The Regional Cooperation – the determining factor for the success of the transfer of good practices

In the last years, important steps have been taken to stimulate the integration on the labour market of people with disabilities and, nevertheless, in many European countries the employment opportunities of this social category are much lower compared to the rest of the population. For example, in Romania there are about 850,000 people with disabilities, but less than 8% of adults with disability work.

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.The situation is not much different in Lithuania and Portugal(countries where our project partners, Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center (VRC) and Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda.

What have we done? We have introduced in our countries a good practice model regarding the Supported Employment, which has proven its viability in the United Kingdom. While doing so, we have benefited from the support and experience of the Status Employment team, the LEAD Expert Partner.The model of Supported Employment was created in the USA in the 1970s. It was imported into Europe, initially in the United Kingdom, and then it has successfully expanded in other countries. I chose Supported Employment because this model is based on a win-win strategy: people with disabilities have the chance to get suitable jobs and keep them for the long term, and companies have the opportunity to hire dedicated and valuable workers.

Our Expert Partner provided an action plan (methodology, and quality standards included) to our teams from Romania, Lithuania and Portugal, and our collegues have been complying with it. In addition, HAO, VRC and Consultis teams have gained valuable information while constantly participating in consulting and training sessions offered by Robert Elston, Executive Director of Status Employment, at the headquarters of our organisations or online.

This manner of working has allowed us to initiate our own training activities. Our efforts have been recognised at national and international level. For example, 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 has worked with our colleagues from Lithuania in order to spread Supported Employment services.

The integration of young adults with disabilities into the labour market is a complex process in which, alongside the providers of employment services, other stakeholders, including decision makers, have to participate through services and programs tailored to their specifics. That is why in our project, each beneficiary partner established in its country a National Network of Supported Employment service providers (LEADNET).

During these years, the Networks have continued to expand, thus facilitating the implementation of the Supported Employment methodology in as many regions from our countries. Additionally, the exchange of information between professionals in the field has intensified; they sought and found answers to the challenges of the moment and solutions to actual professional problems. At the same time, the quality and efficiency of the services provided have increased due to the promotion of quality standards and good practice models, within the Networks. Furthermore, through the Resources Centers for Supported Employment, we provide materials (for example, good practiceguides) to supported employment specialists and employers/human resources specialists, in order to help them in their daily work.

Our team has paid special attention to the development of the public-private partnership as a fundamental strategic element for spread the application of the Supported Employment process. We have also organised forums and round tables with the ambitious goal of influencing (with arguments, data and facts) the public policies especially in the field of inclusion of young adults with disabilities in the labour market. Moreover, we alongside representatives of the business communityhave developed strategies, which facilitate the inclusion of this social category on the labour market.

In our opinion, the widespread of the Supported Employment will change mentalities, and misperceptions regarding the integration of young adults with disabilities on the labour market and into society. Experience shows that the Supported Employment model works regardless of the company’s size, the field of activity, or the disability of the beneficiary who we want to integrate. Only three elements matter: the young adult’s desire to work, the openness and availability of the employer, and the quality of the services offered by specialists.

After almost five years since the start of the LEAD project, both our partners and we appreciate that the transfer of good practices is the most effective solution for a sustainable integration of young adults with disabilities in the labour market.

Because of the regional cooperation opportunities offered by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, the implementation of the Supported Employment model in our countries was made easier, faster and with better results than if each of us had implemented independently, with our own resources. In addition, we had the opportunity to learn from the experience of our colleagues, to identify possibilities for new partnerships in order to develop new projects that respond to real needs of people with disabilities.

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



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