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Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Page: 39


Senator ADAMS (3:15 PM) —It is important to note that those people on a disability support pension will stay on a disability support pension under the conditions on which it was granted. The government is not placing obligations upon people to work unless they are assessed as having the capacity and availability to undertake work. The government’s vision for supporting people with disabilities is to provide more opportunities for participation in the economic and social life of the community and to achieve better outcomes for individuals. Support for people with a disability is provided by a number of Australian government agencies, including Family and Community Services, as well as at the state and territory level. The Family and Community Services disability programs and supports assist people with a disability to participate in the community, including in employment.

The Australian government recognises that work force participation brings not only the economic benefit of a regular income and contributions to superannuation but also the social benefits of engagement in the community. Responsibility for employment support for people with a disability is shared between the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Family and Community Services. DEWR has responsibility for employment support in the open labour market, including payment of the disability support pension and the administration of programs such as the Workplace Modifications Scheme, mobility allowances and the workplace subsidy scheme. Family and Community Services has responsibility for specialised supported employment services for people with a disability, known as Business Services. Business Services employ around 17,000 people with a moderate to severe intellectual disability and play a vital role in providing the kinds of employment and participation opportunities that may not be available in other parts of the employment market.

The 2004-05 budget included an employment assistance package to provide a further $99 million over four years to strengthen the disability employment sector to support services in moving forward with the reforms and to improve the living standards of very vulnerable workers. Family and Community Services actively supports people with a disability to participate in a wide range of community activities. This includes providing funding of $150,000 to the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia to roll out the highly innovative Books in The Sky system to public libraries in several states. The Books in The Sky system is a digital compression and encryption system for storing, handling and transmitting electronic information through the public libraries system. It represents a significant innovation in the way that blind or vision-impaired people can access information, allowing instant access to a wide range of information.

In the 2004-05 budget the government also provided $18.4 million to set up a national service to help people book an Auslan interpreter for health care appointments. The National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service commenced operation in January 2005 and plays a vital role in helping people who are deaf or hearing-impaired get better access to health care information.

The Australian government is committed to continuing to improve the access of people with a disability to a range of services, programs and opportunities through the Commonwealth disability strategy.