In 2018, when we set out on the challenging path of implementing the project “Labour market Employment for young Adults with a Disability – LEAD”, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, we promised we are going to approach in an innovative way the relations among youngadults with disabilities, their parents and tutors, employers, specialists and providers of Supported Employment services.
It was and it still is an ambitious promise, but the team at Health Action Overseas Romania Foundation (HAO) and the teams of the other two beneficiary partners, VRC – Valakupiai Rehabilitation Centre (Lithuania) and Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda. (Portugal) have kept it untill now! We have introduced in our countries a good practice model regarding Supported Employment for people with disabilities, which had proven its viability in the United Kingdom. In this respect, we have benefited from the remarkable support and experience of Status Employment team, the LEAD Expert Partner. Since then, LEAD specialists have worked day after day respecting the methodology and the principles which apply to this process.
We opened three Supported Employment Centers, in Romania, Lithuania and Portugal, where both young adults with disabilities looking for a job and representatives of companies interested in hiring this segment, have benefited from consultance and suuport at the highest standards in the field, and, consequently, the expected results were quickly obtainned. For example, in the short span between October 2019 and March 2020, 123 young adults with disabilities (27% of the total target group) joined our project, as beneficiaries. Additionally, another 300 people with disabilities, members of their families, representatives of employers, and members of the local community have visited our Centers, and have received valuable information from our specialists.
Moreover, until the end of March, 240 young adults with disabilities aged 15 to 29 (53% of the total target group) were enrolled in the project, as beneficiaries, and 186 of them (77.5% of total) have benefited by vocational profiling and personalised action plans. 108 young adults with disabilities were involved in Supported Employment activities (65% of the 165 young people who we committed to enroll in the mentioned program). We are very happy that, until the end of March, 50 of our young adults were already employed (62.5% of the number of people which we set out to hire by the end of the project), and 22 young adults which pertain to 65% of the number of people who we committed to support in being involved in school programs and/or other qualification training programs, have succeeded in this regard. These are encouraging results, which motivate us to continue our work with the same rigor as before.
High Quality Standards elaborated by our Expert Partner have been provided to our teams from Romania, Lithuania and Portugal, and our collegues have been complying to this day with the action plans provided by Status Employment team. Also, HAO, VRC and Consultis teams have gained from valuable information while constantly participating in consulting and training sessions offered by Robert Elston, Executive Director of Status Employment at the headquarters of our organizations or online via Skype.
This manner of working has allowed us, the beneficiary organisations, to also initiate our own training activities. We are glad to say that our efforts have been recognised at national and international level. We are honored to say that HAO Romania, with the support of Status Employment, has been accepted as an Associate Member of the European Union of Supported Employment (EUSE). The Expert Partner has also worked with Consultis in maintaining connection with the Portuguese Supported Employment Agency (APEA), in order to bring on their skills and further improve the quality of Supported Employment in Portugal. Moreover, Robert Elston will continue to work with our colleagues from Lithuania to further develop their network, hoping that next year the VRC will also become Associate Member of EUSE. We are very pleased to say that in October last year, HAO Romania was authorised as a training provider in the occupation of “Supported Employment Specialist”.
Each of the project Partners have opened in Romania, Lithuania and Portugal a Supported Employment Resource Centre. For example, we have conducted at national level, within each Centre, a detailed analysis of the training needs of parents/tutors of young adults with disabilities. Between December 2019 and March 2020 the results were compiled into a transnational report which served as basis for the elaboration and (later on during the project cycle) testing of the training package dedicated to this target category. Until the end of the project, we will organise interactive training sessions in order to deliver this package to our target group and to all those who are interested in the topic.
Even if we are living challenging times, even if our lives are changing every day and we work hard to adapt to new and difficult routines, we are just as dedicated as before and we do everything that is in our power to take care of each other, so we come together to take care of our main beneficiaries – the young adults with disabilities.
Yes, we were not able to work with them face to face as we have done before, but we work diligently to keep in touch with them as much as possible (via phone, email, or video calls), to teach them to respect the preventive measures, to assist them in order to keep them as calm as possible, and to support them to continue their efforts to integrate into the community. Also, we work with their familiesgiving them the help they need; we cooperate with their employers in order to ensure that the rights of these young adults are respected; we continue to work with our partners and collaborators in order to find new ways to carry out and improve our activities, in spite of these tumultuous times.
We want everything to fall back into place as soon as possible, but until then we continue to keep the promises we have made to ourselves and to our beneficiaries.
Nicolae DOBRESCU, Project Manager – LEAD Executive Director of Health Action Overseas Foundation