Fabian Demicoli

Living fully in society

 Today the 3rd December is International Disabled Persons Day. The slogan chosen for this year's event by the National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD) is Ngħixu b'Mod Sħiħ fis-Soċjetà (Living Fully in Society).

 

One important way of ensuring that disabled people can participate fully in society on an equal basis with others is through increasing their participation rate in the labour market. To this end, earlier this year, KNPD published the revised National Policy on the Employment of Disabled People after a year-long consultation process. The Policy, which can be downloaded from the KNPD website http://www.knpd.org/, covers both the private and the public sectors.

A number of schemes already exist from which employers, both SMEs and bigger firms, can benefit if they employ a disabled person. Among these, one finds the Bridging the Gap Scheme which offers a period of work exposure with an employer to enable them to acquire and demonstrate the skills necessary to carry out a particular job, prior to proper engagement. Further information about this and other schemes run by the ETC's Supported Employment Section can be found at http://www.etc.gov.mt/

Another new initiative is the Workplace Accessibility Scheme through which companies and self-employed individuals who employ other persons can receive tax deductions against expenses incurred to make the workplace more accessible for disabled employees. Further information about this scheme will soon be available from the KNPD website.

As part of the implementation process of the Employment Policy, KNPD has held talks with the GRTU and ETC in order to discuss how disabled people can be given equal opportunities in employment, both through the utilization of existing schemes and proposals for new ones.

The aim of these schemes and incentives is to offset the extra costs that may be incurred through the employment of disabled persons, while at the same time ensuring that employers can benefit from the skills and talents of these persons. After all, an inclusive labour market benefits not only those persons who are at the risk of exclusion from it, but employers and the whole of society as there is less reliance on welfare benefits, increased revenue from taxes and national insurance contributions and, most importantly, a greater possibility for disabled people to contribute to Malta's economic and social progress through their skills, knowledge and experience.

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