DPA has published a report reviewing the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Job Support and Training Support Funding scheme. The report also provides insights into the experiences of disabled people in accessing the scheme.
This report has been possible thanks to DPA members sharing their experiences of finding information about, receiving, and appropriateness of Support Funds.
The Support Funds scheme is greatly appreciated by those who are able to access it and many of the people we spoke to emphasized that their continued involvement in the labour workforce was a direct result of being able to access these funds. However, members shared insights into issues with the scheme, including that Support Funds can be:
- difficult to access
- difficult to maintain
- disabled people are discouraged from applying; and
- these barriers to funding can impact employment outcomes.
Despite there being a real need for such a fund, the above factors are thought to have contributed to a significant drop in applications for Support Funds over the past decade, as shown below in recent data released through Parliamentary Written Questions, which reveals drops in:
- allocated budget (-16%);
- spending on Job Support (-38%);
- spending on Training Support (-83%);
- individuals receiving Job Support (-44%); and
- Job Support applications submitted (-41%).
Notably, the maximum funding amount of $16,900 has not risen since the fund was introduced in 1994, despite an 89.2 percent (general) and 155.5 percent (wages) rise in inflation and a 47.1 percent (general) and 60.9 percent (wages) drop in purchasing power over the same time period.
It is therefore strongly recommended that the Ministry:
- increase the maximum Job Support Funding amount in line with inflation, living wage and cost of living;
- increase the maximum Training Support funding amount in line with inflation, living wage and cost of living and review the period of time it covers;
- increase the Support Funds budget in line with inflation, living wage, cost of living, and population increase;
- review the Support Funds eligibility criteria and application process, in collaboration with disabled people;
- expand eligibility criteria and streamline processes to make accessing funds more accessible for all disabled people, in particular those who are self-employed or consulting;
- raise awareness about function and availability of Support Funds with disabled people and employers;
- review the application of the ‘fund of last resort’ criteria;
- clarify the term ‘reasonable accommodations’ to provide clearer expectations for employers;
- establish review panels made up of disabled people, as is the case with Enabling Good Lives; and
- undertake a formal external evaluation of Support Funds policies and processes, ensuring that this is disabled-led.
The feedback from disabled people shared in this report reflects experiences over the period of time before the transfer of Support Funds administration from Workbridge back to the Ministry of Social Development in March 2023. Findings included in this report provide valuable insights for any future reviews of Support Funds.
Read DPA's report on Disabled People’s Experiences of Accessing MSD’s Support Funds