We interviewed Anne Filali, Housing Director for our Finnish member Caritaslaiset on their work on access to employment for persons with disabilities.
Caritaslaiset has a strong tradition as providers of services for people with disabilities, including services supporting access to employment. Can you give us an overview of the main initiatives in this area?
Our key project is the EU-funded project Job for Real. Indeed, Caritas provides access to employment for people with disabilities through this EU project. These opportunities are not only available for Caritas residents. With this project, we are looking to influence attitudes on a national level in regards to employing people with disabilities.
Our objective is to make this approach a permanent part of Caritas’s operations following the project.
The integration of people with disabilities in society is a key objective of Caritaslaiset activities. What is the vision behind the services enabling the integration of people with disabilities into jobs?
Caritas Palvelut has provided services for people with disabilities since 2002. Our objective is to be present in everyone’s everyday lives in our society. Our services are located in urban areas or in suburban areas with good transport connections. Our aim is to implement services in a way that allows our customers with disabilities to integrate into the everyday life of the surrounding area. Our residential care activities can be located, for example, in a normal residential building, and neighbours can be any residents. Our aim is to participate in various events and become part of the social fabric. We encourage our customers to study or acquire skills through hobbies.
In Finland, people with disabilities are provided with good opportunities to study. However, employment rates have not improved sufficiently. People with disabilities live on an allowance. We are now embracing the challenge of employing people with disabilities through Job for Real.
Participation in working life is everyone’s right, and that includes people with disabilities. At Caritas, we feel that participating in working life is an important part of everyone’s life.
To what extent are other stakeholders committed with the inclusion of people with disabilities into jobs? Is there enough support from public authorities and employment services? And from employers?
Caritas is involved in promoting awareness among employers on the issue of providing access to employment to people with disabilities. For example, in Finland, companies can apply for an allowance for hiring people with disabilities, but this is currently not widely known among businesses. We are working closely with labour authorities, and receiving plenty of support. We are working towards a common goal. The municipal social sector is also partnering with the project. We have mutual customers, which is why we are planning this path together.
What are the main challenges faced by your services supporting access to employment by people with disabilities? Which concrete actions could address such challenges?
The biggest challenge is reaching employers. Once they have been reached, however, they do express interest in providing employment opportunities. A major challenge is the lack of awareness among employers in terms of various subsidies available for employing people with disabilities.
Dividing job contents into smaller tasks would help in the employment of people with disabilities. Jobs with a wide range of responsibilities are often too challenging.
Another challenge is the fact that many people with disabilities have been unemployed for a long time, or have never even entered the job market. Finally, proving a person’s ability to work is considered challenging on both sides.
How should social services evolve to meet the future of support services for people with disabilities into jobs? What can society do to contribute to more inclusive labour markets and workplaces?
Social services for people with disabilities should develop so that working life becomes a natural part of their lives. Currently, people with disabilities simply receive an allowance and opportunities to employ them are not even explored. Social services should be more closely aligned with the educational sector so that a student with disabilities can explore employment opportunities together with social services and the educational sector, instead of simply moving onto living on an allowance.
To know more about our member’s work on access to employment for persons with disability, check their website.