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 Key Role of Municipalities in the Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities
Project number D0249

Project description

The Partnership is aiming to promote a new approach to the issue of unemployed people with disabilities across communes. The main objective is to create a model of a social cooperative with the involvement or under protection of local authorities, as well as a support system for these cooperatives from the moment of recruiting their members, through the establishment process, to the moment of launching their operation. The cooperatives will employ physically impaired unemployed people, thus preventing their exclusion and offering the opportunity to participate in social life. This will broaden educational options for the local community, introduce some elements of the information society to the community, and reduce the communal budget expenditures on social benefits.

The project impact covers rural and small town municipalities. The Partnership has identified four groups of final beneficiaries. The basic group consists of physically impaired inhabitants of villages and small towns, both men and women, especially those with recognised severe/moderate degrees of disability. The second group consists of fit people. Their participation in the project is necessary in order to establish and run social cooperatives. These people mainly come from the structures of local organisations or local governments, they also include unemployed people or job seekers registered at the poviat labour offices.

Local governments constitute another very significant group of the project beneficiaries. They perform various functions assigned to local administration, statutory tasks set out by the state authorities, as well as their own responsibilities. Although local governments are not responsible for the vocational rehabilitation of the disabled, according to the Partnership, they should be interested in reducing unemployment rates and the extent of social exclusion within local communities, as well as in reducing the costs of social welfare. The final beneficiaries of the project include NGOs, especially those working for the benefit of disabled people.

The Partnership will focus on two major types of social cooperatives: newly set up cooperatives and cooperatives established by transforming traditional cooperatives of disabled workers. Ten enterprises of this type will be established, providing employment for approximately 120 disabled people and a maximum of 30 people without disabilities. The recruitment of project participants will be mainly conducted by NGOs which will cooperate with poviat labour offices. This activity will be for the most part executed by volunteers who will directly reach the disabled project beneficiaries. The Partnership is aiming to achieve a 50 percent employment ratio of men and women. Therefore some of the volunteers will also be women, who will find it easier to establish
contacts with other women - potential final beneficiaries.

The Partnership will ensure the necessity for women to reconcile professional and family life when assigning future responsibilities within the social cooperative is taken into consideration, and that women are adequately represented in the cooperative's management and cooperative organisations.

Three areas of activity are planned for the cooperative: social services for local communities (e.g. repairs, tailor services, catering, housekeeping), environmental protection (e.g. preparing large-sized waste for recycling - disassembly of old furniture, disposal of packaging material), as well as tourism and recreation services (e.g. an agritourism agency, tourist information centres). The type and level of activities performed by a cooperative will be adjusted to the abilities and requirements of disabled people on a case-by-case basis.

The implementing institutions are also working on providing adequate conditions for continued operation of the cooperative after the completion of the EQUAL programme. The Partnership is going to allocate funds from Fundusz Pracy (Labour Fund) and Państwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji Osób Niepełnosprawnych (State Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled) for this purpose. Both these organisations support the vocational rehabilitation of the disabled and operate commune programmes of vocational rehabilitation for the disabled.

The model for establishing social cooperatives is the main project output which will be disseminated under Action 3. It will contain a description of the initiation process and guidance for establishing cooperatives, including the legal framework, organisational and marketing solutions, etc. A system of support for social cooperatives will be an additional component, and the Partner Support Centre for Social Cooperatives of Disabled People will play the key role in this component. This centre will combine the activities of commune self-governments, local NGOs and national organisations supporting the vocational rehabilitation of the disabled in the implementation and support process. The Partnership would also like to bring about legislative changes which will provide commune self-governments with the authority and instruments necessary to carry out active social policies and to provide jobs for the disabled.

The project output - a model for a social cooperative of disabled people - will be recommended to commune self-governments. However, in order to implement this model, active involvement of local social organisations, volunteers, and the disabled will be necessary.

The model for establishing social cooperatives will be disseminated on a CD, along with a film which promotes offering employment to the disabled. The CD will be distributed to all self-governmental bodies in Poland. Moreover, two countrywide conferences will be held to promote the project outputs.