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Joint Statement on Reducing Barriers to Employment

01 August 2013

Chairs of the four major bodies which report directly to the Prime Minister or relevant Ministers, including the Commission’s Chair Professor Allan Fels, released a joint media statement on Australia’s current system of employment services.

Reducing barriers to employment – increasing opportunities for all

Statement by Dr John Herron, Prof Alan Fels, Ms Lin Hatfield Dodds & Mr Tony Nicholson

As the chairs of the four bodies that report directly to the Prime Minister and Ministers involved in this area, we, Ms Lin Hatfield Dodds (Australian Social Inclusion Board), Mr Tony Nicholson (Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness), Prof Allan Fels (National Mental Health Commission), and Dr John Herron (Australian National Council on Drugs), today call on governments and all political parties to recognise the pressing need to improve the effectiveness of current employment systems in place for people with complex needs.

Employment is critically important for those who are experiencing alcohol, drug, mental health, homelessness and other social exclusion issues and can help people to successfully address and manage such problems. Effective employment services for the significant number of people affected by these issues can have real benefits for affected people, their families, the community, and the economy.

Australians with multiple and complex needs want to and can make a contribution to their community and society by engaging in meaningful and durable work. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for people dealing with these problems to find and keep work. For these groups of people there is a real need to develop a more effective, client-focused system of employment assistance that creates a more direct line of sight to an appropriate job.

Under the current arrangements, employment services are not well equipped to deal with the complex range of issues experienced by these clients. Directly utilising the specialist services from the homelessness, alcohol and other drugs, and mental health sectors to address unemployment for people with complex needs is a reform that would reduce the significant barriers to employment faced by people with complex needs. The Job Services Australia system is currently being reviewed before the next phase of the system is introduced in 2015. Now is the time for everyone, including the health, welfare and business sectors, to come together to provide a renewed employment assistance system that supports people with complex needs to be able to get and keep a decent job.

"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."

Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

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