Employment can offer many more advantages to a person with Down syndrome than simply a source of income. Work gives structure, a sense of purpose, feelings of competency and pride whilst offering an opportunity to learn new things and meet new people. Work can fulfil the need for an individual to be productive, can promote independence, enhance self-esteem, and allow for participation in the mainstream of life.

There are several options to consider when thinking about employment. The different employment styles have advantages and disadvantages that will need to be considered when deciding on a suitable employment pathway. Different styles of employment schemes have been implemented to provide training and support to enable adults with intellectual disabilities to work in ordinary work situations with varying levels of inclusion. Some individuals with Down syndrome are working full time others have a mixture of activities during the week.

Open employment

For a person who is interested in employment in a mainstream job in the open job market, Centrelink should be contacted for an assessment of capacity to work, to register as interested in work and to determine the supports needed to achieve this goal.

Employment in the open market is commonly obtained through the support of a Disability Employment Services (DES). DES provider organisations are contracted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. A DES can assist job seekers to gain and maintain employment in the open employment market. They provide training, job placement and on-the-job support.

For a list of DES providers in your area click here.

Job Access

Job Access is an Australian Government initiative which provides workplace adjustments and solutions for open employment.

Some school leavers undertake a course in Transition to Employment (TTE) to gain additional skills to become work ready.

Supported employment

Australian Disability Enterprise

Formerly referred to as Sheltered Workshops. Find an ADE http://www.ade.org.au/ades-directory/ade-interactive-map ADE’s are organisations that provide employment opportunities for people with a disability or disadvantaged people to work in a protective, segregated environment. While there are opportunities to complete real work and be taught new skills, the work is often described as repetitive and unchallenging and the wages are remarkably low.

Mobile work crews

A group of people with disabilities who visit different work sites in the local community undertaking a variety of different tasks, with a supervisor. These may be primarily in one skill area, like lawn mowing crews, or may be across a range of activities e.g. in the horticultural and agricultural area, or cleaning services. These crews are usually part of an ADE.

Work enclaves

A group of people with disabilities work in one company. The work enclave model is similar to that of mobile work crews except that work enclaves are not mobile. Both Mobile Work Crews and Work Enclaves predominantly run on a co-operative basis, with monies earned being shared amongst the crew after expenses have been deducted.

Youth Point

Youth Point is a free early intervention employment initiative developed by the IMVC. It aims to support young people to access real jobs - and improve their opportunity to build relationships and linkages with employers.

Youth Point will provide 15-25 year olds with direct access to casual, part-time, full-time, traineeship, apprenticeship, volunteering and work experience opportunities.
Further information can be found at www.youthpoint.org.au

Legal advocacy

The AED Legal Centre provides legal advocacy to people with a disability in the areas of employment, education and training.

If you have concerns about your employment conditions you can contact http://www.aed.org.au/

Employment initiatives at Down Syndrome Victoria

Down Syndrome Victoria is working to improve access to employment for people who have Down Syndrome. Thanks to the Sunsuper Dreams for a better world campaign in early 2015, we have been able to develop a resource to assist employers to consider employing people who have Down syndrome. We are also developing a database of individuals looking for work, who we can connect with employers who approach us offering work. If you would like to be included please contact the Adult Support Manager on 9486 9600 ext. 202

Government initiatives

The Department of Social Services is currently working on improving access to employment for people who have disability, with a particular focus on increasing participation in employment for people who have an intellectual disability. To be involved in consultations in click here.