What is the idea behind Supported Employment?

A supported employee often has a lot more on their plate than the average worker.

Some supported employees are very highly qualified but have had major setbacks due to long periods of hospitalisation, institutionalisation, or unemployment.

Many people with mental health issues also have poor physical health, and then there are the effects of social disadvantage. Some people have literacy and numeracy problems especially if their mental health issues developed while at school.

As well as doing the job itself, supported employees have the additional challenge of learning to deal with their mental health issues and with the side effects of medication, such as sedation.

Alan Blake, Quality, Training and Technical specialist with Flourish Australia’s community businesses says that in supported employment, sometimes even very enthusiastic workers might benefit from beginning on simpler jobs so that they can improve their ability to focus stage by stage.

In the course of the recovery journey, the aim is to take on more complex tasks involving more decision making.

In Anthony’s story on page 8 (as well as others’) we can see how he has built himself up over time. We can also see from his experience mentoring in computer recycling operation that at any one time there will be people working together who are at very different stages of recovery.

Cleaners working at EMAI have to be particularly responsible and reliable because of the need to prevent cross contamination between laboratory buildings and so this sort of supported employment is suitable for a person who has made great progress towards open employment.

2 thoughts on “What is the idea behind Supported Employment?

  1. Thanks for your comment, bigpetetafemd75.

    These workshops are only meant to serve as a bridge to better things for people with mental health issues who have either been out of work for many years or never worked at all. We encourage our workers to engage with studies (such as the Certificate III in Warehousing that we held in two of our locations) and we do what we can to move them along to open employment. I actually started out at the Harris Park factory location earning $4 an hour, and I worked my way up to open employment at Panorama magazine. I often use my successful transition to a real career to encourage the workers in our supported employment locations to reach further.

    To be clear, I agree with you: I want these workers to get better jobs at award wage. But you’d be amazed how many actively resist being moved along, despite our encouragement. A lot of our employees find their jobs fulfilling and are very happy to stay where they are. It goes without saying that while we cannot force them to move on, we do try to make the transition less terrifying. On the bright side, a lot of our peer workforce started off in similar workplaces, and their example encourages the people in our workshops to think about where they’d like to go.

    If you check out any given issue of Panorama Magazine, you’ll see that we have a major focus on employment for the people who access our services. We have four pages of each issue dedicated to this important subject, sometimes more. But if our workers refuse to engage with our employment services and simply want to stay where they are, what can we do? Answering this question is a priority for us, but it’s not an easy one. I wish there was a simple solution!

    Also: our workers receive full disability support pensions, and what they earn with us doesn’t affect that.

    I hope you found my response helpful. Thanks for reading Panorama Online.


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