Jobs of the future: why Disability Support Workers are in demand

Jobs of the future: why Disability Support Workers are in demand
Posted on Wed 16 Jan 2019

Feel good about what you do, get great training, work-life balance and competitive remuneration. Sound too good to be true? These are the reasons why Disability Support Workers are in hot demand. 

Written by Sharlene Roebuck

Imagine a new role or career change that makes you feel good while providing great training, flexibility, competitive remuneration and work-life balance. It may sound too good to be true, but word on the street is the role of a Disability Support Worker ticks all these boxes. And…they are in hot demand.

According to the Federal Employment Department, healthcare and social assistance are now the largest single industry, accounting for over 12% of the total workforce. The disability sector receives the second largest federal government spend after Medicare, with Disability Support Workers the largest employee cohort in the sector. And jobs in the sector are predicted to increase by a further 798,000!

In line with this data, Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) is experiencing an increase in demand for Disability Support Workers to service its clients living with a range of disabilities, particularly in north east Sydney and Northern Beaches.

There’s no doubt the arrival of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been an influencer of change for the sector. Reports suggest that one of those changes is a trend towards casualisation. Currently, almost 4 in 10 workers in the disability sector are employed on a casual basis, and there are predictions casualisation will increase further as the NDIS rolls out across the country.

At CPA, we’re committed to building a permanent workforce, which is demonstrated by our staff profile, comprising 15% casual and 85% permanent staff (37% of permanent staff are full-time and 48% are part-time).

Frank Sedmak, our General Manager of People and Culture, said to me, 

“Our aim is to build a skilled permanent workforce. While we still need a casual workforce to respond to the peaks and troughs of changing client demand, our intention is not to move the workforce to a predominantly casual one."

So, what does being a Disability Support Worker involve and who should consider the role?

Disability Support Workers work directly with clients in their homes, in the community and at work. Ideal candidates can be students, particularly those interested in a career in allied health, social work or healthcare; people who currently work in retail, hospitality, aged care; or parents/carers returning to the workforce with valuable life experience. These people often have relevant transferable skills such as great customer service and relationship building skills.

These soft skills, also known as ‘people skills’ are worth their weight in gold across every profession. In fact they’re seen as being the essential skills of the future. Soft skills also include interpersonal skills, communication skills, decision making, self-motivation, self-awareness, leadership, team-building, problem-solving and time management skills. According to the recent Deloitte Access Economics report, Soft skills for business success, soft skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000.

 

What skills does a Disability Support Worker need?

Customer service skills: a customer focused approach is vital to support people with a disability to effectively communicate their needs and aspirations, make their own decisions and to live their lives as they choose. 

Relationship building skills: if you are genuinely good with people and have the ability to build and maintain meaningful relationships, you’ll be a hit with our clients and your colleagues - being a team player is a must, there’s no room for ‘Lone Rangers’.

Life experience and transferrable skills: our clients look for support workers who share common interests in art, music, movies, social media, sport, etc., to assist participation in their local community and achieve their personal health and wellbeing goals. Opportunities also exist for support workers with relevant life experiences. For example, parents who’ve had experience caring for someone with disability, and are looking to return to the workforce often have fantastic transferable skills.

What do clients want from a Disability Support Worker?

Marc Warden, a CPA client said,

“I’m looking for people who have lots of energy, a good work ethic and who enjoy what they do. The skills required to perform the functional tasks of the job are a given. The most important thing to me is having a good relationship. I want my support workers to have a genuine interest in me as a person. I’m also looking for people who share similar interests and when working in my home, feel like they are a friend and an extension of my support network.”

What are the benefits of being a Disability Support Worker at CPA?

1. The power of purpose driven work

Thought leader Simon Sinek challenges us to focus on the WHY. SInek points out, "The Why is notabout making money - that's a result. The Why is a purpose, cause or belief. Your Why is the very reason you exist."

People who work directly with clients make real a difference to their daily lives. Employees are three times more engaged and productive when they know that they are making a positive impact through their work.

In the CPA 2018 employee engagement survey, over 400 Disability Support Workers said that they believed in the values of CPA and loved their work. They also said they’re proud of working at CPA and would recommend it as a great place to work. In fact, the results are consistently 12-20% higher than the average of what employees are saying across the Australian economy.

Research indicates millennials and gen Z are more driven by purpose than profit, compared to other generations. So the future looks like a workforce seeking fulfilment through having a purpose and making a social impact, ahead of financial rewards.

2. Work-life balance and family friendly practices

At CPA we recognise employees have busy personal and professional lives. We aim to provide a physical, cultural and organisational environment that supports healthy lifestyle choices. Take a look at the range of health and wellbeing benefits available.

We also strive to create a family friendly culture that supports employees to balance their family and work obligations. In the 2018 employee engagement survey, Disability Support Workers strongly agreed that CPA provides benefits and workplace practices that create opportunities for a great work-life balance. In particular, they said they were able to meet their family responsibilities while still doing what was expected of them at work. The survey results placed CPA in the top tier of organisations in Australia for work-life balance.

3. Competitive remuneration

In addition to receiving attractive hourly rates, CPA’s Disability Support Worker penalty rates continue to remain competitive while hospitality, fast food and retail penalty rates are set to decline over the next two years.

Penalty rates at January 2019:

 

Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Hospitality

Fast Food

Retail

Sunday

175%

permanent / 183.33% casual

160%

permanent / 175% casual

135%

permanent / 160% casual

180%

permanent / 185% casual

Public Holidays

250%

permanent / 258.33% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

 

Declining hospitality, fast food and retail penalty rates effective from 1 July 2019 and 2020:

 

Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Hospitality

Fast Food

Retail

Sunday

175%

permanent / 183.33% casual

150%

permanent / 175% casual (from 1 Jul-19)

125%

permanent / 150% casual (from 1 Jul-19)

150%

permanent / 175% casual

(from 1 Jul-20)

Public Holidays

250%

permanent / 258.33% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

225%

permanent / 250% casual

 

Source: Hospitality, Fast Food and Retail penalty rates available on the Fairwork Ombudsman website. CPA rates are available on the Fairwork Commission website.

Nathan Jones switched from retail to become a Disability Support Worker at CPA in northern Sydney, and said,

“I made the switch from retail to disability because I wanted to help others. I’ve never looked back, it’s so rewarding to make a difference to someone’s life every day. For me, it’s not about the money, but for many people money is a big factor. The pay rates in disability are much better than retail, and knowing you’re financially secure is important and makes you feel valued.”

Continuous learning

A commitment to continuous learning is critical in a world where many industries are being disrupted. People need to constantly upskill themselves to stay competitive in their chosen field, and lifelong learning helps you to embrace change and stay curious.

At CPA, we pride ourselves on being the best in breed for training. While other service providers are moving away from investing in training, CPA invest heavily in on and off the job training, and provide opportunities for our Disability Support Workers to obtain formal qualifications while they work (including a Certificate III in Individual Support and Certificate IV in Disability).

This year’s employee engagement survey revealed that 92% of Disability Support Workers who participated in the survey said the training and development they receive at CPA directly improved their performance in their role.

Oscar Roden, Disability Support Worker, CPA’s sports program says,

 

“The training here is fantastic. With CPA’s support, I’ve been able to complete my Disability Certificate III and IV.  I’ve gained the skills and experience I need to work with clients who have a range of different disabilities and I’m encouraged to learn more all the time.”

 

To learn more about career opportunities at CPA, visit www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/work

Can you help? Do you know or are you part of an identical twin pair who are differently affected by cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual impairment?

Matilda was 26 years old when she played her first game of football. Now 28, she’s moved across the country from Western Australia (WA) to Canberra in Australia to follow her dreams of being part of the first female football team to represent Australia at the 2021 IFCPF World Cup.