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International workshop February 2008 in Sofia, Bulgaria on European best practices

In February 2008, The Center for Independent Living (CIL) – Sofia organized an International workshop in Sofia presenting European practices where international guests from eight countries in the European network (Sweden, Latvia, Poland, Spain, Greece, Finland, Ireland and Germany) and Bulgarian government officials met in Sofia to discuss different practices of accommodating disabled trainees/interns in the EU countries and institutions. The purpose is to share experience and motivate the Bulgarian government agencies to set up and offer traineeships and internships to qualified disabled applicants and to work towards making these opportunities also inclusive for youth with disabilities. The network members will be encouraged to share suggestions, technical and organizational expertise, and examples of good and bad practices.

The conference gave the Training as Vehicle to Employment network the possibility to present the project in front of not only Bulgarian government officials but also local and regional disability organizations. During the second day Personal Assistance was the main focus of the conference and there were also discussions on future project for the network. If you are interested in the complete minutes with the slides on the labour market situation for disabled people in several European countries, please contact Nicoletta Zoannos at Independent Living Institute otherwise see below.


International Conference: “Training as Vehicle to Employment”
15th & 16th of February 2008
Sofia, Bulgaria.

DAY 1: 15th February 2008. 2

1 Welcome by Conference Host Country Bulgaria and General presentation of the TVE Project Vanya Pandieva and Kapka Panayotova, Bulgaria, Nicoletta Zoannos, Sweden 2

1.1 Brief presentation on the Labour Market for people with disabilities 2

1.1.1 Ireland. 2

1.1.2 Germany. 2

1.1.3 Greece. 2

1.1.4 Latvia. 2

1.1.5 Sweden. 2

1.1.6 Finland. 2

1.1.7 Bulgaria – Conclusion remarks. 2

1.2 Trainee programmes and internships as recruitment tools Nicoletta Zoannos, Sweden 3

2 Panel Discussion “The Road Ahead”. 3

2.1.1 Partner Country experience of the National Network. 3

2.1.2 Accessibility in the Workplace – Project Examples. 4

DAY 2: 16th February 2008. 5

2.1.3 Introduction by Kapka Panayotova. 5

2.1.4 Acknowledgements. 5

2.1.5 Project Proposal: Personal Assistance for Inclusion. 5

2.1.6 Progress Application 2007. 5

2.1.7 Proposed Progress Application 2008. 6

2.1.8 Conference Conclusion / Recommendations. 8


DAY 1: 15th February 2008

1        Welcome by Conference Host Country Bulgaria and General presentation of the TVE Project Vanya Pandieva and Kapka Panayotova, Bulgaria, Nicoletta Zoannos, Sweden

This Project has focused on consideration of national government agencies internships and trainee programmes in order to text, develop and promote, as necessary, measures which will make these internships and trainee programmes fully inclusive for all.

1.1       Brief presentation on the Labour Market for people with disabilities

1.1.1      to 1.1.6 Slides removed

1.1.7       Bulgaria – Conclusion remarks

The context within in which people with disabilities emerge and enter into the labour market is critical, having heard this mornings presentations there are several points to unpack here:

- The statistics indicate that there is a far better status of people with disabilities in the labour market where there are active labour market efforts in places like Sweden, Ireland and Finland.

- This implies that the conditions created for people with disabilities are created outside the labour market. This means that there are better technical aids, and conditions for people with disabilities which are not directly related to and developed under the labour market / Ministry responsible for the labour market.

- The position that people with disabilities hold, when they are employed, even in the general labour market is worth considering. People do not appear to have any / much opportunity for career progression.

- On the basis of observations (no statistics exist in this area in Bulgaria) people with disabilities in Bulgaria invariably hold low ranking positions. There are at least three explanations – firstly no state would support the position of a person with a disability as a manager. Usually the subsidised jobs for people with disabilities are low-grade jobs with the lowest pay. Secondly it’s only natural that a person with no experience cannot hold a senior position. Career development presupposes a longer holding of certain positions than currently held by people with disabilities. The third and final reason is that if a person has a significant disability and wants to work, this is not possible without a Personal Assistant.

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- It is very important that when we comment on the employment of people with disabilities, that this discussion is held and bound to the wider conditions critical to the increase in services to people with disabilities.

1.2       Trainee programmes and internships as recruitment tools Nicoletta Zoannos, Sweden

Within a context of a declining workforce across Europe people with disabilities represent an unused pool of staff resources for the labour market. We still have difficulties getting people, especially young people with disabilities into the labour market. That’s why we chose the topic of traineeships as a recruitment tool to get people into the labour market.

As they offer no expensive long term commitment to employers while giving access to and introduction to the labour market for people with disabilities. However for people with disabilities to access traineeships they need the right supports. The challenge of this project was to come up with a common approach. There has been no great tradition in offering traineeships and internships across Europe. It was from this position that the Project commenced and progressed through the key Project outcomes of the Booklet, the National Network, the National and International Newsletters, The Baseline and the International Virtual Forum. The standard answer when contacting state agencies was yes, everyone can apply to participate on traineeships. However this did not mean that traineeships were accessible at all. It was hard to even get state agencies to understand what we meant by disability.

2        Panel Discussion “The Road Ahead”

2.1.1       Partner Country experience of the National Network

Bulgaria

When we launched our project, some time had lapsed since the commencement of the rest of the partners. A serious problem arose with regard to communication with Government Institutions. Without accusing anyone, all the appeals addressed to the institutions to establish communication remain in vain. When we were preparing our first meeting, we were very enthusiastic and anticipated meeting 15 to 20 agencies of Government Institutions. It was very disappointing with out first meeting when only five or six showed up, three of which were our personal acquaintances. The same lack of input has continued for the duration of our involvement in the TVE Project.

Sweden

In Sweden, there are approximately 500 relevant agencies, 300 agencies were contacted. There exists a very open society in Sweden, and there was no problem contacting the key individual directly. The problem began with the attempted development of the National Network. People within state agencies simply do not have the time. Currently the State is doing a large evaluation of state agencies work around accessible, due for completion in 2010. With that in mind they are all attempting to become accessible. So to raise the questions, it was bad timing as the majority of state agencies were in the process of developing accessible workplaces, and there was zero feedback available. Instead of stopping there, it was decided to continue a study at a regional level. In April, a study will be commenced, on the possibility of doing a project on how the government can handle questions of accessibility in a productive successful manner. We are developing a joint regional project, including people with disabilities, who will be training officials in government agencies in the area of accessibility. The aspiration is that these training days will go on to be offered to state agencies – to be rolled out to every government official who works with recruitment and traineeships. This is one way in which the TVE Project has been used to develop further work. Hopefully this can be spread throughout the International Forum, and with country specific modifications this could be applied to each country individually. Germany

Sweden has about 10% of the inhabitants of Germany. In Germany we have about 10,000 agencies. We approached about 800 with a poor response. We approached them again, with about a 10% response. Those we got a hold of we tried to ask them questions, from the 80

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responses we got, there were about 20 / 25 telephone calls. When asked the question, the response was that officially all the programmes were all accessible. However when the discussion was pushed, it was acknowledged that in reality not all programmes were accessible to people with disabilities. It was at this stage that we were able to impact by introducing more ideas to those who responded. However, in consideration of the example raised by Sweden, perhaps going forward, the focus will be developing key aspects of the TVE Project at a local level, to be more effective. Towards the end of the Project, the focus was restricted to the key State around the CILs’ geographical location. Based on this approach there was quite a good response. For Germany, this localised approach is more promising to be successful and to be a benefit to all.

2.1.2       Accessibility in the Workplace – Project Examples

Bulgaria

Something observed in Bulgaria, it’s been several years since a lot has been said about people with disabilities and their rights to accessibility into the labour market and society in general. This practice concerns some state agencies and in particular their state officials at local level who have information about people with disabilities. Some officers decided to employ people with disabilities to show off they’re democracy and open mindedness.

In relation to training, and training offered to people with disabilities as a means to future employment. There are many programmes on offer, for example in the area of IT. First of all they are very basis, which is obviously a deficiency. Even though they say the courses are opened up to people with disabilities they haven’t considered the accessibility of the roads to the buildings. The other point is that this very same IT course offered to people with disabilities was taking place on the fourth floor. The two people with disabilities had to remain on the first floor, with information packs. That’s all they received in relation to IT training. What is the sense in providing such courses to people with disabilities if they are not accessible in venue? What would representatives of other countries advise in this situation? How is it in different countries? Are all the accessibility issues observed?

Greece

The officers are always willing to help, to lift people up the stairs – they do not commit to further alterations. We are hoping that state agencies will be making a change. Many of the officers of the disability officers have contacting organisations because they realise they are not experts. Here the booklet might help. In some ways although we are at the end of the project we are also commencing with such key tools of the booklet.

Legislation is one of the main issues. On a local level, you can make changes also. If this project is discussed with an officer of a certain state official, as an employee, than yes, it will make a change, s/he’s not used to being directly approached by a person with a disability.

Ireland

The context is very different. We have extremely progressive government approach to disability, very much in contrast to other countries. The TVE Project has not registered too much, as a lot of the issues around accessible have already been tackled by various fora.


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DAY 2: 16th February 2008

2.1.3       Introduction by Kapka Panayotova

All too often we work on the agenda of bilateral projects. From time to time more countries get together and work jointly. This doesn’t happen very often but it’s very valuable. I feel it should happen on a more regular basis. This is why today’s agenda is going to be very useful. We have developed and submitted a proposal to the Commission which was unsuccessful. However there is potential today to discuss it’s merits and consider submitting a proposal to the Commission in the coming months.

2.1.4       Acknowledgements

The input of our UK neighbours is critical – John Evans is thanked in absence for providing a number of learning documents for review by this partnership around the area of Personal Assistance. Their input is considered critical for inclusion in terms of expertise advice on the direction of any future projects and they will be updated on the outcomes of this Conference.

2.1.5       Project Proposal: Personal Assistance for Inclusion

This project was developed under the European Programme ‘PROGRESS’. This programme is a new funding strand, bringing together the former ACCESS and EQUAL Programmes. This project brought with it new requirements. TVE Partners applied in the first round of proposals under the heading of inclusion and people with disabilities.

The proposal developed not successful in applying for funding. However there are useful components within the project proposal, which are valuable to consider in a new proposal.

2.1.6       Progress Application 2007

Project Rationale:

To make it clear to everyone that without Personal Assistants, Inclusion is not possible.

Project Objective:

To achieve policy change / development of a uniform approach to the delivery of Personal Assistance services for Inclusion.

Project Partners:

Bulgaria (Lead) Sweden, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Latvia came in as a strategic partner, and Norway.

Project Activities:

-       Survey was to be carried out in each country to cover the social services existing in each country.

-       Exchange / Study Trips to each country.

-       National Conference / Event to be run on an annual basis in each country.

-       Freedom Drive 2009.

-       Project Materials for circulation on a national basis and also translated for best practice documents to be translated and circulated internationally.

Project Duration:

24 months.

Commission’s response in rejecting the application:

-       It was stated that not enough partners were listed from the statutory sector / private / education sector. Service providers are critical for involvement on this project.

-       Lack of input from local and nation government must be addressed.

-       The partnership was considered too homogenous.

-       Support from researchers was considered vague.

-       No links to existing policy processes.

-       Transferability challenges not developed.

 

 

 

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2.1.7       Proposed Progress Application 2008

Based on discussion of conference attendees of the Progress Application 2007, as outlined above in terms of it’s rejection by the Commission the following revised Project Proposal was outlined for application to the Commission in 2008:

 

Initial Discussion based on outline of Progress Application 2007 :

-       If there was an opportunity to defend, it might stand up. All the issues outlined by the Commission are debatable – aside from the homogeneity of the group, which is true.

-       The transferability of models has been recognised through study trips. However this would be more evident if there was a research institute as part of the process, to develop a strong report on the current situation in each country.

-       Key partners identified as required for successful application:

·         Social Policy Research Units.

·         Universities.

·         Student Organisations.

·         ‘Service Providers’.

·         Local and National Government.

·         Research Institution.

-       In Bulgaria the only problem would be local authorities and national government. Student organisations could be approached. No power would like to co-operate with CIL Sophia, at this point in time.

-       In Germany this would not be a problem. You may have them as a partner, without burdening them with the full tasks of other partners. In the TVE, there were two strategic partners from private and government agencies. There is not a need for strategic partners in all countries.

-       The EU might not agree to this approach, they might look for full involvement by all partners equally. There is a balance in terms of the type of partners brought on board, which would be successfully approved by the EU.

-       In Finland the research institute may be available to participate. Also, within Threshold there is a great many divergent organisations represented.

-       In Sweden there are other organisations such as the Association for Local Governments, which is not run by the state, but rather lobby’s in Europe on behalf of local interests. They currently have a project running on Personal Assistance in local governments and might be suitable to approach.

-       A project ‘Academic Network on Experts in Disabilities was funded in 2007, which is worth considering. Bulgaria is included in this Network. This was the university of Leeds initiative. Greece is also included, and Finland. Perhaps link can be made between this project and our own. Partners need to consider this application. Feedback from experts in the area of European Proposals in Ireland emphasised the need for a unique approach to any application.

-       There may be a possibility for funding between a German organisation and an Eastern Organisation. This could be used as an example for a start; the outcome of this project may be the basis for a new project.

-       Another idea is to restart the European Centre for Excellence for Personal Assistance. his is being discussed in Sweden, with some question over the financial viability of it.

-       A feasible idea, particularly for Bulgaria, is to take a good model in European Policy and see about it’s practical implication at a local level. This would reflect the need to acknowledge the EU level and the local level in our application.

-       The question of who should be the lead organisation was raised. In the initial application, the organisation named as lead was recognised as a fundamentalist, in conflict with the Government. Could this be a reason for rejection? Are there other considerations to be taken into account when identifying a lead organisation?

-       In Germany the opposite is considered true. Firstly Bulgaria is well equipped to lead. Secondly, as one of the new EU project, it’s important that allocation of funding recognised both old and new members of the EU. The MEP for Bulgaria should be included to review the distribution of money, so that it’s carried out equally. It may even

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be an idea, to contact Bulgarian MEPs and push them on the application. Bulgaria was supported by partners to continue as lead organisation.

 

Project Title: To develop understanding of Personal Assistance as a Human Right.

Project Objectives:

- Develop criteria for definition of a PA service.

- Consider Cost of exclusion and the cost of living in the mainstream. Social inclusion is can be described as a means of encouraging everyone into long term employment. In the context of PA services this refers to those relatives working as PAs and on as well as the job openings which are potentially available when people are allowed to be hired to work as PAs. In addition people with disabilities themselves will be able to access the workplace when they have been allocated PAs to support them.

- Stimulate public debate nationwide.

- Outline methods of achieving the goal of social inclusion of people with disabilities.

- Supporting people with disabilities directly themselves. In developed countries PA services is commonplace. In Bulgaria, Greece and Latvia there is a need for people with disabilities to understand better what PA service delivery is all about, and they need to be convinced on the type of PA services relevant to them.

Project Outcomes:

- Promotion of social inclusion and social protection of people with disabilities through mutual learning and networking around the area of PA Services.

- Development of a common definition of PA Services which is linked to EU Policy and the UN Treaty.

- Analysis by each partner of PA policies in their own country in terms of

a.     where they are.

b.     what they want to achieve.

- Freedom Drive – trip to Strasbourg, demonstration before the EU Parliament. The objective of the drive highlights the PA is a human right.

- Develop forums with government to discuss best practice in terms of Independent Living, Human Rights, PA service delivery etc.

- Outline a PA policy which is transferable through EU Member States.

Project Activities:

- Development of a Project Steering Committee to discuss key issues further.

Proposal Target Partners:

Primary Target groups

·         Local and National Governments

·         People with disabilities

·         Service Providers

·         Unemployed young people that want to work as PAs

·         Human Rights NGOs

Secondary Target groups

·         European Level to be included at all times – the Disability Intergroup should be included some how – linked to 2 and 3.

Miscellaneous comments:

- Text of the proposal to refer to Personal Assistance and Human Rights in Europe.

- Aspect of Human Rights to be further discussed.

- Activities of promotion, advocacy and lobbying to be considered for inclusion, based on the Project focus which has yet to be decided upon.

- The promotion of PA as a human right must to be chosen as a Project outcome or objective. This can be focused on in a number of ways:

·         Through lobbying of MEPs, European Commission, National Governments with the final outcome of aiming to achieve an EU objective.

·         Through promotion, with a focus on Media, Local Government, National Government and the Public.

·         Through advocacy, with the target groups like think tanks, national governments, and other influential agencies.

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2.1.8       Conference Conclusion / Recommendations

All attendees were thanked for their attendance and involvement in this two day conference. The following points were made:

- The TVE Project had an unexpected outcome in the form of the International Forum which has been meeting each week in a virtual capacity on the website www.independentliving.org there was a strong feeling from partners that this forum must be continued, albeit under a different heading. The value of cross communication and sharing of best practice and knowledge between countries was lauded as one of the most significant outcomes of the TVE Project.

- It was agreed for each attendant country to return and discuss the new project proposal as outlined above and their possible participation in future applications made to the Commission. In a months time interested parties should be ready to gather to develop a full project proposal.

- Common problems ubiquitous to all people with disabilities have been highlighted throughout the TVE Project. All conference participants are members of ENIL. The European Network needs more creativity, discipline and imagination to play a strong role in the representation of people with disabilities on a European level. It was agreed that partners of the TVE Project would monitor and input into ENIL when possible.


Training as Vehicle to Employment, TVE, was a two year project that started in January 2006 and ended in December 2007.