The D-WISE Network organizes a High-level Event on Employment and Persons with Disabilities in Madrid
07 Feb 2024

On the 11th of December, the D-WISE Network held a high-level event on Employment and Persons with Disabilities at ONCE Foundation’s Hub Por Talento Digital, in Madrid.

The event started with introductory remarks by Javier Güemes (Director of International Affairs of the ONCE Social Group), who explained the state of play of EU policymaking on the employment of persons with disability. He therefore highlighted events such as the European Year of Skills in 2023, the 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disability, which took place on 23 May 2023 and was co-organized by the European Parliament and the European Disability Forum (more information available here), the implementation of the European Action Plan for the Social Economy through the Council Recommendation on developing social economy framework conditions (available here).

Javier Güemes delivering the opening speech at the High-level event on Employment and Persons with Disabilities in Madrid, and video recording intervention of MEP Alicia Homs.

Afterwards, two MEPs intervened through video recordings. While Alicia Homs (S&D, ES) underlined the issue of the exclusion of persons with disabilities and the gender perspective of the employment of persons with disabilities, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (EPP, ES) noted that the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should be the main pillar to follow for the employment of persons with disabilities, and also provided her perspective about the European Disability Card, on which has worked as Rapporteur at the European Parliament’s FEMM Committee.

Moreover, both MEPs highlighted how the European Disability Employment Package, although not being binding, is a great step for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labor market. In addition, they explained that the European Commission’s Study on the improvement of the employment of persons with disabilities through alternative employment models, which will be published in the first quarter of 2024, is a long-awaited document by the EU institutions.

Afterwards, Sabina Lobato (Director of training and employment of ONCE Foundation) moderated a Roundtable Discussion with Alicia Gomez Campos (Secretary General of the European Platform for Rehabilitation), Haydn Hammersley (Social Policy Coordinator at the European Disability Forum), Cristina Barreto (Director of the Technical Office of European Affairs of the ONCE Social Group), and Luis Cervilla (member of the D-WISE Secretariat).

Luis Cervilla presented the main objectives of the Disability Employment Package, as well as key deliverables for the D-WISE Network, such as the “Catalogue of positive actions to encourage the hiring of persons with disabilities and combating stereotypes”, published on 24 November (available here), or deliverables still to be published on “Ensuring reasonable accommodation at work”, or “Exploring quality jobs in sheltered employment and pathways to the open labour market”. Other speakers, such as Cristina Barreto, Alicia Gomez Campos and Haydn Hammersly, underlined the relevance of the Disability Employment package. Haydn Hammersly also called for better implementation of the guidance on reasonable accommodation of work for persons with disabilities, which was already included in EU Law since 2000.

Cristina Barreto noted that the European Disability Card can be key for the employability of persons with disabilities, as it will include provisions for when persons with disabilities want to move to a different member state to work. Furthermore, Haydn Hammersly explained that for EDF, the freedom of movement of workers with a disability is a key issue, and that the organization would view very favorably the inclusion of provisions on this issue in the European Disability Card, although this could take place only from the coming EU mandate.

Alicia Gomez Campos underlined that the Social Economy Action Plan launched in 2021 by the European Commission is key for the sector of alternative models of employment because it establishes a framework that structures the way this sector can work. Moreover, Cristina Barreto pointed out that the Spanish Presidency has so far advocated for social issues, and even organised the European Conference on Social Economy (more information here).

Haydn Hammersly stated that, to EDF, one of the most important breakthroughs of 2023 was the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which will ensure that businesses in the EU report clearly on how they include persons with disabilities. This is something that will be required within the whole of the European Union. He concluded that thanks to this reporting, WISEs will be able to share their added value to the authorities.

The session concluded with some closing statements by Virginia Carcedo (Secretary General of the ONCE Foundation), in which she explained the latest work of the organization and called for the use of technology as a tool for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The D-WISE Network aims to integrate the conclusions from this event with the different country case studies in a White Paper that will be launched in February 2024.