District of Borken / Westphalia-Lippe (lwl). The Corona crisis is a special challenge for many people with disabilities in work, according to the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) as one of the largest aid providers in Germany. Rising unemployment figures among people with disabilities, massive loss of sales in inclusive businesses and closed workshops have shaped the picture since March, even if workshops for people with disabilities have largely returned to normal operation since September 21. Support programs are starting, reports the LWL in Münster.
"Just as we as a society help other people affected on the labor market, we now also have to support people with disabilities and their businesses for a while," says LWL Social Affairs Director Matthias Münning. To this end, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the federal government have launched support programs. Münning: "We bring the help to the right places and to the people." The state will support the companies in Westphalia-Lippe with 4,5 million euros, the federal government is expected to support ten million euros.
Unemployment has risen rapidly by over ten percent
The number of unemployed people with disabilities has risen rapidly in Westphalia-Lippe from just under 23.000 by over ten percent to around 25.500 due to the corona. In the Borken district the number rose from 657 to 720 during this time.
“We are very concerned about this huge increase in unemployment. Because behind every single case there is a person's fate, ”says Münning. “It is much more difficult for people with severe disabilities to find their way back to work. All of our commitment is required. The LWL is committed to all conceivable instruments. " The efforts of the regional associations to date have ensured that more people find employment on the labor market instead of working in the workshops. Münning: “The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has confirmed to us that our work has resulted in an increase in workshop employees that is 50 percent lower than without our work.”
Employment contracts not extended
The 151 dismissals so far that were related to the pandemic represented only a small part of the surge in unemployment on the Westphalian labor market for people with disabilities or young people with disabilities were not taken on after completing their training. In addition, many companies have not carried out planned hires or have not hired seasonal workers, ”explains Hartmut Baar from the LWL Inclusion Office. But also the number of bankruptcies and partial closures and the associated redundancies are increasing, so the expert.
The corona-related terminations are distributed relatively evenly across Westphalia-Lippe as a whole, 59 of the terminations result from corona-related shutdowns. These closures are also spread over both rural and urban regions.
Inclusion companies also affected by the crisis
The 170 Westphalian inclusion companies and departments (ten of them in the Borken district) are affected differently by the corona pandemic. “It very much depends on the industry. While inclusion departments and gardening and landscaping companies, for example, are less affected, companies in the hotel and catering industry have been hit hard. They had to close for a long time and therefore had an almost complete loss of sales, but the fixed costs such as rents and wages continued, ”said Baar. “The inclusion companies reacted to the crisis in a very creative and committed manner. As a result, there have been almost no redundancies here to date, which is a great success. " The companies still urgently needed support.
In order to fill the financial gaps that have arisen, around half of the inclusion companies have applied for short-time work benefits and liquidity assistance. In order to avoid payment problems, the LWL Inclusion Office Arbeit has offered companies to pay out ongoing grants earlier. Most companies have used this option. Only a third of the inclusion companies can benefit from the rescue packages that the federal and state governments have set up for small and medium-sized companies with up to 50 employees. Because many inclusion companies were founded by welfare companies and therefore belong as “affiliated companies” to the overall company, which has significantly more than 50 employees.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia reacted to this and made it possible for inclusion companies that got into economic difficulties through no fault of their own as a result of the corona pandemic can be supported. "Together with their Rhenish colleagues and the NRW Ministry of Social Affairs, the experts from our Labor Inclusion Office have developed the funding guidelines, and in cooperation with the Münster Chamber of Crafts, they advise Westphalian inclusion companies and process the applications," said Münning. In addition to this state program, the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs is developing a funding program that also supports the affected inclusion companies. For Westfalen-Lippe, the federal government should make an amount of around ten million euros available.
“The inclusion companies are particularly important for people with disabilities in the general labor market. They create jobs for people who otherwise would hardly have a chance, ”explains Münning. “The economic situation of the inclusion companies in the hotel, restaurant and catering sectors will worsen in the coming months. We are therefore grateful for the corona programs that the federal and state governments have launched to strengthen our inclusion companies, this important element on the labor market for people with disabilities, ”said Münning.
"Corona is double the fear"
“Despite all the financial problems, we must not lose sight of the employees in the company: Corona makes some people double the fear. Above all, many people with mental health problems are very insecure because they are not only afraid of their job, but also of infections or because they are faced with the task of learning and complying with new distance and hygiene rules and new communication channels, ”says Münning . "The integration specialist services, which are active in all regions in Westphalia-Lippe on behalf of the landscape association, are here to support people with disabilities and companies."
Background: inclusion companies
In Westphalia-Lippe, 2.200 people with disabilities are currently working in 170 inclusive companies with people without disabilities (total workforce 4.300).
In the Borken district, ten integration companies offer 117 jobs for people with disabilities.
As companies in the general labor market, they - like any other company - have to assert themselves on the market with their products and services. The companies are active in different industries. About 30 percent of the companies are active in the areas of gastronomy / catering and the hotel industry, followed by the areas of industrial services and crafts. Other larger industries are in particular gardening and landscaping, retail, laundries and building cleaning.
Workshops for disabled people are back in normal operation
The 62 workshops for disabled people in Westphalia have reopened in "normal operation" since September 21. That means: The around 38.000 people with disabilities (Borken district: around 2.500 people with disabilities in five workshops) can now return to their workplace and thus exercise their “right to participate in working life”.
The workshops were closed from March 18 to May 10, after which they slowly started up again. “In this opening phase, the workshops have shown that they have come up with good concepts for looking after people in the workshops even during the pandemic. Experience shows that this works well in most cases, ”says Münning.
In order to make operations in the workshops corona-compliant, they set up one-way streets in the routing, separated workplaces with Plexiglas panes and used conference rooms or sports rooms to create the necessary distance between employees. “It's not an easy task, it takes a lot of logistics and expertise. The colleagues in the workshops have it. They are specialists in work preparation and work design, ”says Baar. But there are still “different speeds” in the workshops: “Most people with disabilities want to return to their workplace, so it was important to formulate this common goal and now to implement it.”
If there are still difficulties with individual employees in going straight back to the workshop, the LWL Inclusion Office wants to find individual solutions together with those involved. “The aim of these solutions is that these employees can also work regularly and fully in the workshop again in the medium term. These can be solutions that take place in the workshop or are related to the workshop. Part-time solutions, for example, can result. It is important that those affected really get what is known as participation in working life, ”said Münning. After the workshops are open for the first time, the LWL social affairs department assumes that such individual solutions will have to be found for around two percent of people with disabilities.