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“Our promise to people with disabilities is very important. Work gives structure, a sense of belonging, and provides self-esteem, now even more than before. The Participation Act aims to enable everyone to participate. And it works, if you just want to.”

Aart van der Gaag.

 

Aart van der Gaag is commissioner and figurehead of the project ‘Towards 100,000 jobs’, an initiative of VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and LTO Nederland. He is also an inspirer for the government in their task of realizing 25,000 jobs for people with an occupational disability. Van der Gaag and his projects inform employers about working with people with occupational disabilities and inspire them to also offer opportunities to people who cannot make it in society.

These are people for whom it is difficult to find a suitable job due to physical or mental illnesses, chronic diseases or other limitations. These people are now mostly sitting at home without work or have just come from special education into the labor market. “What could be nicer than to be able to mean something for them!”, says Aart.

“Our promise to people with disabilities is very important. Work provides structure, a sense of belonging, and gives self-esteem, now even more than before. The Participation Act aims to enable everyone to participate. And it works, if you just want to.

Much has been achieved since the start of the plan. The Jobs Match is successfully implemented by market employers because experiences are intensively shared. Communication is focused on implementation. Targets are met and so it is proven that inclusion works. “And that is crucial, because you achieve the Jobs Agreement with drive, action orientation and willingness to do it,” says Aart.

The success of the 100,000 Jobs Plan, which for Corona was still ahead of target by 12,000 jobs, is due, according to Aart, to the practical path that was chosen. It started with bringing together companies, large and small, in all sorts of meetings, then at practical tables with the various authorities. This really brought out what the shoe pinches. Companies and entrepreneurs shared what they needed in order to be able to create employment for people with reduced capacity for work. They also discussed their options and what they were up against. And so it came to light that companies lack a practical view of policy. For example, there were no job profiles for this important group of people, even though each disability is so unique. Especially for SMEs, practical matters such as, for example, “Can this potential employee ring or lift?” are important.

“From practice, we conveyed many experiences and ideas to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. This eventually led to major changes in the regulations. I would mention here the broad application of the no-risk scheme and expansion of the target group to include VSO school-leavers in the target group register.”

The transfer of practical knowledge to the policymakers led to another major breakthrough: policy changes are now tested in practice with companies and with representatives of the target group before they are introduced.

Before the coronavirus broke out, the implementation of the 100,000 Jobs Plan was ahead of schedule. The crisis is now weighing heavily on the wonderful results that have already been achieved. Forty percent of the placements were in fact flexible contracts. Because many companies and entrepreneurs have been squeezed in the past few months, these contracts are in jeopardy. For Aart, it now feels like starting over, but in a negative economic climate. Nevertheless, he remains positive: “If we have to start all over again, then I hope that we can broaden the target group register and also add others with a distance to the labor market. Think of ex-convicts, status holders, the elderly and the long-term unemployed!

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