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Borderline disabled stuck in unemployment blackhole

An Adelaide Catholic employment agency has said historic low in unemployment has exposed a growing group of people with borderline disabilities who flounder in the mainstream job network.

The Archdiocese's Southern Cross newspaper reports that more than a third of the 8500 job seekers annually seeking help from Catholic agency ASK Employment and Training Services are suffering undisclosed mental illnesses, mild disabilities or psychological and social problems onset by substance and alcohol abuse and years of unemployment.

"They are falling through the cracks," said ASK Employment and Training Services programs manager Chris Dighton.

Ms Dighton said high employment rates had meant the most employable job seekers were quickly snapped up by employers. This in turn has exposed thousands of unemployed people in South Australia presenting with considerable barriers to employment often hidden during periods of high unemployment.

"We are running basic skills programs and we are picking up a very high proportion of people with mild problems," said Ms Dighton. She said many of these jobseekers were unaware they had a disability or were not detected as having a problem by the employment and training system.

A spokesman for Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews said people suffering mild mental health problems and disabilities would not qualify for disability services or pensions without certification from a GP.

"There is no benefit for people who may well have underlying problems they don't know about, but if they do know about it then they can be treated and acknowledged and they will get that [disability] pension," he said.

Heather Fopp, a site manager at ASK's Parks office in Adelaide's north-western suburbs said: "These people are so borderline that there aren't the tools to assess them and because they themselves do not realise they have a problem they are sent from pillar to post because no-one knows what to do."

Ms Fopp said at least 15% of her clients were often described as "the slow kid in the class". People, she said, who might have a slight learning disability or brain injury which had never been identified by the school system, their families or their GP.

She said their undisclosed mild disabilities precluded them from sheltered workshops for the disabled, such as Bedford Industries, and yet they failed time and time again to gain or maintain employment in mainstream job networks.

"I would argue they are the most disadvantaged people in our society because they get nothing. They don't get recognised, they don't get identified, they don't get assistance," she said.

Borderline disabled stuck in unemployment blackhole (Southern Cross March 2005 - temporary url)

ASK Employment and Training Services
Bedford Industries

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7 Mar 2005