Opportunity knocks as disability sector doubles

I’m known as a glass half full kind of guy, but, hand on heart, there’s never been a better time to work in the disability sector.

Having worked in not-for-profits for 23 years, and the past 17 years at Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) as the General Manager of People and Culture, I’m witnessing the biggest ever radical change in the disability sector.

The NDIS, introduced in 2013, is the largest, most complex, social reform since the introduction of Medicare. It involves a shift away from a block-funded welfare model of support, to an individualised approach. Under the scheme, individuals will manage which service provider they choose to spend their funding with.

Funding in the sector is set to increase from about $8 billion a year to $22 billion in 2019-2020, assisting around 460,000 people with disabilities.

And while estimates of the number of workers required to deliver services allocated through the NDIS vary, the consensus is that the workforce will need to increase by between 60,000-90 000 full-time equivalent employees.

So as a result of the implementation of the NDIS, the disability sector is booming and its workforce is set to double. With such large levels of government investment and new jobs, the disability sector may be insulated to some extent if there is a downturn in the economy.

Impact on service providers

With control in the hands of individuals, the new paradigm is impacting the entire disability sector, creating greater competition amongst service providers, and increasing accountability to perform and provide a high quality of service, in order to attract and retain their clients.

This impact has prompted many providers to review their business model and service delivery, adopting a more strategic and commercial focus.

The biggest challenge for the disability sector, I would say, is gaining a commercial footing while retaining the heart or core values of the organisation.

Opportunities for employees

With the workforce in the disability sector set to sky rocket, employment opportunities are plentiful across many jobs and careers. In fact, many disability service providers report that demand exceeds the supply, as they struggle to recruit for positions including allied health professionals, Disability Support Workers (DSW) and experienced support staff. There’s a shortage of Disability Support Workers in all areas, and CPA is particularly experiencing that in north east Sydney and the Northern Beaches.

At CPA, we are looking for the best people in the market to provide the best service for clients, and that often involves recruiting people from other sectors with relevant transferable skills. Marketing and Client Engagement are two prime examples where the changes to a strategic business model requires different skills and experiences traditionally required in the disability sector. As CPA responds to clients’ changing needs, we are also seeing new exciting services and roles emerge outside of traditional service areas like accommodation and respite.

Why work in the disability sector?

For people who are looking for a purpose driven sector and an organisation with work/life balance, continuous learning and competitive remuneration, CPA is a great option.

We’ve been operating for over 70 years, and driving international research into the prevention, treatment and cure of cerebral palsy through our CPA Research Foundation for more than a decade. We exist to make a difference in people’s lives, and support them in connecting and engaging with their communities.

We are at the front and centre of pushing change and we ensure that any surplus goes back into the organisation to deliver better outcomes for people living with a range of disabilities. Our thought leaders at CPA are key drivers of change and innovation within the sector. Rob White, our CEO, was instrumental in establishing the NDIS, in partnership with a number of other organisations.

The rewarding thing, for me personally, has been working with an amazing team to transform the organisation to make us more efficient and customer-focused.

As an HR practitioner, it’s all about the people. At CPA, I have the opportunity to work with the board and executives towards long-term strategic initiatives. Whereas in my experience working in the commercial sector – across banking, IT, government, retail and transport – all organisations claim that people are important, but ultimately their bottom line takes priority, and, as such, their focus is short term.

CPA culture and values

CPA offer a performance based culture which aligns with our strategic commitment to deliver the best service to our clients – some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We are looking for people with the right attitude and values that align with ours and our clients.

  • Integrity – We are ethical, compassionate and open
  • Respect – We put people first, listen and embrace diversity
  • Courage – We act bravely and with conviction
  • Passion – We are inspired by challenges and enthusiastic about the future
  • Excellence – We exceed expectations

Survey results have placed CPA as one of the top employers. Since 2002, CPA has used the Voice Project (founded by Dr Peter Langford, who was a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Director of the Organisational Psychology program at Macquarie University) to independently survey and measure thousands of employees’ perceptions. Based on the latest scientific research, surveys found that employees strongly believe in CPA’s values and purpose. Unsurprisingly, they also rated their job satisfaction at CPA highly and their intention to stay has placed CPA a full 16% above the all industry average (based on a database of 3,000 organisations across every sector in the Australian economy).

Around 8% of CPA staff are boomerangs. That is, they have left the organisation and then returned to CPA to continue their career.

What differentiates us is that despite the trend towards casualisation occurring across all industries, our aim is to build a skilled permanent workforce. While we still need a casual workforce to respond to the peaks and troughs of changing client demand, our intention is not to move the workforce to a predominantly casual one. This is demonstrated by our staff profile, comprising 15% casual and 85% permanent staff (37% of permanent staff are full time and 48% are part time). Interestingly, from a strongly engaged group of staff, our casual staff are one of the most engaged in the organisation.

Training and development is in our DNA

If you want to work in the disability sector, joining CPA will give you more opportunity to develop your skills and competencies to become a highly skilled professional. Our commitment to our clients means ensuring they have the best trained people in the market. Unlike some of our competitors, who, under the NDIS, have cut investment in training and development, we have continued to invest in this area. For 2019 financial year the cost of L&D for CPA staff is predicted to be $5.2 million. This equates to 4.2% of payroll per annum, compared to 2 – 2.5% which is considered a standard allocation for employee training.

So, if your glass is half empty you’ll see the disability sector is in a state of flux, and with the NDIS still in infancy, there are certainly teething problems. But, if your glass is half full like mine, you’ll see the future of the disability sector is ripe with opportunities.

To learn more about career opportunities at CPA, click here

Frank Sedmak

General Manager, People & Culture

Cerebral Palsy Alliance



carecareers is a not-for-profit recruitment initiative aimed at increasing attraction and retention within the community care and disability sector. Our jobs board www.carecareers.com.au has expanded to meet demand for an Australia wide platform for a broad range of roles within the community sector.

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