Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – Radio Adelaide Interview on Payment Schemes for Intellectually Disabled Workers

Kelly Vincent, Dignity for Disability MLC (Radio Adelaide 7.38-7.44) Payment schemes for intellectually disabled workers

Randall: This week the issue of payment schemes for intellectually disabled workers is back on the table after the Government announced plans to establish a payment scheme for those workers who’d been under-paid while working at sheltered workshops. Kelly Vincent, can you take us back to before the ruling, how was pay calculated?

Kelly Vincent: What happens under the current model is a person is judged on first their competency and second their productivity. So for example if I was able to make ten of a certain product and you were able to make 100% (sic) I would get paid 10% and you would get paid 100% of a particular wage.

Randall: So have workers’ conditions improved since the high court’s decision last year. It sounds like a pretty terrible system.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, particularly given that there are plenty of people who are less productive at their jobs than other people but it doesn’t mean their wages get docked if they don’t have a disability. Certainly this decision is welcomed by Dignity for Disability and by the disability community at large I think but the problem is this is one of the many tools that are used to determine the wages of people working in sheltered workshops and so one good thing about it is that we are starting to see organisations working under these sorts of models talking about moving to a different model where workers are paid better wages but we’ve got a long way to go.

Randall: So does everyone get paid equally in these sheltered workshops now?

Kelly Vincent: No, again it’s determined by their productivity and their competency is judged by whichever model the sheltered workshop is using so we’ve got a long way to go and the real issue I think we’ve got is making sure that sheltered workshops are no longer the default option for many people with intellectual disability and other disadvantage because for a long time now, and still unfortunately, it’s the default option for a lot of people with intellectual disability particularly when they’re leaving school, it’s said well of course you’ll just go here where you’ll get paid this wage and no-one will really take into account your own personal skills or aspirations.

Randall: Is there any concern that if wages were to be increased there might be fewer jobs available for these people?

Kelly Vincent: I think the issue is perhaps we’ve got to look at making sure that the sheltered workshop model isn’t the default option so that people with intellectual disability can actually go somewhere that fits with their own skills and aspirations where they can get paid a fair wage the whole way through so that they’re less dependent on things like the Disability Support Pension. I don’t think it’s about pure jobs, I think it’s about finding the right jobs in the first place.

Randall: In your travels have you spoken with many businesses who are keen to take on some more intellectually disabled workers?

Kelly Vincent: Yes, we’ve certainly spoken with a number of organisations who are looking at moving their models to being fair but unfortunately there is still a lot of ignorance out there in the general workforce about employing people with disabilities despite the fact the research shows that we are more loyal employees and that we take less sick days. So that’s why Dignity for Disability is encouraging the Federal and State Government to take on campaigns like those we see in the youth and indigenous sectors like Closing the Gap to encourage employers to employ people with disability and also we think that part of the temporary measure quotas might be necessary in the sector to make sure that employers do get to see the true benefits of employing people with a disability.

Randall: There are some pretty shocking pay levels, someone getting paid $1 per hour – is this legal and has this part been changed?

Kelly Vincent: It has been legal under the abysmal model that we’ve been talking about. Thankfully with this high court decision we will see change in the future and certainly there are some heartbreaking stories that we hear. Just the other day who said they left a particular sheltered workshop because they were getting paid $2.88 per hour and it was costing them more in travel and childcare than they were getting paid at the end of the day, so change is on the horizon but we’ve got to remain vigilant and hopefully by continuing to talk about these issues we can affect that change and make sure it doesn’t still happen.

Randall: You’ve been through Scandinavia and seen how other disability support systems can work, are there any elements of these systems that you’d like to see put in place here?

Kelly Vincent: All I can say I was absolutely embarrassed when I travelled to Scandinavia and found out that sheltered workshops are literally a thing of the past in many of those countries and it’s not uncommon for people with intellectual disability to be living in their own apartment, renting through private rentals, and getting the support they need in the home and it goes to show that there’s a lot of ignorance in our general workforce and that people with intellectual disabilities can perform the skills that are necessary to get paid a decent wage – it’s just time to get rid of the ignorance that exists in our workforce.

Randall: Thanks for joining us.