Volunteering can play an important role in the lives of people with disability, offering opportunities for social, economic, and cultural inclusion. Volunteering can be particularly beneficial to people with disability in offering self-empowerment and pathways to paid employment.
Volunteering Australia is actively advocating to ensure barriers to volunteering for people with disability are reduced.
Many volunteers also contribute to the disability services workforce and support the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Our advocacy aims to ensure volunteers in disability services receive better recognition and investment.
The NDIS National Workforce Plan: 2021-2025
Volunteering Australia provided a submission to the NDIS National Workforce Plan: 2021-2025 contributing evidence on the role of volunteers in the disability services workforce. The submission highlights the importance of including volunteer-supported programs in the initiatives outlined in the Workforce Plan.
Volunteers make a unique contribution to disability services, facilitating a degree of social connection and cultural inclusion that paid workers alone cannot. They are a distinct, but essential, component of the disability services landscape, and must be considered as part of a comprehensive workforce strategy. The current Workforce Plan makes no reference to volunteers working in disability services.
We have recommended that the NDIS National Workforce Plan:
- Consider volunteers in efforts to attract and retain staff in disability care and support.
- Include volunteering as a means of improving perceptions of disability care and support work.
- Consider volunteers in the proposed re-evaluation of administrative requirements under the NDIS.
See our submission here.
The new National Disability Strategy
The Australian Government, in partnership with State and Territory Governments, is developing the new National Disability Strategy (2021-31). The Strategy and associated Action Plans are due to be published towards the end of 2021. Volunteering Australia is engaging with the federal Department of Social Services to ensure volunteering is included in the strategy.
We have recommended that the National Disability Strategy:
- Recognise and support the important role of volunteering in the lives of people with disability.
- Volunteering offers opportunities for social, economic, and cultural inclusion. People with disability should have equal access to these opportunities. Volunteering can be particularly beneficial to people with disability in offering self-empowerment and pathways to paid employment.
- Include how the volunteering sector can support the delivery of defined outcomes in the Strategy.
- The sector offers inclusive volunteering programs, guidance, and opportunities. The Strategy should support the development and extension of these initiatives so that more people with disability gain the benefits of volunteering.
- Incorporate strategic consideration of, and investment in, the volunteer workforce engaged in disability services.
- Volunteers play a vital role in disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Volunteering is time freely given, but enabling volunteering is not free. Like paid workers, volunteers need induction, training and ongoing management. Volunteers need to be considered strategically in workforce planning if disability services are to meet the needs and aspirations of people with disability.
The National Disability Employment Strategy
The Australian Government is consulting on the National Disability Employment Strategy (the Employment Strategy), which aims to increase employment opportunities for people with disability.
We welcome the inclusion of volunteering under the proposed priority areas 2. and 3. of the draft Employment Strategy. Volunteering can be an important pathway to employment for people with disability.
The further development of the Employment Strategy needs to be mindful of the challenges being faced within volunteering (ongoing and as a result of COVID-19) and the barriers that people with disability can face in accessing volunteering.
If the potential of volunteering (in supporting pathways for people with disability into employment) are to be realised, further consideration needs to be given to addressing the costs that are associated with securing positive volunteering experiences.
See our submission here.
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
The Disability Royal Commission was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability. These incidents might have happened recently or a long time ago. The Disability Royal Commission is investigating a wide range of issues, inclusion the promotion of a more inclusive society that supports people with disability to be independent and live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Promoting Inclusion Issues Paper
Volunteering Australia has provided a submission in response to the Promoting Inclusion Issues Paper, highlighting that:
- Volunteering offers opportunities for social, economic, and cultural inclusion. An inclusive society gives everyone the right to these opportunities.
- People with disability can enjoy the many benefits of volunteering. This includes offering a sense of purpose, the ability to ‘give back’, and the development of skills and confidence.
- However, various barriers to volunteering for people with disability persist. These can be physical, attitudinal and cultural. Further priority and investment in breaking down these barriers is needed.
We are encouraging the Royal Commission to consider the important role of volunteering in creating an inclusive society, and to recommend that volunteering be incorporated into the Action Plans coming from the new National Disability Strategy. This will help foster greater inclusion of people with disability and to facilitate pathways to paid employment.
In drafting this submission, we reached out to people with lived experience of disability. The submission draws on their insights and stories of the value of volunteering in their lives.
See our submission here.
Disability Services Workforce
Volunteering Australia made a further submission to the Royal Commission to address the role of volunteers in the disability services workforce. Volunteering creates opportunities, facilitates social inclusion, brings unique value to services, and connects people to their communities. In the face of ongoing challenges, the value of volunteers and volunteer-supported services in the disability services sector must be acknowledged, celebrated, and safeguarded.
To promote more robust disability workforce planning, which considers and safeguards the unique contributions of volunteers, we have made the following recommendations to the Royal Commission:
- Commission a Disability Services Workforce Census which collects data on volunteering in the sector.
- Reconsider the funding model and administrative requirements for volunteer involving organisations under the NDIS.
- Include volunteers in ongoing workforce planning for the disability services sector.
- Commission research on the contribution of volunteering to program outcomes in disability services.
A lack of clear data on volunteering in the sector, complications surrounding the resourcing of volunteer-supported programs, and the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 necessitate more comprehensive national planning for volunteering in disability services. Ongoing work in the disability services sector must acknowledge and plan to support the involvement of volunteers, with the aim to preserve their unique contribution to the lives of people with disability.
See our submission here.
Volunteering Australia will continue to advocate for the inclusion of volunteering in national strategies and processes relating to people with disability and for better recognition of volunteers engaged in disability services.
For further information or if you would like to share your experience of volunteering or volunteer management in disability, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org