Reflections on the issue of employment of persons with disability
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“Yes for Everybody was the theme chosen by the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) for their National Conference commemorating the International Day for Persons with Disability, held on the 3rd of December.
The focus of the Conference, hence the title, was the right to employment of persons with disability.
Malta Federation of Organisations Persons with Disability (MFOPD) participated actively in one of the different workshops focusing on the issue of employment.
Through the ensuing discussion, it turned out that until September 2018 there were 398 persons with disability still seeking employment. 244 were seeking full-time employment while 154 sought part- time employment.
There also emerged the amazing information that the State had, to date, collected €2.5M from penalties on firms who had not abided by the 2% quota made legally compulsory.
Moving from workshops to further plenary sessions, the participants were informed that the €2.5M were allocated to the Lino Spiteri Foundation (LSF), to work in conjunction with Jobsplus to provide persons with disability with the appropriate training, the opportunities to actually find the jobs they were seeking, and to benefit from job coaching facilities.
As a point of reference, the Lino Spiteri Foundation is a Public Social Partnership set up between what was then the Employment & Training Corporation now Jobsplus, and the Empower Coop Ltd.
Following the National Conference, the MFOPD, who is the national umbrella Non-Governmental Organisation for the disability sector, internally discussed the information collected.
In the process, there were various questions which arose when the information was analysed for its own sake, as well as in the light of the experience of the Malta Association of Supported Employment (MASE) in the realm of Supported Employment.
In their ongoing internal analysis, following the same National Conference in December, MFOPD and MASE are still concerned about certain queries centred around salient issues which include:
the length of waiting time that the 398 persons seeking a job as at September 2018, have been registering for work ?
the length of registering time per person to be considered as acceptable (cases of 3 or more years) ?
the rationale behind continuous promotion and practice of sheltered employment when this is in total contrast to the UNCRPD ?
the necessity that the national economic and labour market create low skilled jobs accessible to persons who would not fit into white-collar ones
The Federation was a catalyst in the sphere of Positive Supported Employment since it was precisely MFOPD who introduced this concept on the Islands. So much so that the State had entrusted to its branch Organisation, namely MASE, the implementation of the national programme which was later endorsed by a Memorandum of Understanding with the President’s Trust.
At this point, it is relevant to point out briefly what MASE stands for in its own right. It was in 2016 that the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity funded the Positive Supported Employment programme as implemented by MASE.
By the end of that same year, the success rate of the programme totalled to a secure job for 520 vulnerable persons, a number of whom were persons with disability.
From then on, both the newly employed 520 vulnerable persons, as well as about 20 members of staff on the programme, were absorbed within the structure of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS).
It is worth noting that the budget allotted to the MASE programme yielding the mentioned successful results was just below €600,000.
A further logical question emerges:
2 years from a successful return on investment, in terms of secure employment for over 500 persons and 20 MASE employees within 1 year, all within a €600,000 budget, what were the improvements and successes registered as emanating from FSWS entrusted with the Project?
MASE has been working on Supported Employment and acquired a more positive result then forecasted and expected from State officials who reacted sceptically to the concept at the outset. MASE managed to double the outcome, in terms of numbers as much as sustainability of job security, as proposed as trial assumption, by the officials concerned.
It stands to reason that one questions the relevance and sustainability of further funded programmes (JESS and INK) similar to the already highly funded Public Social Partnership in practice.
MFOPD and MASE base their internal joint discussion on Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) states that:
States Parties recognise the right of person with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.
In view of such a statement, one tends to question why sheltered employment keeps being promoted and practised? Supported Employment, as endorsed by the Convention, and successfully promulgated by MASE, has yielded fruit in every aspect within a relatively short time and a limited budget.
Consequently the questions:
? Are we getting value for the money spent on persons with disability to access the open labour market?
? Who is responsible to assure that the value of the money is spent to fully benefit all persons with disability?”
Maria Pia Gauci
Malta Federation of Organisations Persons with Disability