The integration of vulnerable groups on the labour market: The Supported Employment – a model to follow

In 2018, when we set out on the challenging path of implementing the project “Labour market Employment for young Adults with a Disability – LEAD”, co-funded by the EEA and Norway Grants – Fund for Youth Employment, we promised we are going to approach in an innovative way the relations among young adults with disabilities, their parents and tutors, employers, specialists and providers of Supported Employment services. In this respect, we have introduced in Romania, Portugal, and Lithuania a good practice model regarding Supported Employment for people with disabilities, which had proven its viability in the United Kingdom.

The Supported Employment 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. In the last five years, 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.

Why? Because the Supported Employment differs from ordinary models of placement. According to this model, 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 have provided assistance and counseling to our young beneficiaries. Also, after their employment, we monitor and provide in work and outside work support. In addition to the individual counseling provided, our team regularly organises personal development workshops and group counseling. Moreover, 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 have 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.

Moreover, 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. Most of the time, these events ended with the employment of one or more young adults.

In these years, we have employed hundreds of young adults with various disabilities. Most of them 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.

We think that it is time to offer as many vulnerable people as possible the chance to have access to this service. In our opinion, the widespread of the Supported Employment will change mentalities, and misperceptions regarding the integration of vulnerable persons on the labour market and into society. I want to highlight that only three elements matter: the person’s desire to work, the openness and availability of the employer, and the quality of the services offered by specialists.

After five years since the start of the LEAD project, we appreciate that the transfer of good practices is the most effective solution for a sustainable integration of vulnerable groups 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 vulnerable groups.

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


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