When you ask a company representative if they would like to hire a person with disabilities, you can often hear the answer “YES, but …” and, no matter how sad it is, this usually means “NO”. In order to find out the reasons for denying disabled employment and emphasize that the answer “NO” should be heard as little as possible by people with disabilities who are willing and who are able to work, on 8 September 2020, our colleagues from VRC – Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center (Lithuania) organised the conference “Best practices and challenges in employing of people with disabilities. What can we do better? ”
The event presented not only the problems and challenges faced by people with disabilities who want to work, but also the current situation on the Lithuanian labour market, in terms of innovative methods used and measures taken by state institutions and other organisations in order to make it easier for people with disabilities to find a job.
Our colleagues continued the event with a panel discussion on how and what can be done differently to ensure that the business environment is more open, companies are no longer afraid to employ people with disabilities and that people with disabilities themselves are motivated to work. The event was organised within “Labour Market Employment for Young Adults with a Disability – LEAD” project, in cooperation with the Vilnius Business Women Network.
The conference presented: the interim results obtained within the LEAD project, the activities which have been organised so far, as well as the services offered to both people with disabilities and employers. According to VRC, several events will be organised in the near future in order to achieve the goals set in the project: improving the employment situation of young adults with disabilities, changing the attitude of employers towards people with disabilities and improving inter-institutional and cross-border cooperation on issues of Supported Employment.
During the discussion, it was highlighted that the situation of people with disabilities on the labour market will improve when we will no longer talk about them as a separate group in society. The need for a change of attitude towards people with disabilities was also pointed out.
According to the director of Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center, Tatjana Ulbinienė: “A lot has been done, but we still have a lot to do, so that people with disabilities can integrate not only into the labour market, but also into society, and in order to achieve this, we need to change ourselves.” Also, it was stressed that it is essential that all parties involved, whether employers, companies or public bodies, people with disabilities or institutions providing integration services, shall be active and motivated.
The entrepreneur Irma Spudienė not only actively contributed to the organisation of this event and its promotion among the business community, but also set an example among her peers that in order to employ a person with disabilities, the patience and overcoming challenges are required, but when there is desire, anything is possible.
People with disabilities are looking especially for unskilled jobs
Unfortunately, the high unemployment rate among people with disabilities is still a big problem in Lithuania. Giedrė Vitė, Director of the Labour Market and Employment Policy Implementation Department, pointed out at the mentioned conference that currently about 12,000 people with disabilities are registered with the Employment Service. Most of them are men, with an average age of 50 years old, who do not have professional training. Mild disabilities dominate, and the level of working capacity is about 45-55%. According to Giedrė Vite, most registered people are looking for unskilled work and they would like to be employed as: loader, unskilled worker, cleaner, housekeeper, sweeper, driver, and packer or to perform similar activities. Such a trend may be due to the fact that people with higher education do not register with the Employment Service, because they do not need such services.
Because of people with disabilities face greater difficulties in finding a job, they receive not only general services, but also individual counseling. Employment Service consultans notice that people with disabilities often close in their own world, have psychological difficulties and, therefore, the counseling lasts several months. Usually, these people need help not only to find a job and to prepare for an interview, but also in the relationship with the employer.
State support alone is not enough!
During the event, Vice Minister of Social Security and Labour, Eglė Radišauskienė, emphasized that the State has provided various measures to help employment: from subsidizing the establishment of new jobs to support for starting a self-employment activity. However, according to the Vice Minister, these are not enough.
She mentioned that more attention should be paid to the education of people with disabilities. It is often pointed out that people with disabilities are forced to perform low-skilled jobs, but most of them have no education at all. Various active labour market measures are currently offered, including vocational training. However, a survey conducted by the Employment Service reveals that people do not want to study.
According to the Vice Minister, the conclusions of the State Control show that the benefits paid by the state do not promote the integration of people with disabilities into the labour market. It is a well-known situation that people register with the Employment Service only because of the benefits provided by the state, and not because they really are looking for a job. People with disabilities earn low wages, so they often choose not to work.
The non-adapted workplaces to the needs of the people with disabilities is another barrier in the employment of these people.The Vice Minister pointed out that there is still much to be done even in her institution: a woman in a wheelchair working there complains that she must open more than 20 doors before she can reach her workplace, which is not easy.
The Vice Minister of Social Security and Labour emphasized the importance of each person’s initiatives. “First of all, everyone needs to change their thinking. Socially responsible employers are now boldly recruiting people with disabilities. State support alone is not enough, we must act all together,” said Eglė Radišauskienė.
Programs that help young adults with disabilities find a suitable job
Marija Markina, the representative of Valakupiai Rehabilitation Centreand LEAD project Coordinator in Lithuania,is convinced that the initiatives of various organizations can also contribute to the increase of the employment of people with disabilities. In this context, Marija pointed out that Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center implements a series of such programs: assistance in finding a job, support at the workplace, career guidance, providing services related to volunteering, identifying opportunities for professional development etc.