Why the grass is greener as a Disability Support Worker

It’s that “out with the old” time of year where people reflect on their career and set new goals. So, if finding a new job is one of your new year’s resolutions, why not consider working in the disability sector.

The disability sector is growing fast as a result of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Because it’s the second largest federal government spend, most jobs will likely be insulated against any economic downturn in comparison to other sectors.

The disability sector is comprised of many roles including allied health professionals, Disability Support Workers, business and finance professionals, fundraising, marketing, human resources and administration.

Disability Support Workers are the largest employee cohort. Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) is experiencing an increase in demand for Disability Support Workers to service its clients living with a range of disabilities, particularly in north east Sydney and Northern Beaches.

So, what’s being a Disability Support Worker really like? And why make a switch?

CPA spoke to Nathan Jones (27) who transitioned from a career in retail to become a Disability Support Worker. It was a move he doesn’t regret for a second.

He worked at Big W for 7 years in a number of roles, and then at Roger David for 3 years as a Store Manager. During his retail career he assisted parents who came into the store with their children who had a disability. These opportunities to help people who needed it most were a big eye opener and made him think about working in disability.

“I’ve been a Disability Support Worker for 12 months now with CPA and I’ve never looked back. The most rewarding thing about working in the disability sector is knowing I’m going to make a massive difference to someone’s life every day.”

What’s the difference between working in retail and the disability sector?

Nathan enjoyed the interaction with customers in retail, but while this role provided the opportunity to help people find the right product and provide great service, he discovered a big difference between this and the kind of support he provides as a Disability Support Worker.

“As a Disability Support Worker I get to make a massive difference to someone’s life every single day. I’m also making a significant contribution to the community. It doesn’t even feel like I’m going to work.”

Although Nathan’s move from retail to disability wasn’t solely about money, he acknowledges that financial security is a big factor, particularly as penalty rates in retail are set to decline over the next two years.

“The penalty rates at CPA and in disability, are much better than in retail. Knowing you’re financially secure is important and makes you feel valued.”

What transferable skills did you bring?

Customer service is the bedrock of retail, and Nathan was able to transfer his customer service skills straight across to his new role as a Disability Support Worker at CPA.

From his experience in retail he brought skills in open listening, delivering excellent customer service, patience and the ability to read people’s body language and facial expressions.

“Most of the people I support as a Disability Support Worker are non-verbal, which means being able to understand subtle facial expressions through things like muscle and eye movements is really important. Understanding someone is made much easier when you get to know them. Building relationships is also really critical to this role. 

How did CPA help you become a Disability Support Worker?

“The great thing about working for CPA is their induction program. It’s really practical, and you get lots of opportunities to try new things in a supportive learning environment. CPA is genuinely committed to investing in employees’ ongoing growth and development. You can do courses and up-skill in a range of subjects, not just directly related to own role. You can also enhance your understanding of many areas of the organisation, sector, and your personal effectiveness.

It’s early days as a Disability Support Worker. I’ve always been ambitious about climbing the ladder, and I’m sure there’s more for me to learn to become really accomplished in this position. I’m looking forward to where a career with CPA can take me.”

What would you say to people considering the disability sector?

“Take a leap of faith, you won’t regret it. The grass really is greener. People think they’re stuck in retail but change is possible and the rewards are worth making the transition.

If you want to feel rewarded and valued, make a difference every day to people’s lives, continuously learn and develop, and be paid well and have job security – it’s a no brainer.”

Sharlene Roebuck

Talent Acquisition Manager at Cerebral Palsy Alliance

To learn more about career opportunities at CPA, visit www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/work 

and for current roles check here



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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