Anthony Albanese says he will do what he can to see how a disability employment service in WA can keep operating, after the provider announced it was shutting down its industrial workshops leaving hundreds out of work.
The Opposition Leader called the closure of Activ’s supported employment workshops “a really serious issue” that had left those involved “devastated”.
“This is a serious issue that goes to the cuts that have occurred to the NDIS and goes to, as well, what has occurred in employment services,” he said.
“This decision has been devastating for the people involved in those employment services, but also their families.
“This is a company that have been active in Western Australia for 70 years. They’ve survived all sorts of pressures, but they couldn’t survive the Morrison government.”
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He said he wanted to see what could be done so the services could continue to operate and said the NDIS was one of the areas there was a key policy difference between Labor and the Government.
“We will do what we can to sit down and get advice about how these services can continue to operate,” he said.
“This is about employment and engagement, it’s also the social interaction that comes with these services.
“I’ve said, consistently, that the NDIS has one key difference between us and the Government.
“That is, we understand that the NDIS is about people. It’s about the people who are involved in the scheme.
“At the heart of it, what we want to do is, in all ways, encourage the fullest participation possible in society, including in employment, of people with a disability.
“What we understand is that that’s not only good for the people with disability – it’s also good for our Australian economy and for our society as well, to be inclusive.”
Activ announced on Monday it was closing down seven of its supported worksites which employ 700 people, with the organisation’s chief executive Michael Heath blaming funding cuts from the Commonwealth’s NDIS.
Mr Health said he’d approached both State and Federal Governments about getting funding to keep the sites running.
NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has denied there had been cuts to the NDIS and said it was a business decision by Activ.
However, she also confirmed the Commonwealth favoured “mainstream employment” for people with disabilities.
Supported employment is specific work for people with disabilities who may need more assistance than a mainstream workplace allows.
Activ’s sites had included timber manufacturing, product packaging and industrial services.
Asked why the WA Government hadn’t stepped in to fund Activ, Mark McGowan said NDIS was a Commonwealth responsibility but said he was a “great supporter of Activ” and it was his hope whoever did win the election would work with them to see what could be done.