Changing careers
4 min. read

Why your next job should be in disability support work

Working in the disability sector can be hugely rewarding – and with thousands of new jobs being created thanks to the NDIS, it’s a great way to get started at “working for a better world”.

Why would I want to work supporting people with a disability?

Making a difference to another person’s life is one of the most rewarding things a person can do – and that’s something disability support workers do every day.

Other benefits include:

  • Variety: each day is different to the next;
  • Work-life balance: the hours vary, so they can be arranged to suit your schedule;
  • Challenge: the work is not always easy, but the personal rewards of changing someone’s life are significant;
  • Plenty of opportunities: the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has resulted in a jobs boom, with 70,000 new jobs in the next three years alone.

What would I be doing?

The level of assistance you’d be providing always depends on the ability and health of the individual you’re working with. But generally speaking, a disability worker gives daily personal, physical and emotional support to people with a disability.

Rashika Islam from Unisson Disability explains that disability support workers really work with their clients, not just for them.

“Working with someone to develop or maintain certain skills – it’s very, very rewarding in a way you don’t often see in other jobs,” she says.

A day in the life of a disability support worker could involve:

  • Developing programs to support clients to develop skills and abilities that allow them to live as independently as possible;
  • Going on outings and other social activities;
  • Doing household tasks including planning menus, cooking and serving meals, cleaning, shopping, and general services;
  • Being a companion and giving support during daily activities;
  • Helping people with a disability to maintain contact with their family, friends and advocates;
  • Helping them develop and maintain independence and safety in personal care, health care and hygiene;

Probably the most rewarding part of the job is helping people develop skills that enable them to make decisions affecting their lives and live as independently as possible.

What kind of salary and conditions can I expect?

Naturally, your salary will differ depending on which state, organisation and role you’re working in.

However, the industry offers competitive rates of pay and superannuation, as well as the opportunity to ‘salary package’ in some organisations – essentially, the ability to access some of your pay tax-free, which can add thousands of dollars worth of benefits to your salary.

And while many disability jobs under the NDIS are part-time or casual, this at least allows a high degree of flexibility to fit a disability support job around study or personal responsibilities.

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What experience and qualifications do I need?

The great news is anyone can start working as a disability support worker – even if you don’t have any previous experience or qualifications. In fact, Rashika says Unisson hires “a lot of people who don’t have any formal qualifications”.

However, she adds that completing the Certificate III and IV in Disability Work can improve your employment prospects by giving you “broader understanding of the sector”.

These qualifications can also lead to management or team leader roles, and some organisations will even offer to train you in this!

You’d also be advised to familiarise yourself with the National Standards for Disability Services – it will show your commitment to the ‘good practice’ benchmarks for working with people with a disability.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – Rashika says having the right attitude is critical when working with people with disabilities. It’s important to see them as valued individuals who have an abundance of capabilities, and provide encouragement to help them achieve their full potential.

That sounds great – how do I get started?

Before you start, you’ll need to have a satisfactory National Police Certificate, which you can obtain by contacting the police agency in your state. It’s also a good idea to gain a First Aid Certificate to prepare you for any emergency situation that may arise on the job.

It’s also important to have a solid understanding of the various disabilities that can affect the people you might be working with.

NSW-based disability organisation Aruma has an excellent resource that outlines a range of different disabilities you may encounter.

Rashika also recommends getting a feel for the sector and grasping a true understanding of what you might experience on the job by going straight to the source.

“Talk to people who’ve done it before, and think about doing some voluntary work to see what it takes,” she says.

“It will give you an insight into whether you can cope with the demands, because it’s important the understanding is there before coming on board.”

Where can I find out more?

We have plenty of great disability services jobs listed on EthicalJobs.com.au – we encourage you to check them out and get applying!

Image: flickr/bluehook