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Is Supported Employment a worthwhile vehicle for increasing the number of persons with disabilities working in regular places?


Supported employment is a way by which the employees with disabilities are provided employment assistance. The major emphasis behind supported employment has been the growth in the participation of people suffering from disabilities. The number of disabled people entering into mainstream competitive employment has increased. The growth of number of employees entering the employment has been possible due to taxonomy of government support, business supports and support from the consumers. Supported employment can be defined as a vehicle that will help persons with disability. The power is flowing into the hands of the people with disabilities and business. The disabled person entering into employment has become the primary decision makers of employment choices and the outcomes. Supported employment refers to the provision of service that is provided to people with disabilities which includes intellectual disabilities, mental health problems and suffering from traumatic brain injury.  It is a form of employment in which the wages are expected and they receive certain benefits from the employer in a work place that is competitive in nature. Supported employment was first developed in United States in the year 1970 as a part of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. They provide long term service support to the individuals who suffer from disabilities in the competitive job placements. In 2013, supported employment has spread worldwide and it is moving to new inclusive models and the models have been developed to assist the workers of diverse kinds who need an extra jump in the workplace. Supported employment is developed by the significant effort from community nonprofit sector. The nonprofit sector works in collaboration with the government to offer services to the individuals with disabilities. The nonprofit sector provided assistance to the people moving from institutional life in the local communities for supported work. In 1985 supported employment was in rise with new dedicated agencies and programs coming forward to provide dedicated service to the people with disabilities. Supported employment was based on the basic principles of community integration.

There was diversity seen in the supported employment models by 1985. The supported employment based on community integration had diverse vocational models in US. The models were based on the concept of social relationship of “disabled and non disabled co-workers” working side by side in the integrated work places. The models for community integration were supported by parents seeking better opportunities for jobs. Frank Laski described the legal integration base for supported employment. The legal manifestation was described in the public interest law center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania according to the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act. The supported employment provided by the government sectors is different from the employment rights under the traditional civil rights and approaches towards discrimination. Supported employment has been defined under the Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1978. According to this Act there were amendments that fund the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. This program is considered is the core national employment program for people suffering from disability.

The major concerns related to supported employment. It has been an area of research since inception. Supported employment was designed in such a manner so that it is cost effective. It has been documented in the same way as key community services in public administration and disability. According to Camera (2012) , in his review of “ economics of supported employment”  indicated that individuals tend to perform better financially from working in a community rather than working in a sheltered workshop. The wages of the supported employees were up by 31.2% since 1980s. On the other hand there was decline in the sheltered workshop wages. Review of over 30 studies has shown that the in between 1980s and 1990s the individuals with disabilities experienced greater monetary benefits than the costs. The review was conducted in United States, Australia, Canada and Britain. Supported employment was a significant way in which the people suffering from disabilities could be supported. They were provided jobs for real pay. The survey supported that supported employment has demonstrated that people with severe disabilities can work even today even if many individuals are segregated in the sheltered workshops and the day programs.

Supported employment was visualized as a way in which a change was brought to the segregated services system which was based largely on the sheltered workshop facilities. An integrated community approach was developed for providing employment to the individuals primarily suffering from intellectual and developmental facilities. Individual Placement model help the people suffering from severe mental illness at the workplace. There are certain variations to the supported employment; IPS refers to the practice of supported employment that is based on evidence. It has been validated by the new universities and the medical centers that are involved in the process of employment. It is a variation of the professional supported approaches of employment. The major features of the individual placement model of supported employment are it is an evidence based practice, it focuses on the strength of the clients. The major aim of this model is to work in order to promote recovery and wellness. The practitioners of supported employment work in collaboration with the state vocational rehabilitation. The approach by the IPS model is a multidisciplinary team work which provides services that are long lasting. The major focus of the IPS model is to change the way in which the mental health services are delivered to the clients.

It has been seen in several cases that people with disabilities has turned out to be productive employees. However the people suffering from disability across the globe can be either underemployed or they can be unemployed. It has been found via research that one of the ways to overcome the employment issue is to train the disabled candidates so that they are productive enough to conduct the job. This can be achieved via training through placement agencies or by the vocational rehabilitation agencies. The agencies work towards the progress of the disabled people and work towards their progress so that they can participate in the competitive labor market. According to the global e-discussion that has been hosted by the World Bank, it has been stated that the employers are not keen to recruit disabled candidates as they do not know the reason to reach to them. The employer has to be acknowledged by the placement agencies of the importance of supported employment and the importance of the disability employment agencies for the identification of the qualified candidates.

The impact of supported employment has been magnificent. On an average it is seen the annual average earnings by over 500%. This has been possible with the participation of the employees in supported employment. The benefit of supported employment has provided significant support to the people with cognitive disabilities. Supported employment has faced several barriers in providing employment with the people with disabilities. Employers that have experience in supported employment programs has praised the performance of the workers with disability and they appreciate the quality support services provided by the supported employment agencies. The support from the employers has helped the agencies to transform themselves into service and support organizations. The support from the agencies has boosted the confidence of the businesses to incorporate the people with disabilities in their business.


The job satisfaction of the individuals with disabilities entering into the program of supported employment was assessed. It is seen that most of the employees in supported employment are satisfied. On the other hand there were few people who did not want to stick to a single job for lifetime. They wanted progress in their career and wanted a job change. This emphasizes the importance of job mobility and advancement of career of the people with supported employment.

The supported employment program was started in United States. It spread rapidly to the entire globe. Supported employment opportunities are provided by several organizations in Singapore. SPD is one of the organizations in Singapore that the people with disabilities so that they can integrate themselves in the mainstream society. The various programs offered by the organization range from intervention, rehabilitation, support for employment and training the disabled individuals. Vocational training is provided to the people with disabilities so that they can be competitive enough to work in the mainstream society. Another organization named TechWerkz provide supported employment program under the Infocomm Accessibility Centre. They provide the disabled individuals with on the job training. The projects on which the disabled candidates are trained include data entry, scanning and telemarketing. The disabled people can have a constant source of income. These organizations have been a constant source of inspiration for the disabled individuals. They have gathered self confidence from these programs. Apart from United States and Asian countries, supported employment has been prominence in Europe. There are lot of practitioners, clients, employers and employees that promote supported employment. The dedicated effort from the group of people has made the supported employed a successful approach. The European Union has recommended the introduction of cash incentives to promote the employment of the disabled people. The job opportunities for the employees can be enhanced by providing them with job subsidies.

The status of supported employment in Scotland revealed that there is small number of supported employees in the workplaces. The supported employees were recruited under the Supported employment program. Supported employment received a tremendous set back during the time of economic recession. This had a negative impact on the disabled people. According to the recent employment data released it is seen that 47% of the disabled people in Scotland are employed. The economic recession was not able to reduce the rate of supported employment and it remained to 50%.

The WASE (World Association for Supported Employment) promotes the vocational integration of the people suffering from disabilities in the world by using the models of supported employment. Supported employment is promoted in developing countries by WASE. The organization enhances the life of the disabled people who have been excluded from workforce to the open labor market. There is growing awareness among the people regarding the issue. There is increase in the number of employers recruiting people. The role of the employers has evolved with increased focus on the people suffering from disability. The Government has formulated several laws and policies that focus on the persons suffering with disabilities. The public sector has included several disabled individuals within the workforce. The participation of the Government has promoted the basic individual rights, human rights of the individual. Supported employment is a profitable option for the government. It is a cost effective alternative for the Government that provide support to the employees over time that is favorable than the more traditional approaches that work for the people with disabilities. The disabled people entering the workforce become actively involved in the labor force and they become economically self reliant and thus they are less dependent on the public resources. The new UN convention on the Rights of the Person with Disabilities which is in the Article 27 underlines the right of the people to work. The countries that fall under the UN convention are obliged to take advantage of the labor market opportunities. The placement agencies work in collaboration with the Government to enhance the skills of the disabled employees. It is important for the employees to have a good understanding of the working environment. This will helped the disabled employees via the supported employment. There are various ways in which the supported employment has been promoted which has worked for the growth of the employees.

Supported employment is an integral component of the employment system in the world. It has provided assistance for the individuals with disabilities. The potential effectiveness of supported employment has been investigated. It is seen that the employment agencies are working hard to promote the welfare of the disabled people. They are provided training to make them competitive enough to work in the mainstream work. The program of the human services has increased the cost controls. Supported employment has generated positive economic outcomes and it has enhanced the cost efficiency of the organization. It is a viable alternative for employment for the large individuals. Supported employment was started in United States. The Development Disabilities and Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of the year 1984 have increased the employment of the people with developmental disabilities via supported employment.  The federal policies in the nation have promoted supported employment. Supported employment is cost effective to the alternate sheltered workshops or the other services. The social integration of the disabled people is critical to the success of the employment programs via supported employment. The workers will be able to overcome their disability and work towards the growth of the economy. The supported employment agencies are working hard to make the disabled employees self sufficient so that they can work in the mainstream competitive environment. The disabled individuals are provided training via induction and other programs for the enrichment of their knowledge. It is important to become financially independent in the complex scenario. They will be able to maximize the potential of the disabled employees. There are various anti discrimination legislations that are used to deal with issues related to exploitation and harassment of the disabled employees. Supported employment has nurtured the disabled workers in a positive way. The success of supported employment has been possible as a result of the active participation of the Government agencies and the placement agencies. The supported employment has served as a tool for the growth of the economy of the country.



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12. Supported Employment for people with  disabilities in the EU and EFTA-EEA good practices and recommendations in support  of a flexicurity approach [Internet]. 2011 [cited 20 February 2015]. Available from:

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20. Cook J, Leff H, Blyler C, Gold P, Goldberg R, Mueser K et al. Results of a Multisite Randomized Trial of Supported Employment Interventions for Individuals With Severe Mental Illness. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(5):505.

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25. Ottomanelli L, Barnett S, Goetz L. A prospective examination of the impact of a supported employment program and employment on health-related quality of life, handicap, and disability among Veterans with SCI. Qual Life Res. 2013;22(8):2133-2141.
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