Interview with António Silva Dias, LEAD project manager from Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda. (Portugal)
Reporter: Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda.is partner within the framework of the LEAD project. Could you talk about your activity?
Consultis is a private limited company, founded in 2005, in Vila Nova de Gaia. Consultis’ original mission was to understand the business or individual specificity and needs of its clients and to offer solutions that promote the qualification of the human resources and the efficiency of the processes. Consultis’s mission and practice areas rapidly evolved to entrepreneurship consultancy, innovation and specialized research, education and training activities, employment solutions. For the fulfillment of this expanded mission, Consultis works naturally among the educational actors – schools, training centers, higher education institutions – and within the companies, professional organizations, youth organizations, non-profit organizations, NGO’s, research institutions, public bodies and local authorities and their agencies. Most recently, since 2015, Consultis works as well – and more specifically – in the field of social inclusion and integration of people with disabilities, aiming at increasing the access to the labour market – in particularly to the open labour market – of people with disabilities, generalizing and prioritizing the Supported Employment model. Therefore, the LEAD project is an opportunity to maximize our work in the community and with the stakeholders, bridging the gap between the different systems/sectors and directly impacting peoples’ lives.
Reporter: Why did you decide to join the LEAD project team?
Consultis was invited to join the project by Mr. Nicolae Dobrescu, Executive Director of HAO. Our institutions have never worked together before this project, but we had some common contacts in the field of Supported Employment. In fact, the LEAD project is our third transnational project within the Supported Employment topic, after “TOOLS4SE – Designing Quality and Training Tools for Competence Profile of Supported Employment Specialists”, and “JOBCIRCUIT – JobCircuit Innovative Holistic Guidance Model for Integration of People with Disabilities on the European Labour Market”. In this context, Nicolae presented me this socially relevant project and we decided to capitalize on the experience acquired since 2015, trying to connect, interact and impact the community, particularly the disabled young people.
Reporter: What is the situation of the people with disabilities in Portugal?
People with disabilities are protected by law against discrimination in: employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government effectively enforces the law. However, the employment of people with disabilities in Portugal is still very far from being representative and it does not reflect the quality and advantages that these workers can bring to organizations.
According to the Disability and Human Rights Observatory’s report titled “People with Disabilities in Portugal – Human Rights Indicators”, in 2018, only 11 per cent of unemployed persons with disabilities registered at the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training were placed in employment.
Theregistered unemployment decreased 34.5 per cent between 2011 and 2017 for the general population, but it increased 24 per cent among unemployed people with disabilities. During the same period, there was a 58 per cent increase in long-term unemployment among persons with disabilities, while the short-term unemployment among the same social segment decreased 7 per cent.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities which work in private companies with more than 10 workers represent less than 0.51 per cent of the total number of employees. In the public sector, things are a little better, 2.42 per cent of the total number of employees have a disability.
Therefore, the figures show that we have much work to do, and through the implementation of the LEAD project we can improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Reporter: How will the implementation of this project influence the social and economic life of the community?
The implementation of the LEAD project will impact the life of the different beneficiaries.
First, it will sensitize and raise the employers’ awareness on the Supported Employment model applied to people in disadvantaged situation in general and to disabled people in particular.
Through the activity carried out within the project, we raise the awareness of employers regarding: the difficulties and obstacles faced by people with disabilities who want to get a job, the assistive technologies, empowerment and capacity building for disabled people,the rights of people with disabilities, the benefits granted by the state to companies that employ young people with disabilities, the advantages of integrating people from this social category.
Secondly, the implementation of the LEAD project will raise awareness, train and qualify of the professionals and institutions working with people with disabilities on the Supported Employment model. This model is not spread among employment services and professionals, and therefore it will change or try to change their approach to employment, namely to the employment of young people with a disability in the open labour market.The National Network of Supported Employment Services Providerswill work as well as a catalyst for the integration of the Supported Employment model in the daily working life of professionals and institutions, increasing the capacity of service providers to achieve higher rates of success, and influence public policies towards employment inclusion.
Thirdly, this project will raise awareness and prepare the family members making employment more attainable and smoothing the transition of young adults with disabilities from school to labour market.
Finally, it will impact the final beneficiaries of the project, i.e. the young adults with disabilities who will benefit from the services offered by us and from those belonging to the National Network. These young adults will have real chances of being hired and socially integrated. Considering that in Portugal the highest level of unemployment is among people with disabilities over 25 years old (86.8 per cent of these people do not work), the services provided by us will be extremely important to the community, helping to reduce the disparities between different social segments.
Reporter: What have you done so far within the LEAD project?
The project was launched in Porto, in November 2018,through a conference addressed the stakeholders interested in the supported employment process. Representatives of companies, human resources specialists, supported employment specialists, social workers, HEI teachers, VET and CVET trainers, project managers among others participated at this event. I am pleased to mention that guests from educational institutions from Italy, Spain and Turkey participated, also, at the launch conference. The event was an opportunity to present the project to the stakeholdersand laying the ground for the future activity, including the important networking and collaborative partnerships upon which the Support Employment is based.
Subsequently, we focused our efforts on establish the Services Center for Supported Employment, a rather difficult task, because it was supposed to work in a different region of the country. The first attempt failed due to the difficulties encountered in creating the necessary networking with the local stakeholders in order to assure the sustainability of the project in terms of Supported Employment model implementation beyond the duration of the project. So, we had to reorient our efforts to a different location with better regional conditions to sustain the project in the future.We chose Moita, where all the conditions are gathered to promote and apply Supported Employment model, in order to help as many young people with disabilities to get a job and keep it.
Another direction of our activity has concerned the opening of the Resources Center for Supported Employment, in Porto. It aims to collect, develop and disseminate: good practices, guides, regulations, statistics, information and educational materials to: young adults with disabilities, employers, human resources specialists, and other stakeholders. Networking and the first step towards a lasting partnership begins here!
Reporter: What has been your biggest challenge so far? But the biggest success?
The most difficult challenge for us was the set-up of the Services Center for Supported Employment. So far, the most successful activities have been the work done alongside employers and the establishment and expansion of the National Network of Supported Employment Services Providers.We hope thatthese achievements will be used by the young adults with disabilities, beneficiaries of the LEAD project, who will thus, with our help, be able to integrate more easily into the labour market.
Reporter: Thank you and we wish you success!