More needs to be done to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities.
That's according to Tauranga Disability Advisory Group co-chairman Paul Curry.
Curry spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times this week after consultation for the Government's proposed Disability Employment Action Plan opened on Monday.
The two main goals for the plan are to give people with disabilities and long-term health conditions equal opportunity to access good work and to help employers attract and retain workers who have disabilities and health conditions.
The plan aims to encourage people with disabilities to take up meaningful work, and to break down barriers with employers.
Curry said it was a good start but there needed to be more done to encourage employers to take on people with disabilities and change their mindsets.
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He said despite "millions" of dollars being thrown at encouraging people with disabilities to take up meaningful employment, the unemployment rates for disabled people hadn't changed since 2001.
"If we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always got," he said.
"What needs to happen is there needs to be a really strong encouragement of employers to be able to take on people with disabilities ... To be able to see the value of people with disabilities, rather than through a lens of low expectations."
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Curry is also the chairman of the Bay of Plenty Inclusive Employment Task Force, which plans to bring together a strategy to improve meaningful employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
"The more you have low expectations put on you, sometimes you end up living out those expectations ... and therefore [have] low self-esteem," he said.
Curry said there were a lot of myths surrounding the employment of people with disabilities.
"There's a myth that they will take more sick leave ... that's not true," he said.
"There's a myth that we will have difficulty fitting in with existing staff ... People with disabilities are more grateful about getting a job and make greater employees."
Curry said there was evidence that the more diverse and inclusive employers were, the greater the profit they would have.
"It's just a matter of us working together ... to remove barriers and the cost factors between taking or not taking a person on," he said.
St Chad's Charitable Trust general manager Nicky Mayne said the Government's proposed plan would be "life-changing" for people with disabilities in the Rotorua area.
"It means, for someone to get into work, not just money ... it also brings confidence, self-esteem and helps them to come into the community," she said.
"It opens the doors to a whole lot of other things."
The main barrier to employing people with disabilities was people's mindset, Mayne said.
"Most people with a disability don't need adaptions in the organisation ... employers think there must be costs associated, but most don't," she said.
Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the Government wanted to break down the barriers to employment for disabled New Zealanders and better support them into work.
"This Government wants every New Zealander who is able, to be earning, learning, caring or volunteering," she said.
"This means having the opportunity to participate in an inclusive labour market and improve their wellbeing, prosperity and dignity through work.
"Employers are also missing out on the skills and contributions of a more diverse workforce, potentially due to a lack of understanding."
Consultation on the plan closes on February 21 next year.
For information and to provide feedback go to the Ministry of Social Development website.