Labor helps disability employment group transition WA workers off books

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday June 21, 2022

disability

The federal government has intervened in the closure of Activ Foundation, which was initially slated for mid next year, with a $7.8 million grant to ensure new timeframes can transition its workforce into other jobs.

A joint taskforce will also be set up by the Department of Social Services, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS) and the WA Office of Disability to help place workers in new jobs before the company closes.

Last month Activ said it would close its large-scale industrial sites in Western Australia, terminating the jobs of more than 750 employees with a disability. 

In a statement, social services minister Amanda Rishworth said news of Activ’s closure had come as a “significant shock” for many of the workers.

She added the grant showed the federal government was keeping an election promise to improve employment outcomes for people living with a disability and their families. 

“We need to put these employees first and make sure they receive the support they need to manage this significant transition in their lives,” Rishworth said. 

“This funding will slow the closure of the work sites, from a few weeks to 18 months.”

The extra money will ensure 756 employees can continue to be employed, if they wish to remain in their existing roles, for another 18 months. 

The government taskforce plans to manage the jobs transition with supported Activ workers, their families, advocates and the local sector. 

NDIS minister Bill Shorten said the aims of the support package went beyond employment, and were also concerned with developing opportunities for people with disability in the community. 

“Work provides more than just new skills and experience – it brings a sense of purpose and direction, and allows employees to forge new social connections,” Shorten said. 

“This funding underlines the government’s commitment to people with disability and the sectors that support them.”

The transition will also be supported by a $4 million funding pool established by the WA government for Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) based in the state. That money will go towards sustainable employment of Activ workers for the duration of the transition period and give equitable treatment of ADEs.

“This support will not only alleviate the stress and anxiety from supported employees but also from their families who at one stage did not know where to turn,” WA’s disability services minister Don Punch said.

WA premier Mark McGowan had raised concerns about the looming closure of Activ with the new federal government shortly after Labor was voted into power. He welcomed the Commonwealth announcement for additional support and said it would give employees time to make informed choices about their future and find new jobs that were equally fulfilling.

“This funding, combined with Western Australia’s funding commitment, will support an orderly transition,” the premier said. 

NDIA representatives and participation local area coordinators will be offering support via email (participant.employment@ndis.gov.au) and telephone (1800 800 100).

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