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King: Mainstream Employer of the Year Awards 2005

Mainstream Employer of the Year Awards 2005

State Services Minister Annette King announces the annual Mainstream awards today in a celebration of 30 years of Mainstream provision.

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I know the Mainstream Employer of the Year is one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to present the award today.

The event is even more important today because for the first time the new Placement Specialist of the Year awards are also being presented.

Before we move to the awards ceremony, however, today is also special because we are celebrating 30 years of Mainstream provision, and I'd like to take a few minutes to share with you some of the programme's achievements over those years.

There are a number of aspects I want to discuss, including:

- The Mainstream Programme's roots in early disability related provision to New Zealanders.

- The programme's role in good supported employment practice.

- And Mainstream's place in relation to the New Zealand Disability Strategy and furthering the Development Goals for New Zealand's State Services.

Over recent decades, our failure to include talented people, who experience disability, in all aspects of community life has been acknowledged. Nowhere was such failure more apparent than in segregated programmes set up to provide employment opportunities.

Sheltered workshops emerged in the early 20th century as a way for people to develop work skills. Trainees attended up to 40 hours a week for as little as $20, paid from their Social Security entitlements.

It is now well accepted that all elements of community living must be available to everyone, but over the past three decades negative employer attitudes towards people who experience disability continued to prevail.

The mood slowly changed. By the late 1980s, trainees, parents and guardians, government officials --- and even those employed by workshops to provide training and supervision --- expressed increasing dissatisfaction with sheltered employment.

Much of the public debate concerned the conflict between the interests of sheltered employment providers and integrated employment programmes for people disadvantaged by significant disability. As with other activities involving this group, the move to relocate resources away from the sheltered workshop system and into community-based support added to the debate.

Today, of course, supported employment is popular worldwide as a real alternative to segregated, sheltered employment. Supported employment is often said to have evolved in New Zealand as a result of practices in the United States during the 1980s, but, as you all know, the Mainstream Programme has operated in the State sector for much longer than that.

Historians see two dates as key to today's rights based provision --- firstly, introduction of the Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act in the 1970s, and then the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. I would add another key date as well --- the setting up of what is now known as the Mainstream Supported Employment Programme.

On October 28, 1975, the Cabinet approved a limited, special scheme to temporarily employ 20 people with significant intellectual impairments in "supernumerary positions" within Public Service departments.

Those appointed to the scheme were treated as temporary public servants and paid a salary at rates negotiated between the State Services Commission and the Public Service Association. This was usually about 80 percent of the full salary for the position.

The SSC monitored these placements. It was expected that once people could achieve 100 percent output and work full-time, they should join the relevant department's permanent workforce.

Early Mainstream employers included Defence, Inland Revenue, the Courts, Social Welfare and Education. Our Public Service led the way in providing new and greatly improved employment practice for people who experience disability.

In 1980, in the face of growing demand, the Cabinet expanded the scheme to 40 places for those with physical or intellectual disabilities, and another extension to 60 places was approved in 1984.

After a major review in 1986, the scheme grew again in 1988 to 100 places, and employers were paid a scaled salary subsidy. People who experienced mental illness were finally included. A full-time manager was appointed and the name of the scheme was changed to what is now generally referred to as the Mainstream Programme.

In 1992 the first working protocol was signed between the SSC and Workbridge Incorporated, which meant that Workbridge staff, and later staff from other placement organizations, could act as agents to negotiate job placements directly with State sector employers.

That year Mainstream's third and longest serving manager, Pam Crothall, was appointed. She remains passionate about a programme she benefited from as a trainee social worker in the 1980s.

SSC showed great foresight in setting up the Mainstream Programme all those years ago, and these days embraces the Disability Strategy objective of 'fostering leadership by disabled people' themselves.

Another, but much less extensive, programme review took place in 1996, reducing the length of placement to two years and providing extra funding to train participants and supervisors. The list of eligible state sector organisations was also expanded to include some Crown Entities, providing more variety of work for Mainstream participants.

Another enhancement to the Programme came in 2003 when it was extended to the school sector. This has doubled its size and it now supports employment for more than 250 people.

The latest improvement is piloting and implementing a new cost of disability in employment fund, designed to meet needs of participants in areas like adaptive software and sign language interpreter services.

I also want to acknowledge the Mainstream Programme Manager and other SSC staff who have worked with the Labour Department and Ministry of Social Development to address an historic anomaly around access to support funds by disabled state servants employed on merit. Such state servants can now access funds through Workbridge.

Mark Prebble has spoken of the major elements for good supported employment practice, upon which Mainstream philosophy is based. A crucial element is the role of "natural supports", workmates who guide Mainstream participants as they negotiate the new world of work.

Of particular importance is the support provided by workplace supervisors, who act as role models and mentors. They can be the difference between a good, and a great, Mainstream experience.

I salute all Mainstream participants who have taken advantage of the employment opportunity offered by the programme, run with it, and shown what is possible, with just a little help and lots of personal determination. Attitude is always a major factor in success.

As I said, the Mainstream Programme supports the disability strategy of fostering leadership by disabled people. The programme also delivers on two other strategy objectives --- providing opportunities in employment and economic development for people who experience disability, and fostering an aware and responsive Public Service.

The latter objective is also closely aligned with the State Services development goals. A key role for the State Services is to promote leadership and the development of state servants. The Mainstream programme, with its support of diversity, certainly contributes to making the State Services an employer of choice.

I want to wish everyone associated with the programme a productive and successful anniversary year. The programme is well placed to build on its proven success in improving employment opportunities for people who experience disability, and I look forward to sharing in your future successes. Thank you.

It is now my very great pleasure to announce the recipients of the 2005 placement specialist and employer of the year awards. I'm going to begin with presentations to the runner up and winner of the inaugural Mainstream placement specialist of the year.

The runner up for this award is: Joan Hamilton of Edge Employment. Joan was nominated by her colleague, Joy Deynzer. Joan, please step forward to accept your award.

The overall winner of the inaugural Mainstream placement specialist of the year award is: Siona Tulia, of Emerge Trust. Siona was nominated by his manager, Helen Wilson. I invite Siona to come forward to accept his award and to say a few words.

Now for the two merit award winners in the category of Mainstream Employer of the Year:

The first merit award for 2005 goes to New Zealand Police, Porirua. The station was nominated by Mainstream participant Catherine Morrison. Would Catherine's manager, John Spence, please come on stage and accept the award.

The second winner of a Mainstream Merit Award is the Accident Compensation Corporation, Palmerston North. ACC was nominated by former Mainstream participant Philip Spring, and I invite Allen Oke to step forward and accept the award.

The runner up for Mainstream employer of the year 2005 is Cosgrove School, Papakura. The school was nominated by Mainstream participant Virginia Olsson. I invite Virginia's supervisor, Karen Rout, to accept the award on behalf of the school.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for --- the overall winner of the Mainstream Employer of the Year Award for 2005 is the Ministry of Social Development, Work and Income, Oamaru. The nomination was made by Mainstream Programme participant Deborah Gracie.

I'm delighted to invite Ministry of Social Development General Manager Dale Farrar, Barry Fisk, and Deborah's supervisor, Catherine Bisson, to come on stage, accept the award and say a few words.

ENDS

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