The European Action for Employment in Recovery (EAER) is a partnership that consist of Scottish Drugs Forum, the Dutch Foundation of Innovation Welfare 2 Work (DFW2W), Agencia Piaget Para o Desenvolvimento (APDES), and Comunità La Tenda Cooperativa Sociale. Across the EU there are divergent policies on people who use or have used drugs and alcohol. In terms of increasing employability and employment opportunities for this group, practice and approaches vary greatly. Currently we are writing two big Good Practice reports. This article gives a little update about the progress so far.
People who have a history of drug and alcohol problems, and those who are current problem drug users face significant social and economic inequalities and are marginalised within society particularly in terms of their education, training and employment. Long term drug users can face a cycle of disadvantage where poor school experiences lead to low participation in post-school education and less work experience and so less vocational training. Their employment prospects are greatly reduced as are other factors including confidence and understanding of the labour market. They also face significant stigma from employers and others. See also our EAER website
The project oobjectives therefore are:
- To deliver positive and long lasting effects on policy and participating organisations through building more employability and employment opportunities for people who use or have used substances
- To deliver positive and long lasting effects on people participating in the programme through increased knowledge, skills, and motivation to improve services.
Dutch Participation: Work is Treatment and Treatment is Work !
The Dutch government has increasingly emphasized on improving incentives fro jobless people and conceptualising this in legal terms (Sol et al, 2008). For people that are not able to engage in regular work, the view is that they should participate as much as possible though e.g. subsidized work projects and volunteer work. The main aim is that everyone, except for people with severe disabilities and parents with very young children, should participate one way or the other:
- You have the right to learn !
- You have the right on a job !
- Voluntary work is mandatory !
- Work is treatment and treatment is work !
Training and education as well as life-long learning play a role in the Dutch welfare to work system, though it is not placed at the core of the system. The Dutch social security system is based strongly on labour market participation, i.e. the primary aim is to ensure people have an opportunity to find a job in the regular labour market. The model’s key approach is that work is the best social security for the individual and society. As regards to qualifications you could say that the Dutch system is focused on what can you do and previously acquired competences (even if it’s not a formal certified qualification).
A peculiarity of Dutch social security is that there are many more recipients of incapacity for work and other disability benefits than that of unemployment benefits.
The successful Dutch social experiments and projects nowadays are aligned to the dominant Work First ideology of he past. Work First (through numerous variations: target group young people; with emphasis to gate keeping, through work with keep of benefit, through subsidized wages, etc.) has been ruling in the Netherlands for more then a decade. Through this Work First System the Netherlands was leading the pack regarding lowest (youth) unemployment in Europe. The Budget cuts as of 2012 changed the social landscape (less commercial providers and trainers, more done by the case managers of the municipalities and their aligned foundations & companies, although work first elements were included in the ideology of today: It’s your duty to do something for your benefit (the system pushes people into ‘voluntary work’; And the young people aged 18-27: No benefit for them: They have the right ‘ to learn or to work’.
The Work First ideology ruled the Dutch Welfare to Work system in the period 2003 -2012, but was dismantled fast by the Dutch municipalities since 2012 because of the major cutbacks. Strong elements aligned to this period such as own responsibility, self-reliance and empowerment remained and developed locally in social experiments.
The Participation Act (Participatiewet) that entered into force in the Netherlands at the beginning of 2015 replaced the old Work and Social Assistance Act (Wet Werk en Bijstand) dating back to 2004. The Dutch model of inclusion emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for employment in the regular labour market. If this is not possible, a person is expected to participate in activities that are beneficial to society, in so-called participatory activities.
In addition to social security claimants, the third sector, municipalities, state and businesses are involved in empowering the participation of the citizens. The idea is that every citizen is responsible for their own participation within the limits of their own (or their social networks’) abilities.
In the recent years, the Dutch social security emphasises local activity and responsibility. Municipalities, not the state, have the responsibility for the provision of social security and related services of jobseekers and people at the margins of the labour market (according to their local policy). The idea behind the decentralisation has been that each area’s challenges and opportunities are better known at the local level. However, researchers have questioned this argument. Studies (including the recent mid-term evaluation of the law by SCP 2018) also show that there are differences between the groups of citizens in their ability to take up and find employment in the regular labour market and in the way related services are implemented throughout the country.
Best Dutch Regional and Local approaches
Unemployment benefit recipients in the Netherlands are activated to search for a „suitable job‟, and the definition of what constitutes a suitable job varies according to the duration of the benefit entitlement. In the first six months, a „suitable job‟ is a job that is in line with the „qualifications and skills of a worker and which also fits the physical, emotional and psychological capabilities of the worker‟ (UWV 2008). After those 6 months, the nature of a suitable job shifts to include a wider range of possible jobs. Then, after one year, or when the worker receives social assistance, all jobs count as „suitable‟. To receive benefits, unemployed workers are required to have four „search activities‟ per four weeks. Search activities range from applying for jobs to taking a capability test or starting one’s own business.
Besides unemployed workers there is also a group of workers that is not yet fit for work or that are party disabled for work. The group that is not yet fit for work due to sickness or lack of qualifications need to be prepared for the labour market before they engage in looking for a „suitable job‟. They enrol in a reintegration program that is often, as mentioned above, bought from a private reintegration enterprise. For this group, the reintegration services are mainly aimed at solving health problems, personal problems such as social skills, and increasing basic qualifications such as mastering the Dutch language. Due to huge spending on reintegration services from private companies in 2009 and 2010 however, the budget for UWV was frozen in the second half of 2010. In addition, in light of required decreases in public spending to deal with the effects of the economic crisis, the budget for these private re-integration services have been substantially brought down between 2012 and 2015.
In the Netherlands training is predominantly organised through a system of sectoral funds for education and development. The social partners in a specific sector mange the funds. Employers can use these financial means that are managed by the funds. A site of certified sectoral funds gives an overview of 89 Sectoral funds currently operating. See also the website: www.opleidingenberoep.nl.
The sectoral funds that were studied (source Ecorys) focussed mostly on the staff in the sector and if not, they aimed to elaborate their training and development activities to attract highly skilled and scarce personnel. The focus of these activities is therefore less on people outside the labour market that have a weak position or a distance to the labour market due to lack of skills and qualifications. These people are often not on the radar of these funds and only have the welfare system, that also insufficiently focuses on training and development.
The sectoral funds were used to stimulate job-to-job transitions. In addition, the government stimulated employers to train their workers by means of „competence certificates‟ (Elders Verworven Competencies – previous acquired competences – EVC’s) and training bonuses. The EVC‟s are a way to lay down the skills and competences that employees have required on the job, and that are therefore not yet reflected in diploma’s etc.
In the Netherlands it is clear that the social partners focus mostly on high-skilled workers and on people that have a close link to the labour market. Much less time and effort is directed towards people that are long-term unemployed and that have disabilities, lack skills etc. This is the outcome of the fact that social partners are not included in the social security system and therefore do not have a clear connection to groups outside the labour market.
Opnieuw & Co
Dordrecht – Opnieuw & Co (Again & Co) is a social enterprise, a not for profit recruitment organization. That is, they do not have a profit target but they do need to work professionally and financially profitable to achieve their social goals & objectives. The objectives and goals of Opnieuw & Co are focused on Employment opportunities: Realizing social employment and offering students work places to learn and develop. We do that in cooperation with reintegration companies and service providers, such as; Social Service Drechtsteden (department of social affairs and employment of the municipalities of the Drechtsteden – they have to provide benefits to unemployed people) and BAR municipalities, Bouman GGZ / Antes Group, Da Vinci College, Department of Justice and various other relationships.
More than 450 employees work at Opnieuw & Co, of which 150 are employed and the other are temporarily in trajectories. There are also over 90 people working through Drechtwerk at Opnieuw & Co. There are also over 60 volunteers at Opnieuw & Co.
Opnieuw & Co also focuses on Environment: To stimulate and realize reuse, which reduces waste. We do this in cooperation with HVC / Network and the various municipalities in which we work. On an annual basis, we process over 4000 K of goods, of which more than 91% is recycled.
Poverty reduction is another pillar: Although the circular warehouses are for a broad audience, we also provide a need by offering an affordable alternative for more expensive new items. On an annual basis, we have 450,000 paying customers in our circuit stores. Customers of foundation fees receive 20% extra discount. In severe cases, we make items available for free through referral agencies such as the social service, health care providers, food bank, and so on.
Opnieuw & Co wants to be an innovative, professional, customer-friendly and financially profitable cycle company, aiming at creating employment and developing skills for people, stimulating and realizing reuse and improving people’s purchasing power by providing an affordable alternative for new products.
A View at Work
The independent quality organization, ‘Blik op Werk’ (‘A view at Work’ ) points the way to qualified service providers, proven methodologies and knowledge related to sustainable labor participation. Sustainable labor participation and integration contribute to enabling people to participate in society and to be employable for work. Blik op Werk wants to ensure that service providers in these two areas offer sound quality and that customers can safely choose the support they are looking. One of the programmes which they offer as support for municipalities is is the scientifically substantiated ‘EigenWerkWijzer’ (‘Own Work Guide’). The Eigen Werk Wijzer offers more insight into the possibilities of your client (s) with regard to work. It is an online interactive program with examples and tips. It consists of 3 parts: self-scan, suitable work and communication. The EigenWerkWijzer has been scientifically researched and proven to be effective (Source)
If you click on the link, it refers to good practices and best employabillity interventions in The Netherlands (although its not clear on the basis of what criteria these projects were picked). Other good practices are from Parnassia and GGZ DE Hoop.
There are 3 crucial elements which every successful employability project has. We recommend these elements should be mandatory for each youth project implemented.:
1. Provide Work Experience
2. Plug in a Functional network
3. Quality coaching is mandatory
It’s important that we give professionals working with the people far from the labour market the space and flexibility they need to find the best solution. Although mind-set and rules are important: ‘One size fits all’ does not work with people far from the labour market. A tailor made approach is necessary.