Project report: Ukrainian Down Syndrome Organisation, Ukraine

Young people with Down Syndrome can and want to work

Grantee: Ukrainian Down Syndrome Organisation (UDSO), Ukraine 
Project: Support for people aged 16-35 with DS including access to jobs and social participation

The UDSO’s Youth Club and Supported Employment Programme, supported by The BEARR Trust, completed the project “Creating tools for the socialisation and self-realisation of people with Down Syndrome to reduce social isolation” in a couple of months.

The Supported Employment Programme and the Youth Club started at the UDSO four years ago. The demand has been and remains high, as there are virtually no community programmes for young people with disabilities after school (18+). Today in Ukraine there are about 12 000 people with DS, but only a few dozen at most have jobs. The project aimed to outline ways to solve this problem, and since this is only possible in a comprehensive way, it covered several areas of work.

The format of the online club was aimed at supporting young people with DS and creating a space for communication between themselves and their mentors.

The second direction is work with parents. This involved meetings of the Parents’ Online Discussion Club. Among other things, they discussed how they can help their children prepare for adulthood and reach their potential.

Communication with employers and social organisations is also extremely important. 3 workshops were arranged to cover this goal: “Why hire people with intellectual disabilities – benefits and incentives”, “Supported employment of people with intellectual disabilities: model, tools, best practices” and “Pre-vocational training of adolescents with intellectual disability in a special school.”

UDSO Youth Club and Work Shop Members

During one of the workshops, Vladyslav Melnychuk, Junior Manager of Human Capital Advisory Services Deloitte Ukraine, noted that the employment of people with disabilities is an important factor in supporting both the company’s internal and external brand. According to recent research, companies with a developed culture of diversity and inclusive are likely to outperform their competitors. In particular, organisations with an inclusive culture are twice as likely to achieve or exceed their financial goals and are six times more likely to demonstrate flexibility and innovation. An inclusive environment determines 49% of the team’s ability to solve problems. 71% of Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 respondents say that a diverse and inclusive work environment is one of the key factors in their loyalty to the employer. Employees of companies that provide equal employment opportunities are 3.8 times more likely to say they are proud of the company they work for.

For Ukrainian businesses, these benefits of employing people with disabilities are still unclear. According to the State Statistics Service, 72% of able-bodied people with disabilities in Ukraine do not work. “As a result of the pandemic, the share of workers with disabilities who are confident in their work and have a stable income has generally fallen from 72% to 40%,” said Vladislav Melnychuk.

Youth at work

So far, Ukraine does not have the necessary legislation on employment of people with disabilities – these are artificial stories, says Ivanna Vikhtynska, head of the Down Syndrome Youth Club. “Not because they are not natural, they are just piecemeal, you can count them on your fingers. This process requires a lot of investment and human resources to make this work. Around the labour market for people with disabilities lies a labour market of those who help them get and stay in jobs: job coaches, assistants etc.”, she said.

It is important that we managed to involve government officials in the workshops, in particular, the Government Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Tetyana Barantsova. In the end, she suggested a meeting in a narrow circle to discuss what changes are urgently needed, including at the legislative level, and what first steps could be taken to help increase the percentage of employed people with disabilities in Ukraine. Tetyana assured us that the government is ready to cooperate with the public. So the work is just beginning.

Organisation contact details:

Author contact details
Yuliya Dmytrenko
Manager of cultural projects and events

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