Network D Strengthening the national social economy (the third sector), in particular the services of interest to the community, with a focus on improving the quality of jobs.
Project name The Partnership for the Rain Man – The Rain Man for the Partnership
Project number D0461

Project description

The objective of the Partnership is to create a model social enterprise which would employ autistic people. The project is addressed to 10 thousand adults, and in the future to 20 thousand children, who will complete their education in the years to come and will reach working age.

So far no jobs and no opportunities for the vocational rehabilitation of autistic people have been created in Poland, and the forms offered to other disabled people are not adequate for the specific needs of this group. Autistic adults have no opportunities to rehabilitate or to join the labour market in the existing system, and their families (usually their mothers) have to take care of them 24 hours a day. On the other hand, autistic adults, such as the 30 members of the Forum Club under the auspices of the "Synapsis" Foundation and 15 charges of the "Community of Hope" Foundation, are willing to work. Some of them have exceptional skills in certain areas. The final beneficiaries of the "Synapsis" Foundation will be prepared to work and will be employed by a social enterprise, and the final beneficiaries of the "Community of Hope" Foundation will be, under a pilot programme, vocationally rehabilitated by working on an organic farm.

The creation of a social enterprise is a component of the establishment of the "Home & Work" Centre, which will offer both a job, and sheltered accommodation for autistic people. The concept of this centre envisages a place where these people will be able to find both a friendly environment and the chance to blend with the local community. The enterprise plans to employ 24 people (four groups of six people), which will enable the accommodation of the needs of autistic people (a relatively small number of social interactions is recommended) with effective cooperation with those people due to their number and to the division of responsibilities among the job coaches. The same number of employees was also assumed in the design to establish the social enterprise.

Some of the beneficiaries will live in a house which is being constructed by the "Synapsis" Foundation, next to the social enterprise, some will be transported from Warsaw, and some places are assigned for disabled people from the area of Lesznowola, which is a partner commune for the project. The "Home & Work" Centre will provide a coherent communication system, coherent cooperation and time organisation methods, as well as coherent space between the social enterprise and home, which is very important for autistic people.

The Partnership expects that after the completion of the pilot project of employing autistic people in the farming business, the "Community of Hope" Foundation with its new experience, knowledge and skills from the project, will be the first to establish a social enterprise of a different profile than that established by the "Synapsis" Foundation. Autistic people will be able to continue working on an organic farm. Fifteen people will participate in the pilot project (due to the aforementioned optimum size of a group).

The added value of the project will be the education of job coaches and instructors for autistic people within the farming business of the "Community of Hope" Foundation, and thus the creation of new professions for those who work with the disabled - which is very much needed in Poland. Thirty nine autistic adults, 27 job coaches, and 45 apprentices-volunteers will take part in the initiative. Innovative procedures will also be developed for the recruitment of autistic adults, along with a tool for functional diagnosis that will serve as the foundation for the creation of individual development plans. Progress evaluation tools will also be developed for autistic people, which have been never yet been used in Poland.

The Partnership will also elaborate recommendations for decision-makers at the regional and national level, to indicate the developments in the social policy needed to meet the wide-ranging needs of autistic people to the greatest extent possible.

The main project output is the "model of vocational and social rehabilitation for autistic people". It will encompass three key elements: (a) a system for preparation, work organisation and effective support principles for autistic people; (b) a system for preparation and work organisation principles for a team of job coaches; (c) a strategy for raising social awareness. This output will be available for replication, and therefore it will enable the project to reach a far larger beneficiary group with its effects.

It is the first initiative at a national level which will also be implemented by other entities which deal with the vocational rehabilitation of autistic people. Forty five NGOs forming the Autism-Poland Association, which since 1998 has brought together the institutions that foster the improvement of the situation of autistic people, are the main project target.

Many methods and tools are planned within the project output dissemination strategy, including a countrywide media campaign (TV, radio, press, posters), a local campaign to promote the social enterprise and its products, training for local businesses, integration meetings and workshops for local communities, public debates, meetings of ministerial and interministerial autism teams, organising conferences, meetings, national and international training sessions, exhibitions and presentations, as well as producing a system of visual identification for the project.