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Your UCP: National October 13, 2003

Employment Supports

What is Supported Employment?

Supported employment facilitates competitive work in integrated work settings for individuals with the most severe disabilities (i.e. psychiatric, mental retardation, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury) for whom competitive employment has not traditionally occurred, and who, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need ongoing support services in order to perform their job. Supported employment provides assistance such as job coaches, transportation, assistive technology, specialized job training, and individually tailored supervision.

Supported employment is a way to move people from dependence on a service delivery system to independence via competitive employment. Recent studies indicate that the provision of on-going support services for people with severe disabilities significantly increases their rates for employment retention. Supported employment encourages people to work within their communities and encourages work, social interaction, and integration.

A job coach is a person who is hired by the placement agency to provide specialized on-site training to assist the employee with a disability in learning and performing the job and adjusting to the work environment.

Natural supports are support from supervisors and co-workers, such as mentoring, friendships, socializing at breaks and/or after work, providing feedback on job performance, or learning a new skill together at the invitation of a supervisor or co-workers. These natural supports are particularly effective because they enhance the social integration between the employee with a disability and his/her co-workers and supervisor. In addition, natural supports may be more permanent, consistently and readily available, thereby facilitating long-term job-retention.

Basic Components
Supported employment services should achieve the following outcomes: opportunity to earn equitable wages and other employment-related benefits, development of new skills, increased community participation, enhanced self-esteem, increased consumer empowerment, and quality of life. The types of supported employment services used depend on the needs of individual consumers. The following are the basic components of supported employment:

    Paid Employment--Wages are a major outcome of supported employment. Work performed must be compensated with the same benefits and wages as other workers in similar jobs receive. This includes sick leave, vacation time, health benefits, bonuses, training opportunities, and other benefits. Employment must be for at least 18 hours per week.

    Integrated Work Sites--Integration is one of the essential features of supported employment. Individuals with disabilities should have the same opportunities to participate in all activities in which other employees participate and to work alongside other employees who do not have disabilities.

    Ongoing Support--A key characteristic which distinguishes supported employment from other employment programs is the provision of ongoing support for individuals with severe disabilities to maintain employment.

Supported Employment Models
Several supported employment models are being used to provide the benefits of work for people with severe disabilities:

    Individual Placement Model--A person with a disability is placed in a job in a community business which best suits his/her abilities and preferences. Training is provided on the job site in job skills and work related behaviors, including social skills, by a job coach. As the employee gains skills and confidence, the job coach gradually spends less time at the worksite. Support is never completely removed. The private or public vocational rehabilitation agency furnishing the job coach is always available to the employer for retraining for new assignments, assisting in dealing with challenging behaviors, supplying periodic consultations with co-workers and employer, giving orientation and training for co-workers.

    Enclave Model--A small group of people with disabilities (generally 5-8) is trained and supervised among employees who are not disabled at the host company's work site. Persons in the enclave work as a team at a single work site in a community business or industry. Initial training, supervision, and support are provided by a specially trained on-site supervisor, who may work for the host company or the placement agency. Another variation of the enclave approach is called the "dispersed enclave." This model is used in service industries (e.g., universities, restaurants, and hotels). Each person works on a separate job, and the group is dispersed throughout the company.

    Mobile Work Crew--A small crew of persons with disabilities (up to 6) works as a distinct unit and operates as a self-contained business that generates employment for their crew members by selling a service. The crew works at several locations within the community, under the supervision of a job coach. The type of work usually includes janitorial or groundskeeping. People with disabilities work with people who do not have disabilities in a variety of settings, such as offices and apartment buildings.

    Small Business Model--Within a small business, there may be up to six employees with disabilities, but not more than the number of employees without disabilities. The small business operates like any business, generating work and paying employees from revenues received. The small business is located within the community.

    Benefits to Employers

    • No fee to employer
    • Thoroughly screened applicants
    • Employees' abilities matched to job requirements
    • On-site job training by professionals
    • Additional training, as necessary
    • Follow-up services for the duration of employment

    Where Can I Go for Additional Information?

    Rehabilitation Services Administration
    Switzer Building
    330 C Street, S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20202
    (202) 205-9297

    Administration on Developmental Disabilities
    Department of Health and Human Services
    200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20201
    (202) 690-5504

    Virginia Commonwealth University
    Rehabilitation Research and Training Center
    on Supported Employment
    1314 West Main Street; P.O. Box 842011
    Richmond, VA 23284-2011
    (804) 828-1851

    Children's Hospital
    Institute for Community Inclusion
    200 Longwood Avenue
    Boston, MA 02115
    (617) 735-6506

    Office of Disability Employment Policy
    1331 F Street, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20002
    (202) 376-6200
    (202) 376-6205 TDD/TTY

    Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy

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