Supported employment is a dynamic process driven by the individual needs of job seekers. A process comprising five stages, known as the European model of good practices, has been developed, which can be used as a framework for supported employment. During each of the five stages a vast array of activities—some of which designed solely for people with disabilities whilst others for all vulnerable groups—are carried out. Service providers must observe timeframes at all stages and during all activities as they are responsible for any time lost by their clients.
Stage 1 – First contact with the applicant
This stage involves a myriad of activities, most of which used both for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. The main goals at this stage are to ensure accessible information in an appropriate format and encourage users to use it to make an informed choice, relying on their life experience. Activities at this stage must be linked to the main goal, have a strong focus on the applicant’s needs and form part of a comprehensive action plan that supports users appointed to non-assisted jobs. It can be expected that at the end of this stage the user will be able to make an informed decision about whether they would like to use the available possibilities for supported employment.
Stage 2 – Compiling a professional dossier
The activities at this stage aim to study in greater detail the skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses of job seekers, enabling the information gathered to be compiled in a personal professional dossier facilitating the task of the other parties involved in the process of seeking a suitable job. Supported employment is a possibility for job seekers to choose a workplace that matches their interests, aspirations, needs, personal circumstances and life experience. The planning process is based on the independent choice approach, with service users being encouraged to show initiative and made an independent choice regarding their career development and participate in building their own, unique style of work in line with their interests and professional aspirations. At this stage the carer planning approach, which place the job seeker at the heart of all activities at the Centre, must be fully adapted to the needs of the individual to enable him or her to find a suitable workplace and understand whether they are willing to seek a job with the service provider in question.
Stage 3 – Finding a job
Finding a job is a key stage during which the activities carried out can have an impact on employers and help job seekers to find employment. There is no single best way to go about seeking a job and supported employment service providers must prepare a whole array of activities that fully satisfy the needs of all stakeholders.
It is impossible to say who should or should not provide job seeking services, but in any case all activities must be guided by the job applicant who can be advised but must be prepared to make an informed choice.
Regardless of the effect of disability or other types of obstacles, decisions must be made by the job applicant, with supported employment professionals acting in an advisory and facilitator role.
Stage 4 – Contact with employers
Activities at this stage depend on the method of work with the specific employer. In this connection, it is presumed that supported employment specialists and the job seeker will meet with the employer and find out the exact parameters of the job offer.
Stage 5 – support outside of the workplace
The degree, level and form of assistance depend on the needs, abilities and general life circumstances of the job applicant. Assistance—in and of itself—is a key factor in supported employment and must therefore be available throughout the process. Professional assistance must gradually give way to assistance from fellow workers. The degree of assistance and the gradual withdrawal strategy must be planned and discussed with the colleagues, employer and the worker himself/herself.
Assistance at and outside of the workplace provides applicants with an opportunity to learn and carry out their tasks appropriately, working as part of a team and enriching corporate culture thereby advancing their career. On the other hand, assistance provides employers with a mechanism and equips fellow workers with knowledge and the ability to understand people with disabilities, developing their skills to provide natural support at the workplace.
The package of support measures available to people with disabilities must place the job seeker at the very centre of this process and must be flexible and include, inter alia:
- Development and enhancement of social skills;
- Identifying an appropriate mentor/colleague;
- Discovering the workplace culture;
- Providing support to the employer seeking to adapt the workplace;
- Providing assistance to the employer and work colleagues;
- Identifying standard practices at the workplace;
- Identifying career development opportunities.
Support outside of the workplace
- Practical problem solving (transport to and from the workplace);
- Discussing interpersonal relations at the workplace;
- Assistance with red tape barriers relating to the use of various social benefits;
- Keeping in touch with healthcare and social workers;
- Providing advice and answering any questions that arise during the course of use of the supported employment service.