The Auditor General reported that the initiatives undertaken by the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) tend to positively influence the employment opportunities of registered disabled persons (RDPs). However, the opportunity exists to further enhance the impact of training courses and work exposure schemes, which are intended to improve the participation rate of registered disabled persons in the employment market.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said that potential barriers to RDP employment include unfounded perceptions on disability. Moreover, RDPs may also deem it to be more opportune to forego employment in instances where the gap between social benefits entitlements and potential earnings from employment is considered marginal. NAO noted that towards this end, Malta Budget 2012 introduced measures aimed at addressing issues related to the benefit trap.
Other factors impeding RDP employment relate to educational levels and physical accessibility. Such barriers translate themselves in a lengthier registration period than their mainstream counterparts.
NAO said that various operational issues hinder the ETC’s initiatives to enhance the employment opportunities of disabled persons. The opportunity exists for the Corporation to enhance its internal procedures for reviewing and monitoring initiatives undertaken. Furthermore the ETC has acknowledged and is taking action to strengthen its analysis of the labour market. The efficiency and effectiveness of ETC initiatives is also hindered through the lack of facilities which enable the Corporation to determine the abilities of disabled persons, and consequently, be in a better position to identify their suitability for particular employment.
Moreover, the ETC does not maintain a full audit trail of its activities. Such circumstances may impinge on business continuity and performance evaluations.
The ETC aims to enhance the employment opportunities of disabled persons through various services, which include an advisory service, training courses and job exposure schemes. A weak correlation, however, exists between courses offered by the ETC successfully completed by RDPs and employment. The full completion of job exposure schemes, including subsidised employment, significantly increases employability prospects. However, the possibility exists for more RDPs to be engaged in such programmes.
NAO said that the envisaged business process re-engineering at the ETC seeks to optimise the use of the Corporation’s human resources whilst broadening its relationships with registrants, including disabled individuals, and employers. These changes would address many of the concerns observed through this performance audit. This restructuring exercise also provides the opportunity to address the strategic, management and operational concerns raised in this report.
To complement these initiatives, the NAO proposed a number of recommendations aimed at enhancing the employment opportunities of Registered Disabled Persons.
The full report may be downloaded from the NAO’s website: www.nao.gov.mt, as from today.
The NAO proposes the following recommendations.
i. The ETC is encouraged to secure the resources required to implement its envisaged reorganisation. This reorganisation is seen to enhance the Corporation’s efficiency and effectiveness levels to the benefit of its clients and stakeholders.
ii. The ETC’s restructuring exercise is to consider the establishment of an ability assessment centre. Such facilities will enhance the information derived through occupational therapy assessments by determining the level and extent of disability. This will provide more accurate information relating to an individual’s abilities and consequently, the suitability for specific types of jobs.
iii. The Corporation is also encouraged to strengthen its research function. This will facilitate labour market information gathering and analysis, while enabling the ETC to further utilise the client information at its disposal. Consequently, the Corporation will be in a better position to identify labour market requirements to address the potential skills and knowledge gaps of its clients accordingly.
iv. The ETC is to upgrade its management information systems with regards to RDPs, which is a prerequisite for conducting more extensive research. Such an upgrade would entail more comprehensive report generating facilities and the capturing of information related to the labour market. The strengthening of management information systems will increase the potential for studies and evaluations of programmes undertaken.
v. A conserted effort to ensure that the education and skills level of registered disabled persons match those required by the labour market. Such an effort requires the input of all relevant stakeholders, namely Government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders.
vi. Consideration is to be given to fully integrate the disability registers maintained by the ETC, Department of Social Security (DSS) and National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD). At the outset, this entails that a single definition of disability is in place and embraced by all stakeholders. Apart from streamlining information and administration, this will facilitate and better harmonise the services provided by various entities.
vii. The ETC and the DSS should continue their efforts to centralise the medical assessments relating to disabled persons. This approach minimises the administrative burden of both organisations in cases where ‘fitness for employment’ needs to be determined. RDPs would also benefit since they would only be subjected to one assessment, which would be applicable for both DSS and ETC purposes.
viii. Cooperation agreements between the ETC and other entities involved with the welfare of disabled persons are to be sustained, and if possible broadened. These agreements ensure that RDPs receive the skills required to enable sustainable participation in the labour market.
ix. The ETC is to fine-tune its programme target and objective setting process. Targets and objectives are to increasingly consider prevailing economic scenarios. This approach will render predetermined targets and objectives more realistic.
x. The evaluation of programmes and other initiatives, such as courses, should encompass the reasons to justify deviations from predetermined targets. All programmes and initiatives should also be benchmarked against outcomes and impacts, namely in terms of employment. Moreover, Employment Opportunities for Registered Disabled Persons evaluations should be extended to include locally funded measures, such as the BTG.
xi. The ETC is to review the outcomes of training courses provided to RDPs. Such a review is to determine the resulting variance between course bookings and actual participation. Moreover, such a review is also to determine the extent to which the courses are optimally addressing labour market and participants’ requirements.
Source: NAO Report