European conference and report

Nearly all Member States are experiencing high levels of unemployment and economic inactivity amongst young people and an increasing number of young people with health problems or disability have been entering into disability or social assistance schemes. In its most recent report, Eurofound argues that there is a need and an opportunity to bring these young people into focus and promote their active inclusion. The report was presented at an international conference organised by Eurofound and the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in the Hague on 17th January. Opening addresses were made by the State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment, Jetta Klinjsma and Director of Eurofound, Juan Menéndez-Valdés.

The conference highlighted the implementation of active inclusion policies in relation to vulnerable youth and the related reforms to welfare systems currently taking place in European countries and drew on the research carried out by Eurofound in 11 Member States (Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom).

Eurofound has identified a trend towards dealing with the needs of people with health problems or disabilities in mainstream rather than specialist services. However, the targeting of young people with disabilities or health problems by these measures varies considerably across Member States. The case studies presented analyse how to approach skills development, training and job placement and the need to put young people into competitive employment as soon as possible. Likewise, the role of mental health problems as a factor in the social as well as economic exclusion of the target group needs to be addressed more effectively, whilst employers need support with the recruitment, acknowledgment and retention of staff with disabilities.

Chaired by Jerzy Ciechanski, SPC Vice-Chairman, ESN CEO John Halloran spoke in the final roundtable alongside Rienk Prinks from the Dutch consultancy ASTRI and Sian Jones, from EAPN. John Halloran said that regional and local government were central to the successful implementation of inclusion and employment policies for people with disabilities including mental ill health by creating local partnerships involving health, education, employment, and social services together with business, transport, housing etc. He added that there were many examples of successful practice such as moving from traditional supply led training to placing young people in demand-led initiatives from local employers, in moving from institutionalised sheltered workshops to mainstreaming employment, and from a compensation culture to one of participation and integration.