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“There are still significant barriers for job seekers with disabilities”

This statement was made by the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marian Harkin at the conference “Co-producing employment initiatives for young persons with disabilities and mental health problems”, held on January 30 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The event, hosted by MEP Brando Benifei and the Taskforce on “Support Services of Tomorrow”, showcased how employment initiatives both at the European, national, regional and local level can benefit from the co-production methodology, where all relevant stakeholders participated in the development and implementation of the initiative.

Persons with disabilities, services, employers, trade unions, as well as policy makers, MEPs and the European Commission met to find common ground to develop collaboration based on the model of co-production. MEP Brando Benifei stated: “A Human Rights approach should underpin all European policy initiatives, for example when implementing Youth Guarantee with specific regard to persons with disabilities to ensure their equal access to labour market”.

Focused on inclusive employment, in line with Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the conference linked EU employment initiatives and policies (such as the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee) to inclusive practices of employment support for young persons with disabilities from all stakeholders, such as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) methodology and the European Voluntary Service (EVS).

In this regard, Kamil Goungor former EVS and job seeker, shared his experiences of EVS: “It was an enriching experience but there were not many inclusive opportunities. It was difficult to arrange personal assistance. Most organisations hosting volunteers aren’t inclusive for people with disabilities. It’s not guarantee in finding employment afterwards”.

Joint understanding of co-production

Co-production recognises that every individual with support needs should be fully, structurally, and meaningfully involved in an ongoing manner at all stages in the design, development and delivery of the relevant policy, service or activity.

In the disability field, co-production is an inclusive working practice between experts by experience (users), organisations providing support, public authorities and, if relevant, families and other stakeholders. The ultimate goal is the delivery of a service, policy or activity that is responsive to the individual’s needs and preferences in line with the ‘nothing about us, without us’ approach and principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This perspective is given by the taskforce on “Support Services of Tomorrow”, comprised of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), the European Disability Forum (EDF), the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE Families-Europe), the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), Inclusion Europe and Mental Health Europe (MHE-SME) in the joint Declaration: “Developing Support Services of Tomorrow”, supported by the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI”.

Download the Declaration

Download the event report

Facts and figures

According with Eurostat, despite the fact that people with disabilities are protected by employment legislation and those for the support of people with disabilities in society, employment rates remain astonishingly low across Europe.  In the EU 48.7% persons with disabilities are in employment, compared to 70.1% for the general population. Rates vary across Europe and some places have managed to increase the rate of people with disabilities in employment.

These figures are a reminder that there are still many barriers to the full implementation of Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially given that many European countries are still in economic recovery following the financial crisis and opportunities on the open labour market are still limited in many places. Art 27 recognises that every person with a disability, including people with psychosocial disabilities, have the right to work like everyone else and should never be discriminated against.


Download: Mental Health Europe toolkit on Article 27 of the UN CRPD and the Right to Work

Download:  Briefing Paper from the European Platform of Rehabilitation to get information about co-production of services