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Hundreds face upheaval as Activ announces overhaul of work program

A change in funding due to a move to the NDIS model has been blamed as Activ closes the industrial work sites it has operated for seven decades.

Hundreds of people with disabilities in supported employment in Western Australia face a major change to their work life as disability service provider Activ closes the industrial work sites it has operated for seven decades.

Chief executive Michael Heath said on Monday the provider would move towards personalised, community-based work programs and an ‘Activ Academy’, which aimed to provide people with disability the skills to help them live and work independently.

Activ chief executive Michael Heath.

Activ chief executive Michael Heath.Credit:Activ

Heath said cuts in funding through a move to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a trend towards targeted and personalised support in the disability sector had forced the organisation’s hand.

“We’ve been talking to NDIS for some time … the impact of it has really started to hit more recently, as they’ve sped up the changes to the funding,” he said.

The large-scale industrial workshops were established in the 1950s in a bid to provide people with a disability work and social opportunities. Employees would help package and label products, and build pallets and crates, among other work.

The closures will affect about 90 staff and 700 supported employees across sites in Bentley, Osborne Park, Rockingham, Bunbury, Busselton, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton.

In announcing the move, the foundation said it would refocus its efforts on opportunities in smaller settings like cleaning, maintenance and gardening, which would allow Activ staff to spend more time with individual supported employees.

A change in the federal funding for supported employment was announced in July 2020, with the NDIS taking over from the Department of Social Services’ Disability Employment Assistance program and organisations given until the start of 2022 to move to the new framework.

Heath said Activ was looking at a $6.5 million loss on the employment part of the business this year as it transitioned to the NDIS funding model.

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