“Supported Employment is support for persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups
in finding and maintaining paid employment in the open labour market”

(European Union of Supported Employment, 2005)

Supported Employment first appeared in North America in the 1970 and later gained popularity in Europe at the end of the 1980s.

Supported Employment is a method of supporting persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups. The aim of support activities is to assist the persons in finding and maintaining paid employment in the open labour market

There are many definitions of Supported Employment, but even though there are slight differences between them, the three fundamental elements of SE are the same in all definitions:

  • employment with remuneration that reflects the effort on the job;
  • employment in the open labour market, where disabled persons are treated as other able-bodied peers employed on the same position, with the same level of remuneration and the same employment conditions;
  • on-going support–individual and needs-based, for both the employee and the employer.

Supported Employment has the following four fundamental values:

  1. Normalisation, i.e. enabling marginalised groups to enjoy equal rights and opportunities to live and develop. Normalisation is not about making people “normal” in the common meaning of the adjective – it’s rather about emphasizing that being different cannot be the reason for exclusion.
  2. Social Role Validation – means that the methods applied to support disadvantaged groups are natural and match the situations; they are also commonly used and compliant with the generally binding social standards.
  3. Inclusion– is more than merely integration. Inclusion is about refraining from dividing people into groups. It is about ensuring their full participation in every aspect of social life.
  4. Empowerment – is the most significant concept within Supported Employment. According to the concept, persons with disabilities ought to live in conditions which enable them to independently decide about their workplace, scope of tasks, working hours, social environment and types of support that they need.

Apart from the four core values of Supported Employment, there are also six guiding principles within the model:

  1. “Zero Rejection”– finding employment is possible for each person who actually wants to work, regardless of the type or degree of disability – if appropriate level of support is ensured.
  2. Success depends on delivering the right, personalised support in the right environment.
  3. Focus on ability and capacity – not on the person’s disability.
  4. Rejection of the “work readiness” concept, which goes against the guiding principles of Supported Employment i.e. placement, training and support in maintaining the job / further professional development:
  5. Real benefits and remuneration – according to this principle persons with disabilities should not only be remunerated as able bodies employees but they should also receive equal social benefits from the employer.
  6. Focus on the individual person – each individual is perceived as a unique person with his/her own skills, interests, life experiences.

The model process of Supported Employment is composed of five stages encompassing a wide spectrum of activities.

  • Stage 1 – Client Engagement – the activities undertaken at this stage are aimed at empowering the person to make an informed and preference-based decision to use or not to use Supported Employment services.
  • Stage 2 – Vocational profiling – this stage consists in person-centred activities aimed at collecting the information on the person’s aspirations, interests and skills. The entire process of profiling is controlled by the disabled person him- or herself. As a result of the process, a personal action plan is created.
  • Stage 3 – Job Finding–this state matches the disabled job seeker with his or her prospective employer. The aim here is to match the needs of the person to the needs of the employer. The activities at this stage consist in analysing the person’s skills in the context of the requirements set by the labour market.
  • Stage 4 – Employer Engagement– employers are equally important clients of Supported Employment services, on a par with persons with disabilities. At this stage we learn and understand the needs of the employer in order to match the skills of the disabled job seeker with the workplace.
  • Stage 5 – On/Off Job Support–Effective support on and off the job is the core element of Supported Employment which makes it different from traditional placement services. It is crucial for providing effective assistance in finding and maintaining employment in the open labour market.