Social Firms, Sheltered Workshops, Supported Employment and me
The following definitions are provided via that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia:
'Social Firm is the British term for a work integration social enterprise (WISE), a business created to employ people who have a disability or are otherwise disadvantaged in the labour market. Its commercial and production activities are undertaken in the context of a social mission, with profits going back into the company to further its goals. A significant number of the employees of social firms will be people with a disability or disadvantage, including psychiatric disabilities. The firms grew out of disillusionment with mainstream businesses, and the failure to recognise or enable everyone's potential. All workers are paid a market-rate wage or salary that is appropriate to the work. All employees are intended to have the same employment opportunities, rights and obligations.
A sheltered workshop is an organisation that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The word 'sheltered' refers to a protective environment where the disabled can undertake paid meaningful employment in a supportive environment. The term 'sheltered workshop' is considered outdated in favour of social enterprise, especially in the UK, the US and increasingly in Australia. However the notion of 'social enterprise' implies that the organisation would trade in the market and take on a degree of business risk, and not be completely dependent on government subsidy, as the traditional model of the sheltered workshop may allow. In this newer model, the enterprise might receive a subsidy in compensation for the reduced productivity of its disadvantaged workers, in order to allow it to compete on a "level playing field" with conventional firms. In Australia, funding can only be used to provide training and support to is 'supported' employees. This type of employment is in contrast to 'open employment' where people with disabilities enter mainstream or 'open' employment
Supported employment is a term used to describe a system of support for people with disabilities in regards to ongoing employment in integrated settings. Supported employment provides assistance such as job coaches, job development, job retention, transportation, assistive technology, specialized job training, and individually tailored supervision. Supported Employment often refers to both the development of employment opportunities and on-going support for those individuals to maintain employment.
The concept of supported employment has made it possible for individuals with moderate-to-severe levels of disabilities to become active, wage-earning members of the workforce
Which is best?
I don’t think best comes into it – the correct question should surely be which is right? Which offers the greatest opportunity for growth and personal development? Where should the powerful consign the powerless?
I should also state that I do not question the motivations of people that support exclusive rather than inclusive employment and those that favour the isolation of people with disability over their integration – I just think that they haven’t thought things through.
Do you come to work because you like it or because you have no choice? Faced with this question the majority would probably answer because I like it or because I am in transit to something I would prefer and this (your job) is simply the means to that end.
In my life I have held some 20 or so jobs with a wide range of requirements – many I did ‘in transit’ some out of need (and occasional desperation) but my longest jobs have been those that I truly love.
As a young person I needed to experience what I did not like in order to identify those things did enjoy. I will never be a plumber! I cannot use my hands in the way that my sons work with tools, with skill and safety. I do not like to work late at night.
My experience with people that have a disability suggests that they are the same – they crave experience and exposure to different areas of the workforce as a means of finding out and developing their abilities and skills and as a progressive journey (a career) that will enable them to achieve their maximum potential.
Social firms and sheltered workshops by their very nature cannot provide this journey – they are dead ends. Well meaning, well intentioned and a dead end that offers only one sort of work and punishes anyone that does not enjoy same*.
* Before you ring/write, email or graffiti the walls of my office please take 1 minute to answer this question honestly and with intelligence: Do you perform better at work you enjoy or on tasks you loathe?
Common sense and honesty would have the answer, ‘tasks you enjoy’. People with a disability are no different and yet the annual wage fixing process measures performance/productivity on the tasks that are available and/or assigned rather than on your choices or preferences – a social firm does what it does and if you don’t like mechanics, process work, packing or whatever you are unlikely to be particularly productive and, as a consequence, you will earn less than your maximum potential.
This excludes you from full participation in the workforce and would only be acceptable at even an intellectual level if there was no alternative (there is).
If you scroll down earlier posts you will come across another I worte entitled ‘thieves’. Why did the young lady earn less? Maybe because she hated teh rotten work she was given, maybe not because of her disability, maybe she just wanted to be fulfilled by her employment.
Where can opportunity be found?
Supported employment mirrors the community in which we all live. Through properly facilitated supported employment NOVA job seekers have become employees in pretty much every sort of business from Accountants to Zookeepers. Not every person has stayed in their job (maybe they changed their minds). Not every person has achieved 100% productivity and, as a result may have had to use a supported wage. Some have been fired. The difference is that in every case each person was given the freedom to make their own choices and other methods of employment offer only ‘this or that’ choice.
The truth is that every day NOVA finds or creates 3 new opportunities for our job seekers in work they have chosen with the maximum possible hours and earnings – enabling full participation in Australian society.
Our political parties are throwing money in this election period at every sort of cause and sheltered workshops and social firms are taking full advantage of this. It is a shame that the people who stand to gain or lose the most from the choices our masters make are those with the least ability to be heard.
Let’s take the money from sheltered workshops and programs that exclude and leave people with disability to make their own informed choices about where they might like to use their skills – I doubt it will be painting surveyor’s pegs.
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Your Comments Tim Bennett from north carolina wrote on 25 Jun 2016 5:47:07 AM we need to end subminimum wages for the disabled non disabled i didn't haqve a intellectual or developmental disability to be paid such lousy wages
Exploitation the consistent theme I wrote this 14 years ago:
(apologies for some formatting issues)
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All true, and yet work means so much more:
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Following from last post:
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A good friend will occasionally pull me up with the reminder that I have a tendency to rant, 'rave on slop jaw' if I remember correctly....