Increased participation in the regular labor market for people with disabilities

[Translate to Englisch:] Colourbox
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Since 2018, people with disabilities have been able to gain access to the regular labor market via the so-called "Budget für Arbeit” (Budget for Work) program. However, the offer has only been taken up very hesitantly to date. As part of a network, the Chair of Psychological Diagnosis and Intervention (Prof. Dr. Joachim Thomas) at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (KU) is currently investigating which factors contribute to the success of the Budget for Work program. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The vocational promotion center Berufsförderungswerk Bad Wildbad coordinates the overall project, in which Prof. Dr. Reinhilde Stöppler (Chair of Educational Science with a focus on Education for the Mentally Handicapped; Justus Liebig University Giessen) is also involved in addition to the KU. Practical partners are the vocational training center of the Rummelsberg Diaconia, the Heinrich-Haus Neuwied and the Josefsheim Bigge.

In addition to analyzing supporting and inhibiting factors, the project also aims to achieve exemplary improvements in transitions to the regular labor market and thus to show how the conditions for greater utilization of the Budget for Work and thus also vocational inclusion can be achieved. For people with disabilities, it is still difficult to move from the sheltered labor market of workshops for people with disabilities to employment in regular companies, even if the personal prerequisites, skills and necessary motivation for this change are given. In the course of improved inclusive development of individual employment biographies, this is precisely where various support programs come in. A prominent initiative at the federal level since 2018 has been the Budget for Work. The initiative, which is anchored in the Federal Participation Act, is designed to promote employment of people in the regular labor market through two support measures: Firstly, wage subsidies to the employer as "compensation for reduced performance" of the employees, and secondly by supporting and accompanying employees at the workplace that is made available to the affected persons for individual integration into companies of the regular labor market.

"By positioning themselves as customers, those affected become active players in the search process for a job. This is intended to systematically supplement the previous, very theoretical path of switching to the regular labor market via the sheltered workshop", describes project employee Christiane Bartosch. In the Budget for Work initiative, the workshops, integration specialist services, companies and, above all, the affected persons themselves form a team to make the targeted transition possible.

The KU researchers conducted 70 interviews with experts, including participants in the Budget for Work program. The evaluation of the interviews revealed four sub-areas that contribute to the success of the program: the legal framework, the people affected, the workshops and the employers. "What is surprising is the very inconsistent legal and administrative implementation of the Budget for Work program across the country. Regional responsibilities, sponsorships, application procedures and, not least, benefits and entitlements vary considerably", describes Professor Thomas. For example, wage and travel subsidies are handled very differently. This also applies to the eminently important practice of pension consulting. As a result, Professor Thomas continues, there would be information deficits, a sense of disengagement on the part of the rehabilitation provider, unfair treatment experienced, and more difficult process handling. The workshops, in turn, follow their so-called triple mandate – that is, the mandate of rehabilitation, inclusion and economic efficiency. As a result, they would have a special interest in retaining top performers at their facilities. For the target group itself, the researchers identified strong uncertainty and concern. Professor Thomas emphasizes: "It is a special, demanding hurdle for people with disabilities to fight for the possibility of transition as their right, if necessary against the advice of their environment." Employers are also simply not knowledgeable enough about which work profiles in their company may actually be suitable for the target group, he said. They would have limited time resources and strategies at hand, and recommendations for action are not in place.

From these findings, the group of researchers derives that the legal and administrative framework must be made more transparent and comparable. In addition, it was essential to take into account the interests of the workshops for people with disabilities, as they were key partners in the network.

Group photo round table
Exchange in the Rummelsberg Diaconia on the Budget for Work.

Another fundamental problem for the use of the Budget for Work initiative is that many different institutions are involved in the application, approval and ongoing support. As part of the project, the research group therefore recently held a round table at the Rummelsberg Diaconia. This brought together numerous representatives who are involved in the process, the establishment and the monitoring of a Budget for Work program, in order to exchange views among each other and with Budget for Work recipients. They shared experience and knowledge, which enabled a lively exchange at eye level. Gathered around the table were: the Bavarian Commissioner for the Disabled, Holger Kiesel, representatives of the Federal Employment Agency, a workshop for the disabled, the district of Central Franconia, the Inclusion Office, the Integration Specialist Service, the Chamber of Crafts, a Budget for Work recipient as well as a potential Budget for Work recipient, and finally the Eichstätt group with Professor Dr. Joachim Thomas, Dr. Regina Weißmann, Burcu Köse and Christiane Bartosch as well as the Rummelsberg Diaconia with Matthias Wagner, Iris Thieme and Sebastian Bratfisch. In accordance with the inclusive self-perception and the participatory research approach, affected persons were integrated as experts. They thus became real contributors in the sense of a real laboratory. Not least, the cross-state perspective that emerged from the meeting led the participants to the intention to continue this exchange format in the future.