In the opening of the first issue of our newsletter, I was saying that the implementation of the project “Labour market Employment for young Adults with a Disability – LEAD”, co-funded by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, is a challenge for us, not in terms of the indicators we have assumed, but with regard to what we want to change in the communities which we are addressing to.
Now, six months after, I am pleased to say that our efforts, as leading partner, and of the other two beneficiary partners, Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center (Lithuania) and Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda. (Portugal) are beginning to bear fruit.
We went down the road knowing that it will be difficult to change conceptions, perceptions and habits overnight. Yet we strongly believe in the power of small and steady steps, and in the power of example.
Today, the young adults with disabilities from Romania, Lithuania and Portugal who want to find a suitable job and keep it for a long term can contact the teams of specialists in psychology, education sciences, socio-psycho-pedagogy and other related fields which work in the Services Centers for Supported Employment opened by us, within the LEAD project.
Young adults with disabilities and their families will discover that we approach the employment process in a different, innovative way. We give time and attention to identify the skills and professional objectives of the young adults, then we prepare them for a job according to their professional training and interests, we help them develop their working skills, attitudes, behaviors and functional abilities to successfully achieve their goals regarding employment. After their employment, we monitor and provide in-work and outside work support. It is a model that has proven its viability in the UK and we are proud to implement it in our countries with the help of the team of experts from Status Employment (UK).
During these months, we had the joy to bring the light into the lives of some young adults who smile happily today, thanks to our colleagues, and to some entrepreneurs and human resources specialists who gave them a chance. They have received the young adults in their teams and they have worked shoulder to shoulder with us to successfully integrate them.
It is a matter of pride for us that most of the entrepreneurs which have worked with us have not stopped at a single young adult with disabilities integrated into their teams. We have companies in the portfolio that have employed 3-4 young adults and they are still working with our specialists. But we are realistic and we know that we have much more to do to overcome the reluctance of companies to hire people with disabilities. Because of that, in these period we have organized seminars with the representatives of the employers to openly discuss about the challenges, benefits and advantages of working with young adults with disabilities and how the opportunities offered through the LEAD project can be used by them.
Starting from the idea that we can overcome the reluctance of the managers to integrate young adults with disabilities by providing quality information and developing a honest dialogue with them, we have organized experience exchanges between employers and young adults with disabilities. These changes at the micro-level are important, but they are not enough, so we have not stopped here!
The National Reportregarding the employment situation of young adults with disabilities in Romania, elaborated by us earlier this year within the LEAD project, highlighted that the low number of supported services for young adults with disabilities and the quality of these services are important causes which maintain a low employment rate among them.
Moreover, there is no data base of supported employment service providers, so far. Although they face the same problems and pursue the same goals, there are only local partnerships. The situation is similar in Lithuania and Portugal.
Because of these reasons, we have started in our countries campaigns to organize National Networks of Supported Employment Services Providers. Each Network will bring together public and private providers of supported employment services which will benefit from the opportunity to collaborate, dialogue and act together to solve their problems, and to achieve their goals, including the recognition of the supported employment service as a new type of service, by law.
Furthermore, through the Resources Centers for Supported Employment opened by us within the LEAD project, we provide materials (for example, good practiceguides) to supported employment specialists, in order to help them in their daily work.
We believe that this approach will help us really contribute to the changing of the paradigm. The potential of young adults with disabilities can be harnessed, with immediate benefits for them, for the employer and for society, by applying the supported employment model. Therefore, we work: to provide complex and personalized services to young adults, to impose a quality standard in the supported employment and to build a united community of services providers in this field. Last but not least, we work alongside members of the business community to develop and apply strategies which will allow better inclusion of young adults with disabilities.
The beginning is promising, so I invite you to learn more about the results of our work by reading our newsletter and, if I have convinced you, I am waiting for you alongside us!
Mr. Nicolae Dobrescu,
Project Manager- LEAD
Executive Director of Health Action Overseas Foundation