European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities: Co-production – Working together to create inclusive employment opportunities!
On Tuesday 30 January the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and its partners in the task force “Support Services of Tomorrow” (European Disability Forum, COFACE Families-Europe, European Network on Independent Living, Inclusion Europe and Mental Health Europe) co-hosted the event ‘Co-producing employment initiatives for young persons with disabilities and mental health problems’ alongside Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Brando Benifei. The event engaged MEPs, European Commission officials, social service providers, employers, persons with disabilities as well as civil society to share best practices and discuss how we can empower all stakeholders in the design, development and delivery of inclusive employment practices.
The event was opened by Brando Benifei MEP. Mr Benifei began by highlighting that, at the core any efforts to create inclusive societies are support services which empower people with disabilities to fully exercise their rights. He also stressed that we must rethink employment practices to ensure that people with disabilities can participate, co-productively, in the creation of inclusive employment initiatives.
Marian Harkin MEP supported Mr Benifei and praised the event for facilitating meaningful discussion and called for the co-production process to be implemented in EU legislative processes.
The discussions brought together key stakeholders including individuals wishing to access employment opportunities on the open labour market, employers, social service providers and the family members of persons with disabilities.
The experiences of these stakeholders drew attention to the importance of fostering strong links between all stakeholders to create inclusive employment initiatives, listening in particular to people with disabilities and their families as the specialists in their own support needs. These testimonies also stressed that employers must become more flexible to be able to make the best use of co-productive methods and include people with disabilities within their workplaces.
The event’s second panel presented the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) methodology and its effectiveness for providing employment on the open labour market for people with mental health problems. The panel included an IPS service beneficiary who underlined how important finding a job, with the support of IPS, was to his recovery process and living a meaningful life.
Speaking at the event Catherine Naughton, Director of the European Disability Forum, promoted the need to ensure that all stakeholders are active in the co-production process stating that, “we need more than involvement, we must work together to find solutions and create inclusive employment opportunities.”
Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of EASPD closed the event with a call to MEPs to incorporate co-production methods into policy-making practices and review the accessibility of EU employment services and practices to ensure that they all young people, including those with disabilities, are able to fully benefit from the opportunities they offer.
As a part of their commitment, to positively contribute to the development of a more inclusive society through high quality support systems the task force ‘Support Services of Tomorrow’ will continue their work to support the use of co-production. The task force’s next steps will include the launch of a campaign on further inclusive employment initiatives at a local level. The task force will also support research into the use of co-production methods in education to help empower students with disabilities and ensure equal access to inclusive education opportunities.