European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Federal Association of Workshops for Adapted Work (BAG:WfbM) invited Members of the European Parliament on 26th January to exchange information on the participation of disabled persons in working life. Many Members of the Parliament accepted this invitation. Some of them pointed out that due to the economic crisis, so called „sheltered workshops“ throughout Europe had to fire disabled persons. Thomas Umsonst, representative of BAG:WfbM, filled in for Axel Willenberg, Member of the Board, who unfortunately could not attend the event. Umsonst presented the differences between these workshop types in Europe: workshop workers in Germany cannot be fired and receive benefits from many different state sources. He pointed out the importance of work for the disable persons and stressed the important role of workshops for adapted work in Germany as part of the occupational rehabilitation and participation in working life.
The event was hosted by MEP Jean Lambert from the United Kingdom (Committee on Employment and Social Affairs) and MEP Birgit Sippel from Germany (Substitute in the Committee on Employment and Social Affair). Jean Lambert talked about the importance of working together in this field at the European level. She stressed the fact that only imposing employment quota of persons with disabilities to companies is not enough to reintegrate persons with disabilities into the general labour market. She pointed out, how necessary it was, to develop new approaches.
Franz Wolfmayr, President of EASPD, referred to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and underlined that disabled people are among the poorest in our society. Disabled persons are confronted with high living costs for assuring their existence. According to Wolfmayr, this could only be solved by paying appropriate wages to persons with disabilities. He also mentioned the importance of the social assurances.
The European Commission was represented at the event by Inmaculada Placencia, Deputy Head of Unit for Integration of People with Disabilities within the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. She mentioned that her unit is in charge of the coordination of the European policies for persons with disabilities and responsible for the European Disability Action Plan as well as the implementation of the UN-Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.