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Vocational Services To Focus On Employment

A government review has shown that employment should be the main focus of vocational services for people with disabilities, Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

Launching Pathways to Inclusion: Improving Vocational Services for People with Disabilities, Ms Dyson said people with disabilities had made it very clear that they wanted services that helped them find work.

"We will do everything we can to make sure people with disabilities have the opportunity to gain real skills and real jobs, with the same rights and conditions as other workers."

As part of this commitment, Ruth Dyson said the government would repeal the Disabled Persons Employment Act 1960.

"The act treats people with disabilities unfairly by giving sheltered workplaces a blanket exemption from minumum wage and holiday provisions for their workers.
Its repeal is a long-awaited change that recognises the human rights of people with disabilities and shows government's commitment to a fully inclusive society."

Around 3500 people with disabilities participate in sheltered workshops. There are 45 approved providers and 262 workshops throughout the country.

"When the act is repealed, people with disabilities in an employment relationship will have the same rights and entitlements as everyone else. Those people whose productivity is not suffificent to earn the minimum wage will be able to apply for an under-rate workers' permit."

Ruth Dyson said that, while employment was the primary focus of Pathways to Inclusion, the review recognised there were a number of ways for people with disabilities to contribute to society.

"Full-time paid work is not practical or desirable for everyone. For this reason, we are also committed to improving the quality of vocational services that support people to be actively involved and visible in our communities. This involvement may occur in many ways, including through voluntary work."

The DPEP Act will be repealed next year, with changes phased in over five years Ms Dyson said this would give providers and consumers time to adjust to the new environment.

"Over the next five years, providers will be supported to develop new employment relationships and community participation programmes. This will ensure that there is minimum disruption to the sector and that people with disabilities continue to have access to vocational services and opportunities."

Ms Dyson said the new direction for vocational services was in line with the New Zealand Disability Strategy. Objective 4 of the strategy is to "provide opportunities in employment and economic development for people with disabilities" and to "enable people with disabilities to work in the open labour market (in accordance with human rights principles) and maintain an adequate income."

Copies of Pathways to Inclusion are available from the Department of Labour, PO Box 3705, Wellington and on the following websites:


12 September 2001

Pathways to Inclusion: Improving Vocational Services for People with Disabilities

Vocational services
- DWI currently has contracts with about 180 vocational service providers.
- DWI's annual budget for vocational services is approximately $60 million.
- About 22,000 people access vocational services through DWI funding.
- In most cases DWI contributes partial funding, which providers supplement from other funding sources.
- Some providers, such as Workbridge and IHC are national organisations; but most are local, community-based providers.
- At present most services are not focused on paid employment outcomes.
- For many years the range of services currently funded have been known as ‘day activities', 'vocational training', 'life skills', 'sheltered work', 'supported employment', and so on.

Sheltered workshops
- There are 45 approved sheltered workshop providers and 262 workshops.
- Around 3,500 people participate in sheltered workshops.
- Sheltered workshops are spread from Kaitaia to Invercargill.
- Some workshops have only 6 individuals – others have over 100.
- IHC has 187, or 70%, of the sheltered workshops.

Sheltered workshops:
- produce goods for sale, such as art, craft and sewing;
- do manufacturing work such as woodwork and light engineering;
- undertake contracts such as packaging and assembly;
- perform services such as gardening, lawnmowing and recycling.

- Individuals in sheltered workshops are generally paid around $5 to $50 per week.
- Average payments are estimated at around $17 per week.
- Individuals generally get their primary income from invalids or sickness benefits.

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