A Comparative Study of the Situation of Supported Employment in Europe

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Agencies offering supported employment (SE) in the European Union (EU) were surveyed using a Web-based questionnaire in 2006. Responses were obtained from 184 organizations, primarily from Finland, Spain, and the United Kingdom (UK). The majority of respondents offered a wide range of services with 83% offering SE and about half having begun offering it in the last 5 years. The data showed many organizations offering services in addition to SE (e.g., vocational training or sheltered work provision). There was significant variation in provision of key elements of SE, particularly workplace support. This may disadvantage people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Funding of SE varied across areas, with 22% overall reliant on short-term European funding. People with ID were the largest group of users by “minorities” in Finland and Spain. Most worked more than 24 h per week, with only a minority having permanent contracts. Hours of support were generally low. The authors conclude that funding for SE is fragile and that variations in the model used may disadvantage people with more severe ID, and thus lead to less effective SE. Fewer hours worked in the UK than elsewhere suggest a lack of harmonization of welfare benefit legislation provision across the EU, again affecting people with ID disproportionately. The study highlights the need for follow-up studies.

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