'I want to work too' - The importance of social inclusion in the workplace
Ferrovial Services and the Down Foundation work together to get people with intellectual disabilities into work. Irene Molina, Work Coordinator for FUNDOWN, spells out the importance of standardising work for this particular needs group, and brings us the personal story of Severo Ruiz, who works for Ferrovial Services.
13 of December of 2016
Getting people with intellectual disabilities into work
Having a job is an essential step towards greater autonomy and social inclusion for people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. Standard work for persons from this needs group is becoming more common, and meeting the challenge to make it a widespread practice will soon be within our reach.
Adaptation within society through both enforcement of labour legislation and awareness raising; dedicated work by the relevant associations; and the necessary change in vision and ways of thinking of companies are essential for getting this vulnerable group into work, while remembering at all times that people with Down syndrome must have the opportunity to express themselves, be heard, and become involved in the decisions that affect their lives.
The methodology of supported employment has been proven over the years as one of the basic tools for getting people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities into work in Spain. The aim of achieving the greatest degree of autonomy possible and the chance to lead an independent life means that getting a job is a vital step. That this happens under conditions which are as close as possible to a situation of full integration (within a “normal” company in its usual daily operations; a job in equal or very similar conditions to those of other staff; and with as little external support as possible) are important factors towards increasing autonomy, and thus quality of life, for people with intellectual disabilities.
Supported employment is a methodology for facilitating access to work which includes a series of services and activities centred on the person, usually carried out on a one-to-one basis, so that a person with a disability or learning difficulties may obtain, keep and progress in a job within an ordinary company, in the ordinary labour market, with the support of professionals working directly on access to work and other complementary support.
National Network of Supported Employment
One of the main tools for supported employment is mediation –through a person known as a job coach– to offer the affected person the support he/she requires to adapt to the work post, from training for development of the required skills, to follow up and accompaniment in the work post. The coach is critical in the process of getting people into work, and is the first and main contact person for the employee and his/her colleagues. However, this methodology also prioritises support to all the other stakeholders in the process. In this respect, it is important to support family members as active agents, promoting their growing involvement, commitment and pro-activeness in meeting this new challenge in their loved one’s development. The company facilitating access to work must be aware of the advantages of taking on persons from this needs group. Institutions and professionals must be fully familiar with their entrepreneurial environment in order to approach companies not with an aid-related narrative, but rather setting out the realities regarding the advantages of employing a person who is perfectly suited for carrying out the relevant job (whether or not that person suffers from a disability). Nevertheless, the affected person is the leading actor in the access to work process, and therefore the one who will be most fully involved. Thus, the support provided must be tailored specifically to that person’s needs, to allow him/her to assume responsibility and an active role in the whole process.
The National Network of Supported Employment was created in 2007 with the aim of bringing together organisations working to facilitate access to work and social inclusion within a normal working environment, using the supported employment methodology. This network was created by DOWN Spain, the National Association for Down Syndrome and as such the only Down syndrome organisation covering the country as a whole.
The National Network for Supported Employment is currently comprised by 65 associations and has a presence in most of Spain’s autonomous communities, making it an influential network for upholding and promoting the supported employment methodology as a strategy for achieving standard employment for persons with intellectual disability.
As mentioned previously, one of the main objectives of any organisation working for labour inclusion is building close relationships with companies. In this sense, a major project for training and work inclusion is currently running, with the help of Down Spain, between one of the organisations in this National Supported Employment Network and the company Ferrovial Services.
The project was designed with a view to being replicated in other areas within Spain, and has been developed by FUNDOWN, the Down Syndrome Foundation in the region of Murcia. The project itself is based on close cooperation between company staff and FUNDOWN project officers, such that after one week of classroom training, a total of 29 young people with intellectual disability have undergone practical training and adaptation within the company.
Classroom training was supported by company staff, who strove to impart technical knowledge relating to the cleaning of buildings, both inside and out. Moreover, this initial training was also supported by FUNDOWN professional staff, who provided training advice to specific teachers.
More specifically, two periods of classroom and practical training were carried out. One group of 16 young people received training on cleaning within buildings, and a second group of 13 people received training on street cleaning.
Training and adaptation within the company have been highly beneficial, building on the work done by job coaches from FUNDOWN professional staff, who provided structured support systems.
The experience has been highly valued, as expressed by all agents taking part, from people with intellectual disabilities and their families, professionals and company directors, to technical staff and coordinators from FUNDOWN. Moreover, several participants have been employed by the company following their training, as evidence once more that people with intellectual disabilities can be a valuable asset for companies.
This picture would not be complete, however, without the voice of some of the leading actors in the project. In this case, we hear the story of one of those who took part in the training project and was subsequently employed. His name: Severo Ruiz Muñoz.
My experience with Ferrovial
My name is Severo, I am 28 years old and live in Beniel, in Murcia (Spain), my father’s name is Severo (just like mine), my mother’s name is Maria José and my grandmother’s name Josefa. I am an only child. I don’t like going out much, although I do sometimes go out with my friends from the village, or I call my cousin and go out with him. I help a lot at home, clearing the table, throwing out the rubbish, making my bed, helping my father to clean the car and hoover the car mats…We also have a small kitchen garden at the back of the house and I help my father with that.
I started at FUNDOWN a few years ago. In the beginning I didn’t know anybody, but I gradually got to know the teachers and made friends (some of them gave me their telephone numbers). Mondays to Fridays we did a materials handling course in a cosmetics company, and some days we also did computing. Every Wednesday afternoon I received training in “Social Skills” from Ana, and then “Relaxation” with my psychologist, Mª Dolores. They were both very good to me.
Training in Ferrovial
In July of this year I started a course with Ferrovial at the JC1 Hotel in Espinardo (Murcia), where we received theory training on types of floors and risk prevention. After that we started practical training with my colleagues at the Los Arcos de San Javier Hospital, the Moneo Building, and the Murcia Town Council. I went to the Murcia Town Council, where we learned to mop the floors, clean the windows in the entrance hall, sweep, clean the handrails, mop the stairs, throw out the rubbish, clean the changing rooms… There were three other female colleagues and myself, and several supervisors. I got on very well with my colleagues and supervisors, and we even took some group photographs. When we finished our practical training the Mayor came to the Town Council meeting hall and I had to read out a short speech about my experience of the Ferrovial training.
Contract with Ferrovial
Two or three weeks after I finished this practical training, I received a call from Irene from FUNDOWN to offer me a job in the INACUA Murcia facilities through Ferrovial. I was very proud to learn that they wanted to employ me, and it made me very happy. When I got home I told my family and they were very happy too, and said it was a very good opportunity for my future. At the end of August I started working at the INACUA Sports Centre through Ferrovial, and the experience is being excellent. Colleagues and supervisors are very good to me, they help me a lot so that I can learn to carry out my job. For example, I have learned to use the squeegee thanks to help from my colleagues and my job coach. My coach, Alberto, helps me almost every day, checking that I do my tasks correctly, and when I have any problems or don’t know how to do something, he shows me how to do it. He helps me improve. And I am gradually learning to do my job better by myself. INACUA clients are very friendly towards me, they are getting to know me and I help them when they need something, for example if they have lost anything. I work in the mornings one week, and the afternoons the next, and every two Saturdays.
I want to thank Ferrovial for giving me the opportunity to work in this company. I will do my best to work well in order to keep the job, and make sure that they are happy with me.
Read more about Ferrovial´s access to work programmes here.
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