On 22 October 2021 the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR) hosted a webinar in partnership with the D-WISE Network in order to take stock of the situation of the sector in Europe.
The webinar, attended by EU officials, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European civil society, showcased the findings and conclusions of D-WISE’s research on several social economy organisations providing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Sabina Lobato, from the ONCE Foundation, introduced the audience to the D-WISE network project, which was initiated by the ONCE Foundation. Sabina outlined the membership and objectives of the organisation, stressing that one of the main aims of the network is to identify best practices for the employment of persons with disabilities in the social economy. Thanks to such identification and analysis of real-life examples, the network has the ability to develop recommendations for policy-makers to develop the frameworks needed to enable the consolidation and expansion of the D-WISE model.
Building up on that, Luis Cervilla, on behalf of the D-WISE Network Secretariat, briefly presented the comparative study that the Network undertook throughout 2020 and 2021. Such study dove into the different realities to which D-WISES are exposed in six Member States, concluding that the sector requires of common standards and regulatory certainty to fully exploit its potential.
Two members of the D-WISE network (Albin Falkmer from Samhall AB in Sweden and Stef De Cock from Groep Maatwerk, Belgium) proceeded to present two case studies about the employment model of their respective organisations, insisting on the common grounds among D-WISES, adding that the sector is expanding despite the difficulties in accessing finances.
Álvaro Couceiro, from ONCE, gave additional details on the policy recommendations formulated by the D-WISE network, centring his intervention on the need for future policy instruments (such as the European Action Plan on the Social Economy) to be the foundations for regulatory frameworks enabling the expansion of D-WISE models. These messages were supported by Haydn Hammersley, from the European Disability Forum, who emphasised the value that D-WISE have in proividing quality employment for persons with disabilities.
On behalf of the European Commission, Margit Perko, from the Social Economy Unit, welcomed all the case studies presented during the webinar as a source of inspiration. She added that the upcoming Social Economy Action Plan will serve as a framework for future actions supporting the employment of persons with disabilities.
Susanne Kraatz, from the Commission’s Disability and Inclusion Unit, went further in stating that Europe needs more quality and sustainable employment for people with disabilities, to increase the employment rate and to correspond to the UNCRPD in ensuring good working conditions for all. She outlined a two-fold way of addressing this challenge: in the open labour market and in sheltered employment. The Disability Rights Strategy will seek to improve working conditions in all different models of employment. In this regard, the Disability Employment Package to be published in 2022 will present a series of key measures and initiatives.
Lastly, MEP Estrella Durá (ES), member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, looks forward to the Commission proposals fostering accessibility and employment inclusion for persons with disabilities. She also called on the Commission to launch the revision of the Directive on preventing discrimination in the workplace. When it comes to the social economy sector, she insisted on the need to connect upcoming policies to EU funding frameworks, such as the European Social Fund + and the European Semester.
The recording of the event is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5lWy5ybuI4.