The federal government has committed more than $45 million to help disadvantaged young people find work, weeks after chilling evidence heard during the disability royal commission.
Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston on Tuesday said the $45.7 million would double the number of headspace sites running the evidence-based individual placement and support program to 50.
The expansion would allow more than 6000 people under the age of 25 experiencing mental illness to receive specialist vocational and employment support, in tandem with clinical treatment, to find and keep a job over the next four years, she said.
Ms Rushton said nearly 3000 young people had participated in a trial across both programs, with about 40 per cent of participants finding a job as a result.
“This program has never been more important given this year we have seen young people disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in terms of jobs losses, which we know can compound the mental health impact so many are feeling,” she said in a statement.
The funding will pave the way for new IPS sites in every state and territory except Tasmania.
Professor Patrick McGorry, executive director of Orygen, which runs the IPS program with headspace, welcomed the commitment.
“The onset of mental illness often occurs in young people which, by the age of 25, can significantly affect their ability to transition from study to work,” he said.
Chair of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability Ronald Sackville earlier this month said there had to be greater understanding, empathy and support if Australia was to become a more inclusive society.
The commission has held public hearings for more than 12 months, during which people with a disability have spoken of feeling undervalued, fearful and unsupported.
A man living with cerebral palsy was informed he would not be able to do the job he was scheduled to interview for the following day, the inquiry heard in December.
Oliver Hunter, 25, told commissioners he had applied for a job as a residential adviser at his university and received a call from the head of campus the night before his interview.
“I went into his office and he told me pretty directly that due to my physical restrictions I won’t be able to do the job,” he said.
Mr Hunter earlier told commissioners his first job at a supermarket felt tokenistic and one of his tasks was to dust the top of fruit tins.
He also said people with disabilities had to “be extraordinary to be ordinary”, citing the experiences of sportspeople Dylan Alcott and Kurt Fearnley.
“When I was younger, I felt this pressure sometimes that if I want to be noticed and relevant, I have to have a gold medal or go to the Paralympics or do something extraordinary,” Mr Hunter told commissioners.
The inquiry in December also heard a man with cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment received a work placement washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant after studying at TAFE and university.
Another man with disabilities was not aware he was in a supported position that paid $11 an hour until he had worked several shifts at a coffee shop.
The witness, who lives with deafness, autism spectrum disorder, also said when he made a mistake, his boss would clap at him even though he told her it was inappropriate.