Employment – Julien’s Story

In Siobhan Stuart’s latest article, Julien finds a new job - an all-inclusive society means that he can experience the fulfilment of working and partaking in a rewarding and enjoyable workplace.

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  • Training
  • Work Placements
  • Tutors
  • Back up support

julien 3Our son Julien works in a municipal crèche, he is employed by the town hall and has a permanent job.

He works 16 hours a week – four hours a day, four days a week.

He started working in 2010 on a contractual basis, first doing work placements then six-month contracts and finally he became a permanent member of staff in 2016 with an official work contact.

This was possible thanks to the DS association in our area.

They provide a service which includes a training course to accompany young DS people to find work placements plus offering courses about the work environment at the same time.

julien 4This service was initially financed by the DS association in 2010, but now financial help comes from the EU funds and local authorities. This service is called DEFI 21, meaning ‘déficience intellectuelle’ but ‘Défi’ also means a challenge in French. Today it is also open to other people who are intellectually challenged.

The service is composed of an Organiser, a Placement officer, and a Training Instructor.

The Organiser oversees the whole project, provides information and liaises with the rest of the team. She also contacts companies and informs them of their obligations. Companies in France who have more than 20 employees have an obligation to comply with the OETH (Obligation to Employ Handicapped People) – that is, 6% of their staff must be in this category – otherwise they have to pay a fine.  There is also an incentive to employers that if they employ handicapped people, their employment obligations will be reduced. It is in everybody’s interest, and in the interest of society as a whole, that disabled people should be able to contribute and work like everybody else in an inclusive society.

julien 5The Organiser also arranges meetings with the parents and the DS person once a term to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to answer any questions that might arise, to inform the parents and to review the results of the previous 3 months.

The Placement officer liaises with the company and the DS person in question, she visits the company every 2 weeks to ensure that the staff are informed and reassured should they have questions concerning the trainee. There is also a tutor who is a member of the staff, a person of reference in each company who is designated to help the new trainee. The DS association provides training for these tutors who so wish.

The Placement Officer also meets up twice a month with the DS person to design what they call a portfolio, answering any questions that may arise, reinforcing skills and updating information.

The trainee’s tasks may develop and change over time as his/her competences develop as it is necessary to ensure that boredom or tiredness or misunderstandings don’t set in. The work environment is adapted to the person’s needs to compensate for his/her difficulties.

Everything is done so that the staff and the trainee work together as harmoniously as possible.

There are 2 training programs, one for those who are apprentices doing work placements. They have regular courses to help them with the work environment. Courses comprise hygiene in public community entities, norms and regulations at work, posture, how to manage emotions, confidence building skills, role playing in work situations, computer skills etc.

julien 2For those who have permanent jobs with an official work contract, their training time is reduced to a half day a week when they meet up in a small group of roughly 8 DS people and they continue with an adapted training program.

They also continue to have backup support as mentioned above, to individuals, in support provided to the other members of staff if needed, and especially to the tutor.

Today there are 28 DS people with permanent jobs in our area, the Gard, which is probably the most successful and unique in the whole of France, thanks to the DS association and DEFI 21.

The DS association has also set up another service which is normally only provided in France by institutions. It is called an ESAT – roughly speaking, it means institutional services to accompany workers.

However, unlike other institutions this service is not institutionalised, and the goal is to provide a backup service to 11 intellectually challenged people in order that they obtain an official work contract in companies in mainstream society. The apprentices are placed in companies but remunerated in part by the ESAT until a permanent work contract is signed with the company.

This might take some time and may involve changing companies, building up experience and competence until the appropriate job situation is found. The ESAT also provides a service to accompany the individual in their everyday social activities, their medical appointments, their transport, their daily chores, so that the individual becomes more autonomous, providing them with the wherewithal to set up practical strategies to be able to do things for themselves. This service will now be extended to those who are in the DEFI 21 program.

julien 1Coming back to my son Julien I would like to add that he did a lot of work placements before getting his permanent job contract – 13 work placements in all, and tried his hand at many a trade: cleaning horse stables, an apprentice in a bricklaying school, a cooking school, restaurants, green spaces, a senior citizen’s residence, supermarket, a library, a printing office etc.

It was not until the DS association provided the DEFI 21 service in 2010 that Julien finally got a job with real prospects of a future in a municipal crèche. DEFI 21 provided the roadmap, showing the authorities that it was possible and even beneficial, with the goal to build an inclusive society where everyone has their contribution to make.

We would not have achieved this alone and the DEFI 21 service continues to be necessary to ensure that Julien’s position remains a permanent one.

Siobhán Stuart is Julien’s mother – she’s from Ireland, married and living in the south of France with her French husband. They have 3 children, Julien being the eldest. The three children have grown up well, all three have careers and are living with their partners and Siobhán retired recently from her job as an English teacher.

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