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Therapist calls for ‘one-stop shop’ employment agency for the disabled

Benefiting all: Shari Scott, an occupational therapist, says Bermuda would benefit from an employment agency set up to help people with disabilities find work

A one-stop shop to help people with disabilities find work is needed in Bermuda, an expert has said.

Shari Scott, an occupational therapist, said employers were willing to hire people with disabilities but had concerns about additional supervision, safety and skill deficits.

Ms Scott said: “Locally, there are individual agencies that work with people with disabilities who are doing their part to try and find employment and to support individuals in employment.

“But at least to my knowledge there is not one place where that is their sole responsibility and that has the whole gamut from supporting the employer, finding employment, finding individuals with disabilities, finding what their interests are and training them up. It’s done in pockets and not necessarily one entity.”

Ms Scott added: “In some places, the connector piece would be a supported employment agency and that facility would be the entity that would, if the person needs, provide additional supervision.”

She explained that a specialist agency could also help deal with safety concerns and train people so they can acquire useful skills.

She highlighted the teen life skills programme run by the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute’s child and adolescent services department and the employment opportunities available to people on the hospital’s learning disability programme.

But Ms Scott added that the required level of support would have to be assessed, along with services already available before an agency was set up in Bermuda.

She said: “A supported employment agency of type A might not work for us, but maybe getting bits and pieces from wherever and fitting it together to best fit our needs in Bermuda would be a good idea.”

Ms Scott, who works at MWI, said the agency could be run by the private sector.

She added: “The end goal for me is always the service users and their independence and their satisfaction.”

Ms Scott said: “Society tends to look at people a bit better, so to speak, when they are gainfully employed or doing something that is contributing to society as a whole. That is another benefit.”

Ms Scott said benefits for employers included employee loyalty, long-term commitment and consistent attendance. She added: “At the end of the day, it’s the benefits for the individual that is working. That is, for me, the biggest positive in the process and the additional benefits just roll over to everybody that’s involved.”

Ms Scott studied the attitudes of 60 employers on the hiring of people with disabilities for her master’s degree in 2010.

She also looked at what disabled people needed and the benefits of employment, along with support agencies with a proven track record overseas.

Ms Scott added: “At the time of this study, those supports in Bermuda weren’t in place, so it was looking at what is the next best way to try and tackle this challenge.”

She added: “The findings in a nutshell were that increased education for employers could make a difference in their willingness to hire individuals with disabilities.”

Ms Scott said the findings also highlighted concerns about additional supervision, safety and lack of skills — still problems today. She also found that 29 per cent of employers had employed someone with a disability and 60 per cent were willing to, which Ms Scott said was “promising”.

But Ms Scott added 37 per cent wanted more information about employing people with a disability.