Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Would You Want To Work For $1.50 Per Hour?

13 Oct 2009Today's blog is about sheltered workshops, for those who don't know, these are organizations that specifically hire people with disabilities to work together in various types of workplaces. The employer only hires people with disabilities to perform duties that an able bodied person could do, but at a fraction of the cost. Employees are able to work whilst still keeping their full benefits from the government.

Most positions involve working in factories, assembling pallets with machinery and packaging of products. These workshops are away from the rest of the community so they don't give disabled people interaction with the rest of society. This is important as it helps able bodied people get a better knowledge of people with disabilities and it helps the person with a disability learn how to interact with the rest of society.

I know about sheltered workshops firsthand, when I was about 19, I was unemployed and couldn't find another job anywhere. I saw an ad in the local paper wanting disabled people to work for them. I called them, and an interview was organized.

With my extensive training back ground and previous role in computer skills and reception, I wanted to pursue this field. They said they had a receptionist position for me.

As it was a sheltered workshop type position, it was funded by the government, so I was only going to be paid $1.50 per hour, it worked out to be about $40 dollars a week. This was a huge drop in pay compared to what I was used to.

Because I desperately wanted to work, I said I would do it and look at it as if I were getting work experience. I stated that I would only do it for 3 months maximum, and if they were happy with my work, they could hire me as a ‘normal' employer, they agreed so I started straight away.

After the three months, I approached them a few times about our agreement but was always told a different story as to why they couldn't promote me, so I continued to receive $1.50 per hour. As compensation for not being promoted to a full time average wage employee as we agreed, they gave me a pay rise of 8 cents an hour.

I think places like this should be shut down, they take advantage of people who, with a bit of time and patience, are quite capable of working in the same roles as most people.

Despite my years of TAFE training and previous employment in reception roles, I felt demeaned and was treated as if I didn't know any better and feel I was exploited. I am a very hard worker and put everything I had into my role even though I was getting paid a laughable amount of money.

Their whole idea of paying such a low wage in sheltered workshops, is so those who receive the Disability Support Pension, can work but not have their benefits affected. A lot of people don't know that they can work on the DSP and still receive approx $65 a week, if they work more than that, it only gets affected quite minimally. As long as the person on the newer type of DSP is working 15 hours or less a week, their pension will still remain.

I have included a video of a sheltered workshop that operates in America, to watch it, click here http - it is set up very similar to that of the ones that are run in Australia.

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Previous Comments

David from Penrith posted on 24 Nov 2009
The worst thing about these mobs is the fact that they advertise like a regular employer and then when you turn up they try and talk you down to working for bugger all - they aren't about ability rather highlighting disability - I don't think they

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