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Select Committee on Work and Care

CRANFIELD, Mr Dwayne, Chief Executive Officer, National Ethnic Disability Alliance [by audio link]


CHAIR: I welcome via videoconference Mr Dwayne Cranfield of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance. Would you like to make a short opening statement before I invite members of the committee to ask you some questions?

Mr Cranfield : For sure. NEDA is the National Ethnic Disability Alliance. We're the national peak body in this space for culturally and linguistically diverse people with a disability in Australia. We're funded by DSS and we offer support and systemic advocacy to the sector and to government around those issues.

I have several pages of things here; I'm not sure I can read through all of it. At some point we would probably like to send some of this information over to you in hard form. But today I can point to a bit of a summary we've done and enter into some discussion if needs be.

CHAIR: That sounds excellent, please go ahead.

Mr Cranfield : Okay, thanks very much. The basic summary is that, at the moment, to begin with, NEDA is a founding member of Disabled Persons Organisations Australia. We're DPOA, which means we're an organisation made by people with a disability for people with a disability. The bulk of our membership, staff and community are culturally and linguistically diverse people who live with a disability, as is our board. So we like to think that the information that we give from our membership—we're a federated model—and through our board, our council and our staff is actually information by CALD people for CALD people with a disability.

People with a disability from CALD backgrounds face considerable barriers not experienced by others in our community. These include strict health requirements when applying for visas; the challenge of navigating multiple mainstream supports across health, aged care, disability and immigration; reduced opportunities and lower participation in the labour force; limited flexibility in working arrangements; long waiting periods to access mainstream supports; the 10-year qualifying period for migrants to access age and disability support pensions and the one-year waiting period for carers allowance; and the high cost and long delays of those seeking sponsorship for family member carer visas to provide culturally appropriate care at home.

These experiences of people with disability and their family members caring for them have garnered little attention in the public eye. And some of those recommendations are to: ensure flexible and improved workplace policies and arrangements; ensure that mainstream supports are appropriate, accessible, inclusive, culturally safe and easy to navigate; reduce long waiting periods for access to mainstream supports; and to increase economic security and improved migration pathways for CALD people with a disability and their carers.

I think that one of the special areas in this, again, is new and emerging communities. One of the things we saw that didn't work very well and some of the lessons that we had from the COVID situation were how culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability and illness were dealt with in some spaces in the community—how that lack of information and lack of communication for them moved across into huge transmission rates of the illness. For us that just highlights the aspect that without proper processes and ways to communicate with culturally diverse people there are going to be huge shortfalls in how they engage and access supports and services, and how they fit into mainstream society in Australia.

You had some questions that you put forward and we have some recommendations to the first question, which is the extent and the nature of combination of work and care across Australia. Our first recommendation is that Australia's employment system should offer better income protections for all migrants and multicultural workers in Australia. We should ensure that CALD people with a disability can access sufficient care and supports, regardless of financial status, visa status or cultural background. We should simplify the carer visa process and reduce waiting periods; the current system is complex and requires the person with a disability to go above and beyond to prove that they are out of options. This reduces their choice and control to be cared for at home if they want to be.

We should ensure that any future federally funded employment services incorporate special services and inclusion experts who understand individual barriers to employment and help support CALD people with a disability and their carers in access to employment. We should ensure the development and training of all care staff around cultural competency, cultural safety, anti-discrimination, anti-racism and trauma informed service delivery. Trauma informed is really important, in this space, especially for people with a disability and especially for new and emerging people that have come from war zones and communities that aren't as refined as ours, for want of a better word.

We should broaden the definition of immediate family or family unit, when considering carer leave. This is especially crucial for CALD communities who live in joint families and think of care responsibility as a family community issue. Often, in CALD families, Uncle Jack might not actually be Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack might be an external person who's close to the family and who has assumed those roles in those situations. Services should be available to use those people in that space as well.

I would say the same would go with regard to the NDIS, with regard to people supplying services and supports for people getting NDIS services as well. People should be able to employ family members and community members that they know very well to offer them support and care.

The next issue we've got is the impact of combining various types of work in care, including children and age, for those with a disability. I'll go into our recommendations. I won't go into all of them, because I know you're stuck for time. They include the removal of long waiting periods for migrants that have access to community mainstream supports; removal of the 10-year qualifying period; removal of more than 28 days of broad criteria to access the DSP; and provision of adequate funding for formal support, including funding to community organisations, individual, agency and disability supports, that they can adequately meet the needs of CALD people with a disability.

One of the issues, there, is that advocacy within the community has been devastated by the fact that states and territories now basically contribute that money into the general coffers of the NDIS. One of the things that suffered in this space was general advocacy work, feet on the ground work, working with people that are—and I don't like the term 'vulnerable' but we'll use it today—vulnerable people with a disability or CALD people. That can be for them looking for work or looking for supports or looking for anything. The fact that those support services have been greatly diminished in that space, that advocacy has become a real problem, is something that is a real barrier to people with a disability seeking employment and getting jobs.

The next one is about consideration of the differences in experience of disabled people and workers who support them and those who undertake formal caring roles. I'll go through the recommendations, and these are the last five recommendations.

We recommend appropriate visa training. Appropriate visas, training and support pathways should be made available for CALD people with a disability; carers residing in Australia already.

We recommend ensuring that there's adequate and appropriate help in applying and maintaining access to mainstream supports—for example, improved assertive outreach; provide personal tailored support; help connect people with and across different mainstream supports; improving the skills and capabilities of frontline workers that meet the needs of CALD people with a disability, so there's less reliance on formal care and support.

We recommend ensuring that any future federally funded employment services incorporate specialist services and inclusion experts who understand individual barriers to employment, and help support CALD people with disability and carers in access to employment.

We recommend committing to the collection and application of accurate and representative data. Data's very important in this space.

We recommend a national consistent definition of CALD, distinguished between cultural diversity and linguistic diversity, cultural consistency in how disability is defined, and intersectionality is included in the data collections. Just on those things, just because a person speaks a language doesn't mean they're literate in that language as well.

One of the other things I want to talk about, which is employment based and disability based, and CALD people utilise the service, is that of ADEs, Australian disability enterprises. You've got people working in those programs for as little as $2.30 or $2.40 an hour, in places where they can't leave. They're there all day. They're put there by family members and carers. Many of these people go just because it's expected of them. Essentially, that equates to modern-day slavery. One of the things we would like to see is the phasing out of ADEs or a process which is a more appropriate form of employment for people with a disability within that space. I think it's obscene that you've got people earning $2.50 or $3 an hour stuffing envelopes and doing things, and the able-bodied person supervising them is earning $35 an hour. That is outrageous and it's something that I would like to talk about at some point further, if there's an opportunity. That's it so far. We'll tidy up this document that we've got today, so it's a tad more formal, and we'll flick that across very soon to you.

CHAIR: That's a very comprehensive and quickly skated-across document which I really would look forward to receiving from you. The committee would welcome the detail behind what you have just put to us. Thank you for offering to give that to us.

Senator WHITE : That was very comprehensive. One of the points you made was that advocacy has been devastated, and that joining up and giving information in communities—which you rightly said was poor during COVID times, because there was just nobody thinking about how to describe to various CALD communities what was going on. You talk about advocacy services. Are there any other central coordination services that you think might be useful to have for those communities to help them navigate the supports they need?

Mr Cranfield : I think there's probably a broader role there—somewhere for Services Australia in this conversation—as to how to engage with the community and to support CALD people in this space. Part of the worrying aspect around all of this is that there's an over-reliance on technology to get information out into the community—so the use of apps, smartphones and devices. A lot of the people that we deal with, especially those who border on aged care or are a bit older, don't have access to that equipment and don't understand that equipment, and a lot of people from new and emerging communities don't have the resources to be able to afford the equipment to connect and get the information they need. So that's one of the barriers around this space.

Again, when we are using app based technology, information is provided in language in written format. That's great if you can read your language, but if you've grown up in a refugee camp or you've grown up in a country where young women aren't allowed to attend school and learn how to read and write, these things can be real barriers to you accessing these supports.

What's really needed is to go back a bit and have that process we had years ago, where we had feet on the ground who worked with people within community and supported them. Government is trying to reduce expenditure—and I get it—so we go to app based technology, but what we need is people on the ground to work with people.

Many years ago in the eighties, when I first started my employment history as a youth worker in Newcastle, I did detached youth work, which was where I took all the resources that my organisation had out into the community of an evening and worked with young gangs and people then, many of whom in the Newcastle area were CALD as well. We took all those resources out to them because there was a process that didn't allow them to come into the office. They were fearful of offices. They were fearful of government. They were fearful of all sorts of things. So we took those resources out and we built relationships with those people and built up trust in order to help facilitate growth. I think there's a place for some kind of similar working model again, especially—again, I don't like the term, but I'm going to use it—with vulnerable people in this space.

Senator WHITE : I guess what you're saying is that one size doesn't fit all and you have to look at the communities that you're dealing with and what they come with and what they require communication-wise. Do you think that's also the sort of philosophy that is required to increase the numbers of people with a disability and with a CALD background participating in the workforce?

Mr Cranfield : One hundred per cent. I identify as a person with a disability as well, and I have an acquired brain injury. Today it appears I've had enough coffee and I'm quite succinct in what I've saying, but there are days when I'm not, so my capacity can vary. I think part of the issue is that when people with a disability are moving towards disability employment services to help them find work—let's say it's a psychosocial issue that they've got—and they wake up that morning and they just can't get out of bed to make the meeting to go to get their job or to talk to somebody about a job, and then it gets cancelled and they have to wait another eight weeks or 12 weeks until they get another appointment to come in and see something, there's a real lack of flexibility in how we deal with people with a disability in this space. We're not dealing with Corporate Bob, who can get up in the morning and go to work and arrive on time and be there. We're dealing with people who have capacity issues within their lives that very much dictate their ability to perform and to be on time, to attend or to read a document. I think there's got to be some flexibility within that process that looks at that.

Then you have the added issue of culture and language in that as well. There might be shame in the fact that they've let people down and they can't do things. It becomes a very broad situation, and there isn't a lot of—what's the word I am looking for? Scope. There's not a lot of room for movement in how government and organisations deal with people in these situations. They're very prescriptive.

CHAIR: Thank you for those answers. Our time is limited, but I just want to summarise some of the big points you've made, which have been about adequate communication, especially systems that pick up on new and emerging CALD communities.

Mr Cranfield : Yes.

CHAIR: You've also made a strong argument about the visa system, simplification and ensuring that it works properly. You've made a point about advocacy and how the consequence—an unintended consequence, probably—of the NDIS is that the fracturing of support has meant a fracturing of a well-organised advocacy voice. Have I got that right?

Mr Cranfield : One hundred per cent. I do think it wasn't decided, 'Oh, we're going to cut down on advocacy by doing this.' I think it was very much unintended. It occurred, and now we're dealing with the ramifications, yes.

CHAIR: You also have made an argument for proper data collection that's disaggregated, so hopefully that is developed in the document you're going to send to us. Finally, on the ADEs, the enterprises that you mentioned, I'm just curious about the extent of those. Are they in decline? What's the scale of those in terms of—

Mr Cranfield : No, they're not, and they're supported by both sides of politics. They're a process that both the current opposition and the current government support. They're what's commonly referred to as sheltered workshops. They're out there and they're thriving, and it's a bit like disability employment services—the amount of money that gets thrown to those, and they don't pass muster either. I'm glad to see that that's being reviewed, and that's really important. ADEs are a real issue that needs to be addressed, because it is just modern slavery, you know. I know we've got to time, but I have a neighbour who lives independently. He gets up at four o'clock on a Canberra winter's morning to go and clean public toilets after catching the bus, for $3.60 an hour. That's what he gets. He goes and cleans public toilets for $3.60 an hour. He lives independently. He's a man with an intellectual disability, and he does that five days a week. It's just inappropriate.

CHAIR: I think there's no-one listening to what you're saying who would think that was a good thing, but I do wonder: is there also a function there for such enterprises where they provide a form of care? What will be the implication of their removal for families that may be using them as a form of care? I'm not arguing for the enterprises; I'm arguing for—

Mr Cranfield : No, I think you're right. A lot of people end up in these places because their parents or their carers have got to go to work and do things during the day, and these become a safe holding place for someone to then be of use and to try and do something and to make friends. But generally, for the people I've spoken to, that's not the case. They just arrive and they work, and I don't think it's a very joyous place for them, from the people that I've spoken to. But I think you're right: part of the issue is that these are seen by carers as safe environments for these people to go to while they do the things that they need to do in order to survive as well. It's not an easy fix; I'm not suggesting that it is.

CHAIR: Thank you for drawing our attention to that and for the whole submission that you've given us. You've introduced a whole range of additional points for us to consider, and so the committee thanks you for your contribution. We look forward to receiving your submission within two weeks, if that's possible. Thanks for your time and for putting up with the technology as well. It's much appreciated.

Mr Cranfield : Technology has been a bit difficult today! But thank you very much. I'm really glad this is happening today, so thank you, everybody.