202 people with disabilities and 88 members of their families received professional assistance within a joint project of the National Patient Organization and the Bulgarian Industrial Association - "Providing support for inclusion in the employment of persons with disabilities", funded by the Operational Program "Human Development resources ”.

For a year social workers from Vratsa, Plovdiv, Haskovo, Shumen, and Burgas have provided support to the families of disabled people who are considered to be with a reduced working capacity of 20% or more as per the expert decision of the TEMC and experience struggles to adapt to the labor market. "People with disabilities and their families are among the most vulnerable groups in our society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has put them in an even more difficult position. That is why the support they had the opportunity to receive within this initiative turned out to be timely and beneficial for many of them, "commented Alexander Milanov, program director of the National Patient Organization.

An information portal was developed for the initiative- www.rabotazavseki.com, which facilitates people with disabilities to look for and find a job that meets their capabilities, needs, and professional goals. In it, people with disabilities and their families regularly find up-to-date and useful information about health and social services, practical advice, legal information, as well as training resources that are freely available to clients of social work.

All participants in the initiative go through training on how to use the resources of the portal, and over 25% of them assess skills and competencies, thanks to the integration of the system for assessment of competencies of BIA - MyCompetence.bg.

The lack of basic literacy and skills for working with digital devices are among the main challenges that experts identify in their work with people with disabilities. The reason for this is the educational structure of the people with disabilities included in the initiative: 7% of them have no education at all, and 37% do have a primary education, but in practice are functionally illiterate.

In terms of employment at the time of joining the initiative, 132 of the participants are unemployed for more than 12 months, 16 are inactive, 19 are unemployed for more than 6 months and only 30 of them are unemployed for less than 6 months. Just over 11% of people with disabilities included in the project are from minority groups, 29% live in unemployed households, 4% live in unemployed households with children, and 1 of the people with disabilities is a single unemployed parent.

"Social work with people with disabilities hides many challenges, especially in a pandemic, which is why the approach of the team of social workers was strictly individual to each specific case. The needs and specifics of the people we worked with were very diverse and in no way bound to the limited access to the labor market - many of them did not have information about social services at the local level that would relieve their situation, did not know their rights, could not adequately assess their capabilities and had lost faith in their abilities, including the fact that they could be valuable to themselves, their families and the society, "Kristina Yordanova added, social worker of the National Patient Organization in Haskovo.

The services that benefit people with disadvantages and their family members, within the initiative of NGOs and BIA, are aimed entirely at their retainment and return to the labor market: it provided support and motivation to look for work; labor market orientation; assistance in preparing a CV and a motivation letter; registration in job search platforms, inclusion in training and retraining courses, incl. paid and free ones; arranging meetings with employers and job interviews; referral to social services and rehabilitation; accompaniment to institutions (NSSI, NSP, TEMC, etc.), assistance in preparation and completion of documents, and many others.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put people with disabilities in a particularly vulnerable situation and caused many of them to lock themselves in their homes for months and stop looking for work, 24 of them are starting new jobs on a permanent contract. Another 34 people have received job offers and are to be realized on the labor market. Over 80% of the people covered by the initiative acquired knowledge and skills on how to look for jobs that match their capabilities, how to prepare well-drafted CVs and motivational letters, how to behave during a job interview, and how to negotiate suitable working conditions with their employers.

Date: 15.02.2021

Source: Bulgarian Industrial Association

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