Παρασκευή, 9 Φεβρουαρίου 2007

PATHWAYS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES TO TERTIARY EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT


OECD, Group of national experts on special needs education

PATHWAYS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES TO TERTIARY EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Konstantinos Geormas
Ministry of Employment and Social Protection

National and Kapodistrian University

Athens 9 February 2007


 Mr. Chairman , ladies and Gentlemen
 Let me first offer to you the apologies on behalf of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Employment, who, due to unforeseen duties he is not able to participate in today’s meeting. The General Secretary would like to assure you that he perceives your initiative as a very significant contribution to an issue that all of us in this room share: the provision of equal opportunities to all of our co-citizens to have access to employment, education, training, culture, social life.


Let me now mention a few points regarding the framework of our policies as well as some examples of such policies.

I will start with a remark. Regarding people with disabilities there is an embedded notion that their unemployment was due to some disadvantages of these people. We do believe that this attitude is about time to change. The fact that these people face the risk of social exclusion, the fact that they are excluded from crucial services such as training is not due to their disadvantages but due to the responses of society to their disadvantages. The laws as well as the policies of public authorities are part of this response. This is the reason that our policies have as a guiding principle the creation of a new perspective in these sectors.

Our policies towards people with disabilities are influenced by our general policy framework regarding social inclusion and social protection. A central aim of the government, as this is set forth in the National Reform Programme, is to boost development, to increase employment rates and to promote social cohesion. Our efforts are targeted to the effort for an economy that it is flexible, capable of adjusting to global changes, competitive and innovative. Economy and the system of social protection should adjust to the challenges that are posed by globalization, demography, and new technologies. We do believe that social protection plays a crucial role in achieving the aforementioned aims. Social protection is a not a passive element. Social protection is a dynamic factor which contributes positively to development. In addition it serves ambitious principles, which are part and parcel of the European social model, such as solidarity, cohesion, equal opportunities, the fight against discrimination, the active participation of the civil society.
Greece is a small country. So the competitive advantage of the country is based on investment to every single citizen. We don’t have the luxury to exclude a significant part of our fellow citizens. We have to invest in the capacities and skills of each one of us, we must offer to each one of us, without discriminations, the possibility to contribute to a better future. This of course holds true and for the people with disabilities.
European Union seems also to stress the importance of policies for people with disabilities. European strategy is based on three priorities:

First adoption of the proper legal framework in order to fight discrimination
Secondly, provision for an environment that provide access to people with disabilities, so as for them to make full and free use of their capacities
Thirdly, mainstreaming all issues that relate to people with disabilities in every policy that is implemented, such as policies for employment, e-learning, e-government, and so on.

Social inclusion of people with disabilities is a priority of our social policies. As it is mentioned in our National Strategy Report on Social protection and Social Inclusion, there are five priority themes regarding social inclusion of people with disabilities.
Α) The fight against discrimination, action for raising awareness of these issues and mobilization of society
Β) Access to employment on an equal base in relation to the rest of the population. For this I will mention latter some measures.
Γ) Equal access on education and training
Δ) Equal access on goods and services

Finally, E) we acknowledge that there is a need, besides sectoral, so to speak policies, to promote mainstreaming as well as to promote participation of people with disabilities in designing and implementing these measures.

It is true the people with disabilities face multiple impediments in their efforts for a decent life. Especially regarding employment, a study by the national statistics agency indicates that a tremendous 85% of them are unemployed in Greece.

That is why, for the Ministry of Employment and Social protection, employment is considered as a key element for the inclusion of people with disabilities and as a shield against poverty and social exclusion.

A certain number of measures towards increasing the employability of people with disabilities have to do with programmes of active labour market policies, training as well as legal arrangements and subsidies. Here I would like to mention  few of them.

·        Through the Manpower Employment Organization are implemented actions that subsidize the development of new employment positions, such as the New Jobs Programme and the programme of New Professionals form Vulnerable Groups
·        Subsidies to enterprises for making the work place accessible to people with disabilities
·        To support the better placement of people with disabilities to the labour market there have been instituted six special posts in Greece. In addition to this every Center for Promoting Employment (KPA) is staffed with specialized work counselors experienced in providing services to people with disabilities
·        The Centers for Vocational Training are certified so as to provide access to all people with disabilities.
·        A significant step regarding the legal environment, is the adoption of law 3304/2005 for the promotion of equal treatment and fight against discrimination. This law basically implements EU directives 2000/43 and 2000/78
·        In Greece law 2643/1998 provides for certain quota for people with disabilities for hiring to the public as well as the private sector. Recently, in order to improve the implementation of this law, a committee has been established in which social partners hold a pre-eminent position.

·        In addition to these measures with co-funding with te European Union we provide programmes through which employers are subsidized in order to hire persons with disabilities. The community Initiative Equal provides actions for training, of people with disabilities. Parallely it provides for training for the employment counselors on disability issues. Moreover it funds the creation of centers that provide support services to people with disabilities.

Let me point out that these measures are moving to the right direction yet they are not enough. Much more need to be done in order to promote people with disabilities effectively into the labour market. The next programming period, the period of 2007-2013 provides an opportunity to implement polices that will tackle effectively issues that concern people with disabilities, their families as well as society as a whole. We must not loose this opportunity to work together in order to provide access to people with disabilities in employment, education, training, culture, society as a whole. We must increase our efforts so as such people to have the opportunity to enjoy access to goods and services on an equal footing as the rest of the population.

Today we can build up solid foundations so as at the end of the programming period, that is 2013, Greece will be a country that will equal opportunities for all. A society that all people will have the right to a decent living, independent living, equal participation to the society.

Let me finish by saying that I do believe that this workshop will contribute effectively to the achievement of these targets.
Thank you very much for your attention 

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