The wide spread of the Supported Employment model – solution for the integration of people with disabilities on the labour market

More than other social categories, young adults with disabilities still face difficulties every day in accesing education services and subsequently in finding a paid job, so their quality of life remains low. Many young adults have a low qualification, inadequate education which does not meet labour market requirements, poor financial situation, lack of confidence in their strength and in their peers. Moreover, the institutional support is insufficient or non-existent. Even when they do find a job on their own, they often are not treated properly, because of employer’s ignorance. On the other hand, companies still hesitate to integrate people with disabilities, due to stereotyping, and misperceptions.

Both we and our partners have been working with people with disabilities for many years and we know that they can be a reservoir of skills and talent, who could bring added value to the employer, but they need a chance to prove it! I am happy to say that since 2018, young adults with disabilities in Romania, Lithuania and Portugal have had this opportunity because of the Labour market Employment for young Adults with a Disability – LEAD project, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.

We started from the idea that this project must contribute to the changing of the paradigm regardind integration of young adults with disabilities on the labour market and into society. In this respect, we have introduced in our countries a good practice model regarding the Supported Employment of people with disabilities which has proven its viability in the United Kingdom. During this process, we have benefited from the support and experience of the Status Employment, the LEAD Expert Partner. Health Action Overseas Foundation alongside Valakupiai Rehabilitation Centre (Lithuania) and Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda. (Portugal) have addressed not only young adults with disabilities, but also parents and legal guardians of young adults with disabilities, companies, and providers of employment services, and we have approached in an innovative way the relationship between these categories of beneficiaries.

Supported Employment differs from ordinary models of placement. 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 achieve their goals regarding employment. During this process, 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, have provided assistance and counseling to our young beneficiaries.

After their employment, we monitor and provide in work and outside work support.

In addition to the individual counseling provided, our team regularly organise personal development workshops and group counseling sessionswith the aim of increasing their self-control, overcoming emotional blockages, and developing communication and teamwork skills of the participants. For this purpose, our colleagues use tools such as role-playing games, drawing, modeling, and therapeutic stories. Morover, the beneficiaries are constantly involved in volunteering activities.

Another important direction in our work consists in providing informational and emotional support to parents and family members of young adults with disabilities. In this respect, they benefited by a dedicated training package, which includes: practical information designed to help parents in order to support their children in accessing employment services; practical ways to motivate their children to get and keep a job; strategies for an individual approach in addressing the needs / the desires of young adults with disabilities and developing their teamwork, decision-making and conflict resolution skills. In addition, we regularly organise meetings with members of the support group for families of young adults with disabilities.

Our team has succeeded countless times in overcoming the reluctance of business people to hire people with disabilities. How do we do that? We organise experience exchanges in order to encourage dialogue and to facilitate interactions between the young adults looking for a job and potential employers. I am glad to say that most ofthe time, these events ended with the employment of one or more young adults.

I am pleased to inform you that in these years, we have employed hundreds of young adults with various disabilities (hearing, visual, speech, physical impairments, learning/intellectual, and mental disabilities). These young adults have managed to keep their jobs, and even to continue their studies or to advance in their carriers. Moreover, our beneficiaries were accepted in companies whose representatives have initially rejected the idea of having colleagues on a diverse spectrum.

It is a matter of pride for us that most of the entrepreneurs, which have worked with us, have not stopped at hiring just a single young adult with disabilities. We have companies in the portfolio, which have employed 3-4 young adults and they are still working with our specialists.

In our opinion, the wide spread of the Supported Employment model is needed, in order to improve the integration of people with disabilities, as well as those of other vulnerable groups on the labour market and into the society.Why? Because it is a win-win model, based on a partnership strategy (between the employee, the employer, and the employment service provider), and which it has successfully passed the test of time.

We have obtained remarkable results, not only in terms of assumed indicators, which are exceeded, but also especially in terms of the quality and the sustainability of the employment process of the young adults with disabilities and strong relationships built by our team with employers. It is time to offer as many people with disabilities as possible the chance to have access to this service.

Let’s do it together!

Nicolae Dobrescu,
Project Manager – LEAD
Executive Director of Health Action Overseas Foundation



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