The situation

Based on the Wolrd Bank Disability Employment Policy analysis and other researches fewer than 2 in 10 people with learning disabilities are employed. Research from the Charity Mencap (UK) suggests that 65% of people with learning disabilities – including, though not limited to, Down’s syndromewant to work, but fewer than 20% of those of working age are currently in employment.

Based on the authoritative statistics by Eurostat and EDSA, presented in Annex n.1 of the present application, Down Syndrom is one of the most common causes of mild to moderate learning difficulties, affecting between 1 in 1.500 and 1 in 400 babies, depending on countries, mothers’ age and prenatal screening policies.

Given that Special Needs (referred to hereafter, SN) people are also living longer nowadays, the EU SN population is proportionally growing (approx 200.000 in Europe).

By including other cognitive constrains such as Autism, the learning difficulties are estimated to affect at least 1% of the overall EU population. Such specific illnesses influence the learning possibilities and the overall quality of life of SN themselves and those around them, namely their closest relatives or caregivers. SN are seldomly embedded into traditional learning or training pathways so that their working potential, as small as it can be, is not enhanced or enriched neither “exploited”.

The project

The project aims to counteract the dependency people with special needs have on their family to suppoprt them. This will be done by promoting the active citizenship of the target group by acquiring skills which they may use for the labour market which in the project’s case will focus on the hotel and restaurant sector. The target group will become more independent and may be able to earn a source of income through the attaining skills at their own pace with qualified trainers.

To achieve such result it is vital to design, pilot and implement specific training programmes that will foster their abilities and provide them with proper skills to make them suitable and attractive for the employers too. Therefore the project aims at developing and piloting an overarching approach to design and run training paths leading to a possible qualification in the field of tourism, hospitality and catering (but also transferable to other vocational sector).

Main activities in the project

1 – Identification of the professions whose minimal skills and abilities can be performed by persons with minor cognitive potential

2 – Design of specific qualification paths, including identification of learning outcomes, grouping into units and assessment procedures, including the piloting of the training model (twice during the project lifetime)

3 – Provide the EU training workforce (trainers/teachers) with the necessary skills to perform their tasks with the target groups: identification and implementation of a training methodology based on common contents

4 – Planning of field specific communication with the labour market – construction of a favourable environment for future employment perspectives for the target groups.

The target

The initiative targets SN learners, Trainers who work closely, teaching or supporting special need people, families and relatives of people with special needs and companies who may hire or produce a job offer for persons with special needs, each one at a different level:

>> SN learners: aiming at piloting and testing the overall model and to measure the effectiveness of the training provision.

>> Trainers: with the aim of equipping them with the necessary skills to perform their role with people having learning difficulties and limitations.

>> Families: with the aim of fostering the understating of the utility behind and beyond the training opportunities provided to their family member with special needs and to make them pro-active side-players of the model.

>> Companies: aiming at creating the necessary conditions for becoming employers of special needs workers (understanding of company’s own and social benefits).

Although some good practices do exist in Europe and many researches show added value arising from employing SN people, ad hoc training programmes aiming at including them in the labour market, have never been fully designed, neither put into regular practice.

The transnational nature of this initiative lies in the sharing of a common issue: the one of providing SN learners with the opportunity to get trained and possibly employed in order to earn a salary and, at least partially, pay for their own needs once their relatives cannot do it anymore or provide them with independence in managing their own earnings whether it be for recreational purposes or not.

The numbers reported above, calculated by  MENCAP (see Annex n.1 Reference Bibliography), show that the issue is in its essence transnational, and lead the partnership to the identification, development and sharing of a methodology applicable to a number of potential training paths and territories.

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