andrew@acoss.org.au. or contact the ACOSS office on 02 9310 4844. During August it has also been in touch with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations to work in tandem with their actions.


WWDA Media Statement spearheads campaign for NATSEM modelling

On 2 September, WWDA released a media statement (summarising the situation for women with disabilities under twin reform processes) to the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and via a range of internet/email contacts. Strictly speaking, this is a ‘September Bulletin’ action. However, because it is pertinent to the campaign for funding to enable commissioning of the NATSEM modelling and may assist in making the decision to donate, it is an attachment to this bulletin.


Welfare-to-Work and Sole Parents – NATSEM Report

Disability organisations, community organisations and church organisations have all undertaken analyses of the impact of the Welfare-to-Work proposals on various sectors of the community. The NATSEM research confirms that sole parents placed on Newstart Allowance (NSA), rather than Parenting Payment Single (PPS) when the new regime begins after 1 July 2006 can be up to $100 a week worse off under the proposed new system than under the current system. It also found that effective marginal tax rates will be sharply increased under the proposed new system, over a reasonably wide range of earned income. Sole parents with one child on PPS will be able to earn about $718 per week ($37,000 pa) before their entitlement to income support is extinguished. The parallel situation on NSA occurs with earnings of $426 per week ($22,000 pa). [WWDA believes that economists put the ‘poverty line’ at around $27,000.]

For a copy of the full report contact Sue Salthouse at sudata@optusnet.com.au or 02 6291 6842. Also available is some preliminary analysis on the situation for people with disabilities done by Julia Perry, Disability Policy specialist in the former Department of Social Security.


Meeting with FaCS to discuss Welfare/Industrial Relations Reforms

In conjunction with the commissioning of the NATSEM research, the consortium of women’s organisations has organised a series of meetings with high level personnel in Government departments concerned with the Welfare-to-Work and Industrial Relations reforms. The first of these meetings was held on 24 August with the Office For Women/Family and Community Services and representative from the joint Secretariats.

Sue Salthouse reiterated the need for recognition of the double discrimination of gender and disability which women with disabilities face in gaining employment and outlined how a range of barriers will operate to restrict their job choices. Robyn Gaspari, from the Australian Women’s Coalition, expanded on the concerns about how carers (the majority of whom are women) whose job choices will be similarly limited by their carer responsibilities. Many of the restrictions which affect job choices are exacerbated for women who live in rural and remote areas.

FaCS retains the portfolio of policy and programmes in the area of child care. Child care was discussed in detail in the context of the proposed reforms. Availability of appropriate child care in appropriate locations will place restrictions on job choice. Major difficulties arise when a child is ill and ineligible to go to child care. Also noted was the significant investment of Government into child care.

Erin Wood, from Security 4 Women, provided a perspective on some of the key concerns around IR changes, and the particular impacts on women. Key issues included the higher likelihood of women to be on awards with safety net conditions; in casualised and part time positions; with weaker negotiating skills, and needing more job flexibility due to carer and other responsibilities.


Case Studies on Employment Experiences

There was an excellent response to a wwda-discuss request for information from list subscribers about their current job search and work place experiences. Many thanks to the 15 women who gave comprehensive and insightful feed back. Particular thanks to the Victorian disabilities and advocacy networks who forwarded the request, and for their understanding when we asked them to stop because sufficient information had already been received! About half of the respondents had used Employment Services (mostly Disability Open Employment Services), but success rates were not high and many of these women had independently found employment. Positive employment outcomes were highly dependent on supportive staff attitudes at all levels in the workplace, and willingness for reasonable workplace adjustments to be made. Experiences varied as to whether this had occurred early in a ‘working life’, or much later after a series on negative experiences, or not at all. depended on independent of the Employment Service. In one case, automatically opening doors had been installed and a raised zebra crossing constructed to make safer the trip to the car park. In another, the cost of minor purchase of assistive equipment – a track ball – had been deducted from the user’s salary! Respondents noted the strong relationship between positive self image and positive work experiences. Several expressed a sense of awareness being role model in the community and for women with disabilities embarking on job search. There is certainly scope for more formal research in this area. In the meantime, a synopsis of these Case Studies will be used in our coming discussions with politicians and Government officials.


ACIF Quarterly Meeting

The quarterly meeting of the Australian Communications Industry Disability (ACIF) Advisory Body was held in Sydney on 8-9 August. A significant outcome was a name change to Disability Council (DC). ACIF also has a more general consumer advisory group whose name has also been changed from Consumer Advisory Council to Consumer Council. The work of each council remains the same!

Many of the issues under discussion seem perennial. In proper perspective, progress is being made. The imminent sale of Telstra is of great concern, because the DC believes that disability issues are not being considered. Intense lobbying will commence in September. WWDA had undertaken most action on lobbying for an Independent Disability Equipment Programme, including raising awareness with opposition and backbench coalition politicians. The Code on Information Accessibility (whereby all telecommunications equipment will come with a pamphlet giving comprehensive checklist of features useful for people with disabilities) continues to have difficulties. Many equipment providers regard the Code as one imposing onerous and costly action. The DC views it as an essential requirement. Now a sub-committee has been formed to try to reach a compromise position. Similarly, the discussion about the need for a Single Consumer Code has resulted in a divergent range of viewpoints. Even different groups of consumers hold diametrically opposed views.


ISOC-AU conference on ‘Convergence’ of Broadcasting/Communications

The Internet Users Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) held a conference on Convergence in Sydney on 19 August. Sue Salthouse represented WWDA. Most consumers have not noticed, and do not much care that the separation of broadcasting and telecommunications no longer exists. Your mobile phone is a camera and video, music player (MP3), and mini computer (PDA) with ‘blue tooth’ connection and ‘Blackberry’ operating system. Your computer can be your phone (Voice and Video over Internet Protocol – VoIP and VideoIP) with the addition of some software a SIP phone hand piece. So long as it works. However there are many technical and legal implications. VoIP does not work when your computer is not on, or there is a blackout. Your provider may not have satisfactorily installed ‘000’ feature, and to whom do you complain when the voice quality is bad – the computer manufacturer, the phone maker, or the VoIP service provider. Who owns the copyright to the video that you MMS to a friend – you, or the service provider who passes it on? The term ‘inter-operability’ loomed large at the conference. All our ‘converged’ devices need to be able to talk to each other – it is no good if your Nokia phone cannot ‘get through’ to your child’s Sony phone, and if neither can download pictures to your Hewlett Packard computer or your DELL lap top, or if different service providers block communication with their competitors.

Sorting out the legalities and formalities will largely be the responsibility of the Australian Communications and Media Authority which came into being on 1 July 2005, after the ‘convergence’ or the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority.


Media Statement

Women with disabilities want to work – but sensible supports not penury will help us do so!
2 September 2005

Women with disabilities in this country have the feeling that they are staring down the barrel of a gun, when they start to contemplate the consequences of the convergence of the Government’s proposed Welfare-to-Work Reform and its Industrial Relations Reforms. They have always faced double discrimination in trying to get work. They have always lost out at all levels when competing with men with disabilities or when up against able-bodied women. So women with disabilities get the part time, casual, short term jobs – that is if they can find any paid jobs at all. Now the Government seems determined to the make the situation worse for them, not better. It is going to ask them to compete with every other job seeker in the country to get the flexible-work-hour jobs that just are not there.

WWDA knows that its constituents are hungry for paid work. Under the current regime they are frustrated at the lack of availability of jobs that are flexible enough to enable them to juggle their family needs and their disability needs. Employment services like Job Network are not able to cope with the current numbers of job seekers with disabilities.

WWDA estimates that after July 1st 2006, there could be a 10-fold increase in the numbers of people with disabilities in the queues at Centrelink. Even the provision of extra employment service and Centrelink personnel, will not enable them to cope with this influx. Women with disabilities get pushed to the back of the queue anyway. At the moment twice as many men with disabilities are on the books with employment services.

Annie Parkinson, president of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), says: “It is going to be almost impossible for women with disabilities on Newstart Allowance to even be able to afford to get to job interviews. The $16 a week increase in the Mobility Allowance travel subsidy announced in the Budget won’t go very far.”

The Government recognises that parents of disabled children need an easing of the obligation to work when their children turn six. Such parents need considerable workplace flexibility to be able to meet their children’s additional needs and such jobs are scarce. WWDA believes that women with disabilities need similar recognition that job opportunities for them are limited. They face a barrage of barriers in trying to get into the workforce.

Sue Salthouse, WWDA Industrial Relations spokesperson, says: “It is certainly unworkable to expect women with disabilities to compete against the able-bodied for jobs. Even slightly modified Mutual Obligation requirements will be unfair.” WWDA also believes that the full range support mechanisms attached to the DSP need to also apply to people with disabilities on Newstart. The Pensioner Concession Card will disappear at income levels which will leave women with disabilities on Newstart Allowance at considerable economic disadvantage. The costs of aids and equipment and payments to carers don’t disappear at the wave of the Newstart wand.

No matter how willing they are to find work, if the jobs are just not there, the outcome of these twin reforms will be to leave greater numbers of women with disabilities living in greater poverty than they are at the moment.

WWDA urges the Government to recognise that all these disparities exist and to put appropriate measures in place to address them in the Industrial Relations and Welfare Reforms processes, so that women with disabilities can have a fair go at getting into the paid workforce.

Contact for further information: Sue Salthouse, 02 6291 6842 or sudata@optusnet.com.au