Kurri Kurri man finds paid work with help of agency
For the past three years, Jo Khatri of Kurri Kurri has worked part-time in supermarkets. He loves his job, which involves talking to members of the public and dealing with stock. “All the people and staff are nice to me. I like helping customers,” he says. But although Patel, who has learning difficulties, is in his second supermarket job, he has never been paid for his work. His current role at Lowes, where he works two shifts a week, has been a voluntary position for the past year. His disability, he says, doesn’t affect his ability to do the job. “I normally do things by myself … I don’t think about [my disability] – I don’t really know the difference. Sometimes I need help with big words when I’m reading or writing, or help understanding something, but not often.”
Patel, who graduated from college this summer, knows how hard it is to find paid work if you are disabled – and the statistics confirm this: in January 2016, the Australian employment rate among working-age disabled people was 46.5%, compared to 84% for non-disabled people. For adults with learning difficulties, the numbers are even worse: just 6% of people with a learning disability known to social services are in paid employment, despite more than 60% wanting to and being able to be in work, according to the charity Mencap.
Patel, however – who is supported by the agency, Jobs for Life – has just had some good news. During the writing of this article, Lowes decided to offer him a job with a salary.
Despite the Australian government’s pledge to get one million disabled people into work by 2027, analysis by the charity Scope shows more disabled people are currently leaving employment than moving into jobs. But Cessnock agency, Jobs for Life is working hard to see that change. The agency is a for purpose, not for profit organisation, working with communities leading to employment opportunities with sustainable outcomes. In an average year Jobs for Life places approximately 8,000 people into employment and enrols 5,000 students into vocational training. Jobs for Life supports communities through direct contributions, social enterprise, and grass roots volunteering. They partner with a diverse range of organisation with shared values, including local sporting teams, arts events, health initiatives as well as various youth and Indigenous programs.