In 2014, the Day Care Centre held a series of trainings with experts from De Pasarel Bulgaria and De Pasarel Netherlands on Supported employment for people with intellectual difficulties. The Dutch experts familiarised the team members with the main elements, rules and requirements for this specific type of employment and the functions of job brokers. The profiles of clients who are willing to work and have a partial potential to develop their skills in this areas were reviewed. Attention was paid inter alia to communication with parents on how parents can support their children develop working skills and integrate in the labour market as they grow up. The Foundation and De Pasarel Bulgaria teamed up to hold two Master Classes for social services professionals dedicated to Communication with Parents and Supported Employment.

In July 2014, three key experts from Maria's World Foundation benefited from a working visit in Switzerland organised in the framework of the project 'Public campaign aiming to alter public perceptions to people with intellectual difficulties through promotion of good practices for integrated employment on the basis on Swiss experience'. The Swiss partner in this project EPI presented their experience with activities which are innovative for Bulgaria.
The objective of the visit was to obtain insights of the process applied in Switzerland to achieve social and labour integration. A series of working meetings in Switzerland led to exchange of experiences in the area of social services for people with intellectual difficulties and their labour integration/integrated employment in social-professional ateliers.

The goal of building and developing sustainable work skills and preparing the clients of the Day Care Centre for work in a real-life environment have been fully taken into account and underscore the selection of the team, which comprises professionals in the area of work activities with a wealth of experience in hotel and restaurant management, psychology and art therapy. The programmes for sheltered and supported employment for people with intellectual difficulties are based on the models of the organisations De Pasarel, Holland, and Human First, US.
The daily inclusion of clients in work activities—as an essential component of team preparation for work activities—is the development of comprehensible rules and easy-to-use materials for each activity. Clients participate in all work activities with a different degree of independence and receive different types of support from group supervisors, depending on their needs. More experienced clients often train those who have joined the Day Care Centre more recently. One of the projects implemented by Maria's World Foundation is the Sheltered Café at the Day Care Centre, which has been functioning since July 2014 and offers a real service –The café proudly offers a simple menu to visitors with the food cooked by our clients under the guidance of the kitchen team supervisor. Here visitors can order a fragrant espresso, cappuccino or home-made lemonade, which will be served by one of our clients who wishes to become a waiter. Being a sheltered workplace, the café offers a range of services some of which are still provided by the group supervisor. These include confirmation of orders, bills and the special requirements for drinks, handling the till and the restaurant management system and returning change. Whenever necessary, our clients with intellectual difficulties can rely on assistance so that—gradually and without unnecessary tension—they can learn and reiterate their skills in a sheltered environment. If waitressing and serving food and drinks to clients have been indicated as a desired occupation, clients are offered an opportunity to continue to build on their professional skills. They do not receive a salary for the work done at the sheltered café. Supported employment pilot programmes

According to the working definition used by De Pasarel Foundation supported employment means 'providing assistance to people with disabilities or to members of other vulnerable groups for the purpose of providing and KEEPING a paid job'.

Employers and people with intellectual difficulties need support in order to build beneficial relationships. Such support is provided by social services who know the disadvantaged individual and their capabilities. The social services team includes professionals who perform the role of job mentors by accompanying the person with intellectual difficulties at their job site and help familiarise them with the nature and duties associated with the job.

Job mentors are available to liaise with the line manager and key team members, facilitate their interactions with the intellectually disadvantaged colleague and help resolve any issues where necessary. Job mentors proactively assist in all matters related to recruitment and conclusion of the employment contract and working arrangements. They also accompany the new employees and introduce them to their jobs and duties. At first job mentors accompany the disadvantaged person every day and gradually withdraw as the new employee starts to get confortable and self-supporting. Disabled people increasingly appear on the radars of various organisations , most often as part of the organisation's strategy to build more diversity in its team, which ultimately brings about multiple business advantages and is a key factor for the overall efficiency, productivity and success of the organisation. Maria's World Foundation's successful partnerships with business organisations demonstrate that people with intellectual difficulties can find their right place, perform their duties diligently and to high quality standards, contribute to interactions within the team and be useful to themselves and others. The first two employment contracts concluded by clients of the Worlds Day Care Centre confirm that supported employment is a win-win solution.

The Maria's World Foundation team stands ready to advise interested employers on all matters related to supported employment of people with intellectual difficulties and the opportunities to hire clients the Worlds Day Care Centre.

Related article: Principles of supported employment

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