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Bedford Media Statement

12 April 2022

Background

Last year, Bedford offered to present our expert opinion to the Disability Royal Commission to play a leadership role in the challenges that face our sector and our clients. It was not only a matter of openness and transparency, but with the aim of adding our insights into providing a more equitable system and methods of pay in the future.

On April 12 2022, Bedford gave that evidence to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. There are 161 Australian Disability Enterprises in Australia which operate under the Wage Assessment Tools set by the Australian Fair Work Commission.

Wages

Bedford acknowledges that the industry is overdue for radical change in the 22 wage assessment tools set by the Fair Work Commission – especially the $2.37 entry wage, which increases once we establish:

  • Our employees’ capabilities and choice of work. Clients perform a wide range of roles in various departments that differ enormously in type and complexity
  • The in-house and external training supports we need to provide and upskilling opportunities to increase capacity
  • Government support thresholds like the DSP, Health Care cards and Rent Assistance
  • Work hours- some clients choose to work within the funding requirements of their NDIS Plan to support them successfully while at their place of employment

However, we have a system in place to help them let the NDIS know what they need, so they can work as many hours as they choose.

Federal Wage Trial

Recently, Bedford voluntarily took part in a federal wage assessment trial to help educate the various government agencies about the limitations on these wage assessments and we would welcome a more uniform and equitable wage system and we would gladly pass onto our employees, as we recently have with recent superannuation increases.

Support at Work

We know everyone’s experience at work is different and we are committed to ensuring everyone is safe, happy and free from Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation (VANE) at work. That’s why we have:

  • An Individual Training Plan for career advice and aspirations (which clients can access at any time and have a support person present at any meeting)
  • An Employee Representative Committee, so employees have the opportunity to raise concerns and issues amongst their peers and bring to management for addressing
  • Personnel Training Officers and Developmental Educators who focus on the employee as an individual, not their daily output and who are there to support, guide and help employees resolve any issues they may have
  • Registration with the NDIS and a Quality and Safeguarding Team to fully investigate and report any incidents or complaints raised
  • Workplace Health and Safety systems that cater for all people
  • Ongoing training and recently-received state government funding in Disability Support Certificates to ensure ongoing learnings, skills and to support career development

Feedback from clients

Our employees tell us they are proud of the work they do, and also tell us when we need to change. We love this feedback, and we welcome and act on this feedback.

Transition to a new way of providing disability support and services

One of the ways we can push through the wage barriers and thresholds that we operate under and that our supported employees face is to change our business model.

As an organisation we are moving away from the traditional Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) model and transitioning to a true Social Enterprise - an inclusive employer for people to work on a broader variety of work tasks and help achieve their life goals and career aspirations.

Our Royal Commission Statement

Bedford welcomes the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

In early 2019 the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was launched and the first hearings were held later that year.

The Royal Commission will look at all of the services that are accessed by people with disability across Australia, including disability service providers, schools, hospitals, workplaces, the justice system, businesses, charities and the wider community.

Bedford welcomes and fully supports the Royal Commission. We are committed to upholding the rights of people with disability to ensure that safe and high-quality services are provided to support people with disabilities and to enable them to achieve their goals.

Bedford is an established service provider with a history of over 75 years supporting people with disability in South Australia. We recognise that people with disability are at increased risk of experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in their lives.

Our organisation will support current or past clients, employees and their families should they wish to come forward and make submissions to the Royal Commission in relation to services at Bedford or any other aspect of their lives. External advocacy support will also be engaged who seek further assistance with this process. Bedford encourages current or former staff to come forward where they have information relevant to the Royal Commission.

A dedicated team has been established to review Bedford’s past and current service delivery to identify any potential incidences of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disability. We will be open and transparent in our response to identified events, including open disclosure with affected individuals and families. Where analysis of past events identifies opportunity to improve systems to safeguard people with disability, Bedford commits to take improvement action.

Bedford recognises the significant pain and trauma experienced by people with disability who have experienced violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation in their lives. We will provide supports including connection to counselling and mental health services. We also understand that staff can also be impacted by past events of poor quality supports to people with disability and Bedford will provide supports to staff including connection to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Bedford will support and fully participate in the Royal Commission, and learn from its findings and recommendations to further enhance services to people with disability, to safeguard individuals, uphold their human rights and support them to exercise their choice and control to achieve their life goals.

People can make a submission by visiting the Royal Commission website.

If you would like to talk to someone about the Royal Commission, or would like help to make a submission, please contact Bedford Chief Executive Officer Myron Mann via the links below.

Royal Commission Issues Paper

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability recently released its latest issues paper looking at the experiences of people with disability in employment.

The Royal Commission wants to understand why people with disability are less likely to be employed and have lower incomes than people without disability. The Commission is also seeking information about people’s experiences of discrimination at work and how well specific programs designed to increase the employment of people with disability are working. The issues paper asks nine questions to help people and organisations to provide responses and is available HERE.

The Royal Commission is encouraging responses to the issues paper from individuals and organisations by 14 August, 2020 although submissions will be accepted after that date.

Bedford Response to the Disability Royal Commission Employment Issues Paper - Summary

Bedford welcomes the opportunity to improve the lives of our clients which the Disability Royal Commission (Royal Commission) is bringing to the field at this very crucial time of change. We believe that the work of the Royal Commission will have a significant positive impact on our clients and the way that services are delivered to people with disability in Australia.

One of the activities of the Royal Commission is to hold hearings on significant issues impacting people with disability.

These hearings are often guided by feedback from people with disability and other key stakeholders (including providers like Bedford). The Royal Commission sends out requests to people with disability, families, advocacy groups, disability service providers and community agencies to provide information and opinions on a number of key matters affecting people with disability. These are called Issues Papers. There have been a number of these, including papers on First Nations people, education and learning, group homes and health care.

One of the Issues Papers invited information/comments on the experiences of people with disability in employment. Amongst other things it sought to find out what their experiences of violence, exploitation, neglect and abuse (VANE) was in all areas of employment, and how well specific programs designed to increase the employment of people with disability are working. As before, providers and others were also asked to comment and relate their own experiences with clients.

As the second largest supported employer of people with intellectual disability in Australia, we were pleased to send in a Paper.

Our response covered a number of important issues including:

  • Providing information about Bedford, its history and our work as a provider of supported employment to people with disability
  • Our reporting and response to VANE, including the way that these processes have changed over the years.
  • The positive impact that the changes to reporting and management of incidents brought about by the NDIS Commission.
  • The many challenges facing providers in trying to ensure that our supported employees are provided with a safe work environment and that they can safely and easily access employment options within the open workforce. These include:
    • The complex issues that supported employment providers assist clients to deal with. These include a considerable number which do not relate to work, but significantly impact on a clients’ work/training and their overall safety and wellbeing.
    • The complexities connected to funding for this level of support (in particular since the introduction of the NDIS funding system) and our concerns for how new or smaller providers may not have the capacity or resources to assist their clients in these vital areas.
    • Challenges related to wages and wage assessment - like many employers, Bedford is reviewing its wage review processes to ensure that they are being correctly applied.
    • Issues in open employment areas that can create barriers or have the potential to inadequately support people with cognitive disability and opportunities to improve these processes.
    • The positive outcomes for clients that we have witnessed by providing a more case managed approach to support and the opportunity for the NDIS to consider this as part of their funding process.

Finally, we spoke about our work on the NDIS New Employment Model and our belief that people with disability can and should be employed in whichever employment model suits their needs. This could be in fully-supported employment, supported open employment, independent open employment operating their own business, investigating retirement options or a combination of any of these.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter further, please contact Bedford Chief Executive Officer Myron Mann via the links below.

Counselling and Advocacy Services

The Department of Social Services would like you to know that counselling and advocacy services are available for people with disability who have experienced violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, and anyone affected by the Disability Royal Commission.

People can contact the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 for counselling support, or ask to be connected to a counsellor or advocate near them.